Croatians on the East Coast of America celebrated Mala Gospa, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with a traditional picnic on Sunday, September 10, 2023. The event, organized by the “Hrvatska Zemlja” – Croatian Land – Cultural Club Cardinal Stepinac, drew a large number of parishioners despite the unfavorable weather. The holy mass, led by parish priest Father Nikola Pašalić with assistance from Father Lovro Šimić, took place despite the weather conditions. Unfortunately, the procession with the statue of the Virgin Mary had to be canceled due to the inclement weather.
After the mass, attendees continued to socialize and enjoyed food prepared by the Croatian Land Committee. The table was filled with lamb and pork from the spit, as well as ražnjiči and ćevapi. The diligent women from the Holy Rosary Society also prepared homemade desserts.
While the young ones played soccer, the adults enjoyed games of cards (bela), accompanied by lively music from Viktor Šarić. Ivica Dubić from CroatianTVAmerica was also present, working hard to bring Croatian Radio Television programs to as many Croatian households in America as possible.
Ivica Kajić, the President of the “Hrvatska Zemlja” – Croatian Land Committee, announced the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the committee with a Donor Dinner scheduled for September 30th at the Croatian Center in New York.
The “Hrvatska Zemlja” – Croatian Land is a property in Boonton, NJ that serves as a piece of homeland for Croatian immigrants and their descendants in the tri-state area. It was founded in the 1970s, when Fr. Mladen Čuvalo O.F.M. proposed the purchase of the land to provide a space for Croatian immigrants to connect with their culture and heritage. The property, initially covered in forest, was transformed by Croatian immigrants who cleared the land, widened the irrigation canal into a lake, and added amenities such as a soccer field, beach volleyball field, and BBQ pit. The Croatian Land became a hub for activities and celebrations, hosting annual picnics with outdoor masses. The inseparable connection between Croatian and Catholic identity is reflected in the Croatian Land’s official name, named after Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, who was persecuted by the communist regime.
The Croatian Land continues to be an important part of Croatian heritage, providing a gathering place for Croatian immigrants in the tri-state area and supporting new facilities and projects.