Catholic tradition honors the Blessed Mary

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Sadie Maggio Dark, in front, center, reigned over the May Procession in 1939.

Submitted by Payne Williams

The May Procession and Crowing is a traditional Catholic ceremony which is held in the month of May. During this event, a solemn procession is made to the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Church, where a statue of Mary is crowned and adorned with flowers, honoring her as the Queen of Heaven. This tradition dates to the 18th century, when Father Latomia of the Roman College of the Society of Jesus established the practice of dedicating the month of May to our Blessed Mother.

This article published in the Thursday, May 6, 2021, print edition
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Starting in Rome, the May devotion to the Blessed Mary spread through Jesuit colleges located in Europe and eventually, throughout the entire church. The image of the Blessed Mary, wearing a gold crown, is found in the earliest forms of traditional Catholic iconography images.

Amanda Giering Clark. granddaughter of Sadie Maggio Dark, crowned Mary in 1989.

The month of May also includes several feast days which honor the Blessed Mary, including:

1) Our Lady Queen of Apostles, (Saturday following the Feast of the Ascension)

2) Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament, (May 13)

3) Our Lady of Fatima, (May 13)

4) Mary Help of Christians, (May 24);

5) The Feast of the Visitation, (May 31)

The May Procession and Crowing tradition at St. Mary’s Academy occurred as early as the 1920s, and may have started when the school was founded in 1888 “on the hill” behind the present day First Baptist Church. Sadie Maggio Dark, St. Mary’s oldest alum and a 1939 graduate of St. Mary’s Academy, recalls participating in this event. She states that during the procession, the entire student body carried flowers which they brought to school. The students and faculty proceeded down the hill and onto the sidewalk located on rue Touline. They turned left onto rue Second and continued to Immaculate Conception Church.

Inside the church, the statue of Mary was crowned by the president of the Sodality, a student religious organization, while additional flowers were placed around the statue. In 1939, Dark crowned the statue of Mary, and 50 years later, her granddaughter, Amanda Giering Clark, also crowned the statue. Sometime after 1965, when the school moved to its present location on East Fifth Street, the May Procession and Crowing occurred in the school gymnasium, where the statue of Mary was placed on the stage.

Levi Thompson, SMS Principal

In 1988, St. Mary’s principal Levi Thompson oversaw the May Procession and Crowning return to Immaculate Conception Church, during which students carried a statue of Mary from the school to the church.

In approximately 1990, St. Mary’s alum, the late Judy Dranguet Risty, returned to teach at St. Mary’s. Risty recalled the songs, “Bring Flowers of the Fairest” and “Oh Mary, We Crown Thee with Blossoms Today,” which she and her fellow classmates sang during the May Procession when the attended St. Mary’s Academy.

Judy Ritsy, at right, with great niece Margaret Vienne Finch, St. Mary’s Class of 2009

Risty taught the song to her students, who sang it as they proceeded to the church. Today, the entire student body is taken by bus to the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, where the statue of Mary is crowned and adorned with flowers.

The devotional ceremony was Friday, May 7, at the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Church.