May 25, 2012

Parishioners at St. Mary Church celebrate unique May crowning

Ceirwen Abell is helped down after placing the newly gold-plated crown on the statue of Mary that overlooks the altar at St. Mary Church in Lanesville on May 6. (Submitted photo)

Ceirwen Abell is helped down after placing the newly gold-plated crown on the statue of Mary that overlooks the altar at St. Mary Church in Lanesville on May 6. (Submitted photo) Click for a larger version.

By Leslie Lynch (Special to The Criterion)

LANESVILLE—It’s not every day that parishioners get to place an actual crown on Mary’s head for a May crowning. Yet, that is what they did at St. Mary Church in Lanesville on May 6.

A long-held tradition, Catholics place a wreath of flowers on Mary’s head in early May in reverence for her obedience to God and because May is traditionally a month in which to honor Mary. St. Mary Parish is no exception and, this year, parishioners had even more to celebrate.

The crown adorning the Marian statue, which was fragile and in need of repair, had been removed several weeks earlier for refurbishing. Thanks to the generous donation of an anonymous parishioner, the 64-year-old crown was shipped off to be gold plated.

An air of excitement, anticipation and reverence filled the church as parishioners gathered to replace Mary’s crown. Families, accompanied by the adult choir, lifted their voices in praise and sang several Marian hymns.

Third- and fourth-grade faith formation students led the praying of the Glorious Mysteries of the rosary as Father Juan Valdes, the parish’s administrator, knelt before the statue of Mary, which had been removed from its niche overlooking the altar for the occasion.

The juxtaposition of young voices leading the recitation of the rosary in public for the first time and the steadfast, unified response of the congregation made for a particularly touching prayer.

Second-grade faith formation students, who recently celebrated their first Communion, processed up the aisle with bouquets of roses that they placed at Mary’s feet.

Ceirwen Abell, a second-grade student, carried the crown and placed it upon Mary’s head with dignity and a clear sense of the significance of the moment.

Faith formation students in the fifth- through 12th-grade were seated throughout the congregation. They led the praying of a litany of 64 names of Mary, creating a sense of Our Lady’s presence within and throughout the entire space—a powerful and touching metaphor of her role in our lives.

The May crowning also served as the end-of-year event for faith formation classes. All the catechists, along with Michelle Fessel, director of religious education, helped facilitate the prayerful hour of devotion.

Father Clement Hunger was instrumental in obtaining the current image of the Blessed Mother after the original church in Lanesville burned in 1948. The 40-inch tall representation of Our Lady of Fatima is a plaster copy of the famous “Pilgrim Virgin” carved by Jose Ferreira Thadim (1892-1971). It was blessed by Bishop Giuseppe Alves Correira de Silva at Fatima, Portugal, on Oct. 13, 1949, prior to its delivery to the parish.

The fire in 1948 was a blow to the community, but one of the highlights of rebuilding the church was the day the statue arrived in Lanesville.

According to the late Lula Mae Kochert, word spread throughout town, and many people dropped what they were doing to rush to the church and witness the uncrating of the new statue. As beautiful as the Marian statue is now, one can only imagine the reverence and awe of viewing it for the first time.

Mary’s crown is not the only item in the sanctuary which has undergone recent refurbishment. The tabernacle and bronze candle holders have been polished or replated. New vases, tables and lighting are other visible signs of the efforts, dedication and stewardship of many members of the parish family.

This year’s May crowning at the church brought together the parish’s past and future, the old and young, and the visible and invisible facets of our faith—all jewels in the crown placed on Mary’s head.

(Leslie Lynch is a member of St. Mary Parish in Lanesville.)

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