Aug 1, 2006

An Annual Homage to St Anne

An annual homage to St Anne
Tuesday August 1, 2006
By Ng Su Ann and M. Sivanantha Sharma

FOR 10 days, all roads seemed to lead to Bukit Mertajam in Penang as more than 100,000 people flocked to the St Anne’s Church there for the St Anne’s Novena and Feast 2006.

The annual celebration began on July 21 with the 188-year-old church holding Novenas followed by masses which were conducted in English, Tamil, Mandarin, Thai and Kadazan.

The climax was the candlelight procession on Saturday night which attracted thousands of pilgrims.

There was a carnival-like atmosphere as Catholics and non-Christians alike from all over Malaysia, neighbouring countries and as far away as Europe packed the church to pay homage to St Anne, the maternal grandmother of Jesus Christ.

The church grounds were bathed in a sparkling sea of light and the night air filled with hymns as the pilgrims followed the 45-minute procession which circled the church’s compound.

At the head of the procession were altar boys, candle bearers, bunga manggar bearers and flower girls. The statues of St Anne and the Bles-sed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus, were next, followed by priests and the faithful.

 SEA OF LIGHT: Pilgrims holding lighted candles during the procession around the church grounds on Saturday night.
SEA OF LIGHT: Pilgrims holding lighted candles during the procession around the church grounds on Saturday night.

Flower girls sprinkled floral petals along the path of the procession while choir members sang religious hymns.

Among those who came for the celebration were Austrian Manfred Kotek, 39, his wife Christina, 37, and their children, Luka, five and Nico, two.

Christina said she liked the environment at the church as it was a very peaceful place in which to pray.

She said they were on holiday in Penang when she and her husband found out about the festival from a magazine they read.

Singaporean K. Parimala, 52, said it was the second consecutive year she had come for the event.

“I will be here every year if God permits,” she said.

Johorean Michale Lim, 39, who came with his wife, Stephenie Chanand, 34, and their two children, aged 10 and11, said the event was significant for his family.

“Whatever our commitments, we make it a point to be here every year,” said Lim who had been attending the feast for the past 20 years.

Lilly Green, 50, from Canada, said a visit to the church for the feast was a must for her every year since 2001.

“I am thankful to God for keeping me healthy and I will be back if my health permits,” she added.

Businesswoman Rachel Chin, 29, and her mother Chee Ah Chu, 59, from Butterworth, said they had been coming for the feast over the last 10 years.

“Though we are Buddhists, we believe in St Anne as she had answered our prayers,” said Chin.

Many traders set up stall along Jalan Kulim outside the church to sell flowers, food, drinks, clothes, bags and other items.

Among them was R. Ramesh who has been selling flowers there since 2002. Ramesh, 40, said he gets his flower supply from Cameron Highlands.

Also spotted at the church was Time Highway Radio deejay Ram who was there to provide coverage for the festival which ended on Sunday.

This year’s celebration was themed ‘To Think and Feel with the Church.’

source: The Star