May is a month when many Catholics elevate their Marian devotion, and the Southern Tier has apparently taken this emphasis to heart.
In fact, Immaculate Conception Parish in Ithaca got started a few days early: Children from the religious-education program performed a Living Rosary April 25 at the parish school gymnasium. Each youth represented a Hail Mary bead on the rosary, and fathers also took part by serving as Our Father beads in between the “decades” of children.
The annual Living Rosary began four years ago, said Pat Ober, who coordinated this year’s event along with fellow catechists Rita Demarest and Amelia Massi. Ober said the devotion serves as “the perfect opportunity for young children and their families to offer communal prayer to our Blessed Lady and her son.”
Immaculate Conception has honored Mary in several other ways as well. The religious-education program was to also take part in a May Crowning May 9; the parish’s Holy Hour May 1 was dedicated to Mary; and students of Immaculate Conception School held a Living Rosary last October, another Marian month.
In Elmira, Bishop Matthew H. Clark was on hand May 4 at Notre Dame High School’s auditorium for the annual May Day celebration. The bishop celebrated Mass at 8:45 a.m., then led prayer for the May crowning ceremony. He handed the crown to Amanda Mahr, this year’s May Queen, who then placed the object on a statue of the Blessed Mother.
“It was a great honor for us, to have Bishop Clark be with us,” said Mercy Sister Mary Walter Hickey, school principal. “We hope we can make (his appearance) a tradition.”
Amanda, 18, noted that she and the May “king,” Greg Rupik, her escort for the ceremony, were selected from among their senior classmates.
“I felt so honored. The bishop is so wonderful; I just felt very honored with the whole thing,” said Amanda, a parishioner at St. Anthony/St. Patrick in Elmira.
Among other recent Southern Tier Marian activities for which the Courier was notified:
* Evening prayer service, May 2, at St. Margaret Mary Church in Apalachin.
* May Crowning, May 2, Our Lady of Lourdes, Elmira, as part of the 10:30 a.m. Youth Mass.
* May Crowning, May 2, St. Catherine of Siena, Ithaca.
* May Crowning, May 2, St. Mary of the Lake, Watkins Glen.
* May Crowning, May 3, St. Patrick’s, Owego.
* Living Rosary, May 4, St. James, Waverly.
* May Crowning, rosary and Benediction, May 13, St. Casimir/St. Charles Borromeo, Elmira.
* Rosary, Friday afternoons, Our Lady of Lourdes, Elmira.
At the May Crowning in Owego, students from St. Patrick’s School played major roles. According to Linda Cvik, school principal, each grade stood before the altar and led the congregation in a decade of the rosary. Cvik also noted that the first-graders made their own rosaries for the event, carrying on a tradition that she began as a teacher at St. Patrick’s approximately 15 years ago.
In Watkins Glen, the May Crowning was incorporated into first Communion at the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass, with each of the 16 first communicants placing a rose by the statue of the Blessed Mother. Along with this special Marian event at St. Mary of the Lake, rosary takes place all year long at St. Benedict’s Church in Odessa — the other faith community in the Schuyler Catholic Community cluster. That rosary is held at 7 p.m. each Thursday.
“There is a core group who are so devoted. But we certainly encourage other people to join,” said Kathy Decker, cluster secretary.
Other weekly rosaries in the Tier are at St. Mary’s Church in Elmira, Thursdays at 7 p.m.; and Ss. Peter and Paul in Elmira, Thursdays at 11:30 a.m. Rosary devotion is even greater in regularity at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Elmira, taking place every Monday through Friday at 11:45 a.m. in the hospital chapel. According to Deacon George Welch, chaplain, this tradition began as a rosary for peace after the war in Afghanistan broke out in late 2001.
“We simply are asking Mary as our mother to protect these men and women and our families from the violence and war. Our prayer is to bring them back safely,” Deacon Welch said.
He added that his nephew, Joseph Welch, was with the Army in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and came home safely both times. “There is a power in prayer, and the rosary time is our belief in that power,” he remarked, adding that a tree in the hospital lobby holds yellow ribbons displaying the names of all military men and women who are connected to St. Joseph’s.