It takes more than a pretty face to be the queen of San Gennaro. It takes a commitment to service and community advocacy, so it makes perfect sense that this year’s queen of the 92nd annual Feast of San Gennaro is Marieteresa Porcher.
And it seems no one is prouder of the 15-year-old than her mother, Karenbeatrice Porcher, whose family is from Sicily.
“Her being in this parade is so amazing.” Karenbeatrice said. “I know my grandmother’s looking down like, ‘Wow,’ because she’s watched the parade. My whole family watched it and the procession when they were down there (Little Italy) for years. She’s the first (queen) ever, so this is huge. They’d be in shock.”
The Feast of San Gennaro celebrates the Catholic patron saint Januarius, the protector of the Italian city of Naples. It began Sept. 19, and is the second oldest parade in New York City behind only the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Mulberry Street hosts the Little Italy feast, and is filled with authentic Italian food vendors, games and a religious procession that kicks off the event.
As queen, Marieteresa will stand on top of a float surrounded by little princesses. Once upon a time, she was one of those younger girls, but her responsibility of queen has changed her awareness of how she represents herself.
“Knowing that everyone’s proud of you and looks up to you, I don’t want to say like don’t screw up,” she said, “but just know people are watching you.”
Although Marieteresa and her mother live in Riverdale, most of their family lives in Little Italy. It’s also where the family church, The Church of the Most Precious Blood — where Marieteresa grew up — is located.
“I feel like it’s very important to me,” Marieteresa said. “I mean, I was baptized in that church. Communion. Confirmation. I became an altar server, and I had one-on-one tutoring sessions to become an altar server. I was very lucky to have that.”
Karenbeatrice describes herself as an old-school mother, constantly reminding her daughter that whenever she steps out of the house, she is not only representing herself, but her family. As queen, Marieteresa is representing Italy as well. A queen is chosen based on her service and love for her community. As a Girl Scout, an altar server for the church among other religious duties, Marieteresa had the qualifications necessary to earn the crown.
“I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m going to be the queen,’” Marieteresa said. “We’ve been going to the parade for so many years. I think the queen is so beautiful, and it would be such an honor. I’m the queen. I’m that person.”
Donning a white almost bride-like ball gown, Marieteresa waved and smiled from her float. But as soon as the parade was over, Marieteresa — a member of Troop 1477 in North Riverdale — went back into her Girl Scout mode, volunteering at a blood drive the next day.
Marieteresa doesn’t just delight in service, but she’s also a math wiz. She enjoys crunching numbers, and because of that, finds herself in charge of the cash box at bake sales. Like her mother and her favorite financial advisor, Maria Bartiromo of Fox Business Network, she has an interest in finance and intends on pursing it upon graduation.
When it comes to colleges, Marieteresa not only is looking for schools with that spiritual element, but an institution that has programs which allow her to continue her community service. Being a Girl Scout and someone who enjoys helping others, it’s a hard habit to break for the Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy junior.
Festivities begin each morning over 10 days. The festival is just as religious as it is exciting, beginning with a morning Mass. Afterward, men from the Figli di San Gennaro carry a bronze statue of Saint Januarius out of the church and throughout Little Italy. Eight priests lead the procession, and Italian music — some specifically for San Gennaro — is played.
“You have that really fun aspect of seeing that, trying our food and seeing our culture,” Karenbeatrice said. “But then I think it’s most beautiful to be in that church.”
Religion is a very large part of the Porcher family. Growing up, as Marieteresa traveled from Riverdale to Little Italy for church, her mother instilled in her important Italian values, which reflect Catholic morals as well, like respect, service and empathy.
“As far as tradition, it’s really important for me to be in those pews because she knows her grandparents sat in those pews, her great uncles,” Karenbeatrice said. “It’s very important for me to be there. Tradition is so important, and I think that when you know where you came from, you can know where you want to go.
“And for her to have that is really important.”