May 14, 2012
It is a rite of spring that lives on year after year in Catholic faith communities across the globe: the May crowning and procession.
This much-loved tradition varies with each parish – from the singing of Marian hymns while a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is carried through the streets around the local church to the crowning of the statue of Mary with a wreath of fresh flowers or small crown. Several Paulist parishes put their own unique spin on the May procession custom.
In San Francisco, the combined faith communities of Old St. Mary’s Cathedral, Holy Family Chinese Mission and St. Mary’s School and Chinese Catholic Center has a rich May procession history that reaches back to the 1960s.
“In the days gone by, we processed through the streets of Chinatown from the old school on Stockton Street down to Old St. Mary’s where we said the rosary and had benediction of the Blessed Sacrament,” recalled Father Daniel McCotter, CSP, who shepherds the Paulist ministries in San Francisco.
On May 6 this year, students (some dressed in Chinese costume) parishioners and friends processed from Dr. Sun Yet Sun Park, located across the street from Old St. Mary’s, meditating on the joyful mysteries of the rosary as the school children acted them out. The Hail Mary was then sung in Chinese. An eighth-grade student crowned a statue of Our Lady of China with a Chinese crown while another student reading an Act of Consecration. Father McCotter then offered a homily, which was followed by Benediction.
The procession is part of the faith community’s commitment to evangelization as it is a visible display of faith in San Francisco, according to Johanna Pendleton, who has volunteered to organize the May crowning since 1969.
“It was a tradition in the parish before I started,” she said. “It is a witness of who we are and also our belief in our Blessed Mother.”
The May crowning is also a decades-old tradition at St. Austin Church in Austin.
“I have been here for 19 years, and we have had May crownings as long as I can remember,” said Barbara Kennedy, principal of St. Austin School.Students are asked to bring in flowers, either purchased or from their own gardens. The flowers are collected in glass vases, which are then carried up to altar by members of the Children of Mary. Children of Mary meet monthly throughout the year to learn more about Mary and the rosary. The oldest girl in the Children of Mary usually has the honor of crowning the statue of Mary.
“We make the crowning part of the Mass, usually after Communion,” Ms. Kennedy said. “It is a very simple celebration, but one we do every year to honor and celebrate Mary.”
The flowers and crowned state are then brought back to the school to be further enjoyed by the enthusiastic students.
“The students are very excited every year,” said Ms. Kennedy, “especially when they see all the flowers they have brought and we have crowned Mary. It is an opportunity for us to focus on the role that Mary plays in our Catholic faith.”