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Month of Mary

SAN JUAN – Once a year each May, young Catholic students across the United States honor Mary the Mother of Jesus with reverence, prayer and joyful celebration.

Often dressed to the nines themselves, they crown and adorn her image, usually with fresh flowers, in a ceremony known as the May crowning.

Catholic schools in the Rio Grande Valley are no exception.

Asked how many of the Valley’s Catholic schools conduct May crownings, the Diocese of Brownsville’s school superintendent, Sister Cindy Mello, replied emphatically: “All of them!”

St. Mary’s Catholic School in Brownsville still holds its May crowning on the traditional day of May 1. Lorena Gomez, who with colleague Vanessa Garcia teaches Grade 3 at St. Mary’s, said the May crowning there is very special for two reasons.

“It’s so very beautiful. We are so very fortunate that our school has its own church in which to conduct the May crowning,” she said. St. Mary’s school is associated with St. Mary Mother of the Church parish.

“But what makes this May crowning even more special is that during May our third-graders are preparing to receive their first Communions as well.”

First communions at St. Mary’s begin later the same week, on Saturday, May 6.

On May 1, all the school’s students are a part of the May crowning. “Each child will bring one flower – a rose,” Gomez said. “But our third-graders have a special part.

“The girls will each place a star representing one of the 12 Virtues of Mary on her crown, making a wreath of stars,” Gomez said. “Each boy will be reading a prayer about one of the 12 virtues.”

The 12 Virtues of Mary include compassion, purity, mercy, patience, love, faithfulness, devotion, trust, humility, strength, charity and obedience.

St. Mary’s coronation starts at 2 p.m. May 1, and the ceremony usually takes less than an hour.
At other Valley parishes, the May crowning has moved to a different date during the busy month of May.

This year at Our Lady of Sorrows parish in McAllen, the May crowning is tentatively set for the 8 a.m. Mass on May 26. Since May is an entire month dedicated to Mary, “it’s (another) way to honor Mary” in a parish already bearing her name, said Hugo de la Rosa, the campus minister.

The May crowning is a longstanding tradition at Our Lady of Sorrows, de la Rosa said.

“We’ve been doing this since way before I came here, so we’ve had the ceremony probably as long as the school’s been around.”

The school’s student Legion of Mary presidium, the OLS contingent of the international organization dedicated to Mary, takes the leading role in the May crowning. Throughout the year, the Legion’s 20 members from third through eighth grade, under the direction of Denia de los Reyes, meet weekly for prayer and rosary.

The May crowning ceremony continues to evolve at Our Lady of Sorrows. De la Rosa said that in years past, the May crowning was a “stand-alone” ceremony often held primarily for the OLS student body in the school gym. But last year it was moved to the church and conducted just after Mass on the chosen day. This allowed more participation by parents and other parishioners in addition to the students, de la Rosa said.

This year, de la Rosa said, they are considering incorporating the May crowning into the offertory during the Mass itself.

St. Mary’s Gomez said, “It’s a form of reverence … teaching respect for Mary as queen of heaven, earth and peace,” she said, reflecting the majesty referenced in the May crowning hymn, “Hail Holy Queen.”


Story by Paul Binz, The Valley Catholic