In Darby, Holy Week began with a blessing of both palms and municipal buildings, thanks to a Delaware County priest who also serves as a police chaplain.

On April 10, Blessed Virgin Mary (B.V.M.) Parish held a Passion Sunday procession along neighborhood sidewalks, and included on the route were the Darby Borough Police Department and the Darby Fire Company, which Father Mariano Dellagiovanna, parochial administrator of B.V.M., blessed.

As chaplain of the Darby Borough Police Department, Dellagiovanna has been wanting “to bless the police department” as well as the fire company for quite some time, said Darby Borough Police Chief Joseph J. Gabe Jr.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed those plans by about two years, but with restrictions largely relaxed, Father Dellagiovanna contacted the department at the beginning of March and reached an agreement with Gabe to make it happen.

Father Dellagiovanna suggested Passion Sunday would be a suitable occasion, since the solemnity reenacts Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem.

Gabe agreed, saying the day “goes back to when Christ went through the streets.”

After Dellagiovanna began the liturgical celebration by sprinkling the palms with holy water in the church parking lot, the congregation of approximately 100 then made its way through the municipality shortly after 11 a.m. while singing “hosanna.”

Several local officials took part in the procession, including Darby Mayor Darren Burrell, Darby Borough Council Vice-President Tracy Holmes, Councilmember Janice Davis Gabe and other members of the police and fire departments.

“We bless the police, the fire station and the people who serve us,” said Dellagiovanna.

As a safety precaution, members of the Darby Borough Police were on duty along the route. Upon reaching the station, Dellagiovanna stopped in the front entrance to perform the blessing, but blessed the firehouse from across the street so that participants would not have to cross Chester Pike, a heavily traveled road.

“It means a lot to the men and women who volunteer at the fire company,” said Fire Captain Karallus Dietrich. “Prayer really helps us. Men and women need courage to do certain calls. The only way to continue to do the job the right way is to follow the Lord’s word. We’re grateful for the blessing the fire house received today.”

Following the blessings, the faithful proceeded back to church for Mass and the reading of the Lord’s Passion of according to St. Luke.

Holy Week at B.V.M. will be celebrated on Holy Thursday (April 14) with a Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7 p.m., Good Friday (April 15) with Stations of the Cross at 12 p.m. and the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion and Death at 7 p.m. and the Easter Vigil liturgy (Saturday, April 16) at 8 p.m.

Father Mariano Dellagiovanna, parochial administrator of Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Darby, sprinkles holy water on palms during an April 10 Passion Sunday liturgy. (Dan McCarty)