This may be a first. Well, at least it’s a first for the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal. With gatherings of more than 10 people still being banned in the state of New Jersey, the quick-thinking Sisters came up with a creative way to celebrate Mary’s month.
Inspired by a local resident who persisted in his pleas to have a May crowning ceremony, the Sisters came up with a way to bring Mary to the entire community while maintaining social distancing.
Atlantic City, notorious for its large homeless population and rampant poverty, has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The community’s sole revenue source, its casinos, have been shuttered since the lockdown was implemented, further crushing the already weak local economy.
According to Sr. Agnes CFR, who brainstormed the unique event, “We thought, what could we do for Atlantic City? How can we bring people hope and joy and consolation? And I thought what if we brought Our Lady and she visits them!”
So in the bed of a Dodge pickup truck, they mounted a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and adorned the vehicle with flowers.
The May crowning took place as the truck left the parking lot of the Parish of St. Monica/St. Nicolas of Tolentine Church, witnessed by some curious onlookers.
The Sisters prayed the Rosary and sang the Ave Maria as they wound their way through the streets of Atlantic City. Locals waved and cheered as they drove through the narrow streets of the forlorn town.
“Our Lady is with us in our difficulties and in our time of need. We need Our Lady right now, and specifically, I like the title of Our Lady of Joyful Hope. And why go to Jesus through Mary? Because He came to us through her,” said Sr. Agnes.
So beneath an unending blue sky with sunlight embracing the city with its warming rays, joy and grace filled the city streets. Not in a way that one would expect perhaps, but from the back of a pickup truck.
To see the live stream of the entire procession, visit St. Monica’s Parish Facebook.