By Jennifer Mauro | Managing Editor
It was as if there was a meeting of old friends between faithful from two Toms River parishes as youngsters from St. Joseph visited the faithful of St. Maximilian Kolbe May 12 for the parish’s May Crowning.
Photo Gallery: May Crowning in St. Maximilian Kolbe, Toms River
Photo Gallery: May Crowning in Pope John Paul II Regional School, Willingboro
“Great job – were you afraid to stand up there and hold the crown?” one parishioner asked Jacqueline Scannell, 8, as she stood with her siblings in St. Maximilian Kolbe’s narthex after Mass.
Jacqueline, who had received her First Holy Communion the weekend before in St. Joseph Church, was joined by her siblings Allison, 12, and Ryan, 11.
“You did a very good job, and your dress is beautiful,” said another St. Maximilian Kolbe parishioner, referencing Jacqueline’s Communion dress. Pointing to Jacqueline’s jewelry – and her own Claddagh necklace – the parishioner continued, “Well how about that, we’re two Irish [ladies]!”
That sense of camaraderie shined through as the three siblings from St. Joseph Parish were invited to place a crown of flowers upon a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary during the 10 a.m. Mass. They were joined by Jayden and Carmello Caruso, grandchildren of a St. Maximilian Kolbe parishioner.
The month of May is traditionally when faithful from throughout the world pay tribute to the Mother of God by joining in various Marian devotions. St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish was one of many across the Diocese to hold May Crownings.
Father Vince Coppola, a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, said it boosts the parish spiritually to have young children visit at special times of the year. The parish, nestled in a retirement community, has a booming senior population.
Events such as this, Father Coppola said, “give our people a message of hope. They can be so overwhelmed by everything that’s happening in their later years, with sickness and doctor’s visits ... and to see children, and children in church – well that just boosts their morale enormously.”
Like her sister, Allison Scannell was all smiles in talking about being part of the May Crowning.
“It actually felt really special. Very few people are picked,” she said. Proud of her sister for being able to do the actual crowning, she said, “I think it’s a really big honor.”
The parish’s May Crowning coincided with Mother’s Day, which Father Coppola, parochial vicar, spoke about in his homily.
“Mothers are the most visible of all teachers,” he said. “Often, a mother’s love is the first concrete example of love we have in our lives.”
He went on to relate a story of going shopping with his elderly mother. In search of the perfect dress, she went from store to store with Father Coppola in tow until – finally – he emphasized to laughter, his mother found her prize.
He explained how he had to help her tie the bow at the top of her new dress, as her hands were deformed from arthritis. “As I saw my mother fumbling, it hit me,” he said. “My impatience of the day disappeared.”
What he discovered was that “I couldn’t get that vision out of my mind. The vision of my mother trying to tie that bow with crippled hands – hands that caressed me, comforted me, hands that fed me and tied my shoes. These were hands that had prayed for me.”
Later that night, he explained, “I sat on her bed and took her crippled hands in mine. To her surprise, I said, ‘These are the most beautiful hands I’ve ever seen in the world.’”
After Mass, seeing the children interact with the parish’s seniors, Father Coppola spoke on the Virgin Mary and how all women are called to nurture. “Anyone who cherishes a person, such as Mary did, is a mother to all people.”
Video from freelance photographer Jeff Bruno contributed to this story.