“From the Archives” May Procession and Crowning at Saint Mary

On Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 10, Father Hathaway helped us celebrate Mary’s Month by leading an online Renewal of the Consecration of the Basilica of Saint Mary to the Blessed Mother. The consecration included a longstanding parish tradition, the May Crowning of the statue of Mary in the Basilica sanctuary. You can watch a video of it here.

May Processions and May Crownings to honor Our Lady have been part of Saint Mary’s parish life for generations. Shortly after the end of the U.S. Civil War, the Sisters of the Holy Cross arrived in Alexandria in 1869 to teach at Saint Mary’s Academy. Although it was never officially part of Saint Mary’s parish, the school and sisters were closely associated with parish religious, social, charitable and cultural activities. For many years, they helped organize the annual May Procession and helped keep the young participants in line!

By the 1920s the May Procession had become a major parish event. The procession formed at Saint Mary’s Academy on Prince Street and the group marched from there to the church. Following an altar boy carrying a crucifix were all of the other parish altar servers and members of the Holy Angels’ Sodality, a boys’ fraternal and service organization. A large banner was carried by children of the parish. At the conclusion of the procession came the May Queen, who was elected by members of the Children of Mary, an organization for girls, with her attendants. After the ceremony to crown the statue of the Blessed Mother in the church, new members were formally received into the children’s groups.

In the 1940s, the May Procession was held on the same Sunday as First Communion. It started at the Lyceum at 313 Duke Street, travelled around the block occupied by the church, and ended with the crowning of the statue of the Blessed Mother and benediction in the church. Of course, the children involved were dressed in their Sunday best! Large numbers of parishioners and neighbors, adults and children alike, came out to watch and participate in this much-anticipated annual spring event.

The Basilica will host another May Crowning, featuring students from the Basilica School of Saint Mary, on May 22 at 11:00 am. You can watch a live video stream of it here.

– Kitty Guy, Parish Historian

Throughout 2020, the Basilica of Saint Mary will present “From the Archives.” It is a weekly feature online and in our bulletin spotlighting the history of the parish. All of our “From the Archives” features are located here

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