A religious education student places a crown of flowers on a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary during a visit to St. Monica Parish, Jackson. Courtesy photo
A religious education student places a crown of flowers on a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary during a visit to St. Monica Parish, Jackson. Courtesy photo
Parishes in the Diocese of Trenton are commemorating the Blessed Mother during the month of May in different ways this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Those in St. Monica Parish, Jackson, and Mary, Mother of the Church, Bordentown, wanted to ensure the children in their religious education programs were able to experience the annual May Crowning in spite of the pandemic.

Keeping in mind that public gatherings are not permitted, Karen Badach, coordinator of religious education in St. Monica Parish, sent copies of the May Crowning Ceremony and on how to pray the Rosary to every family. She invited the youngsters to come to the church on their own time with their parents to participate in a personal May Crowning by saying the prayers and leaving a flower for our Blessed Mother. Badach noted that a box of Rosary beads was also placed near the statue for anyone who might want to pray the Rosary, then added that in the early days of the pandemic, she had encouraged families to pray the Rosary each day and, if possible, to pray at 7 p.m.

“By asking everyone to pray at a set time, I hoped they would feel a connection to their parish family,” she said. “It is important at a time like this to let families know that although we cannot come together physically, they are not forgotten and they are always in our prayers.”

Of the May Crowning this year, Badach said she did not want the students to miss out on “such a beautiful tradition” so she developed the idea of welcoming the families to hold their own May Crowning while practicing social distancing.

“Our faith is so rich with tradition that I wanted the children and their families to take a break from the books and experience a beautiful Catholic tradition. I want the children to remember they can always turn to the Blessed Mother for help at any time, but especially during this terrible crisis,” Badach said, noting that she chose May 1 as a day for the crowning ceremony so that it would coincide with the U.S. bishops reconsecrating the United States to the care of the Blessed Mother and to emphasize the important role Our Lady has in our lives.

“Most families have never experienced a time such as this and I pray that we all focus on the importance of staying close to our Lord to help us get through this crisis,” she said. “My wish is that by visiting the statue of the Blessed Mother and saying a prayer, families realize they are never alone during this coronavirus battle.” 

Similarly, the staff of Mary, Mother of the Church videotaped a May Crowning in the parish prayer garden, which will be posted to the parish Facebook and website pages May 10. The video, which was recorded May 7, features a prayer service led by Father Martin O’Reilly, pastor, with Margaret Zola, religious education coordinator, placing a crown on a statue of the Blessed Mother, with parishioner Alfonso Gonzalez serving as the cantor.

Zola said the decision to post the video to Facebook May 10, which is Mother’s Day, is significant because the 46 children who would have received their First Holy Communion the week before would have been invited to come together again as a class to participate in the May Crowning.

Because of the pandemic restrictions and social distancing, Zola said the First Communicants and their families instead are invited to make personal visits to the prayer garden and place flowers by the newly crowned statue at their convenience. She said a prayer service, which includes the words to the Hail Mary, The Doxology and the Hail Holy Queen, is posted near the statue. She also reminds visitors to practice safe distancing if there are other people in attendance.

Zola also encouraged families to visit and pray before the statue of the Blessed Mother in the garden on the grounds of in Holy Assumption Church in Roebling, which is also part of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish.