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Mobile procession honors Mother Mary in Singapore

Novena Church has been organizing an annual procession to honor Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, since 1953

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: September 23, 2021 04:13 AM GMT

Updated: September 23, 2021 04:26 AM GMT

Mobile procession honors Mother Mary in Singapore

Novena Church in Singapore has promoted devotion to Mother Mary for decades. (Photo: YouTube)

A Catholic church in Singapore has held a mobile procession to honor Mother Mary that garnered a positive response from thousands of faithful.

The Church of St. Alphonsus, popularly known as Novena Church, is famous for promoting novena prayer devotion to Mary and large gatherings during the annual feast in her honor.

Founded and run by Redemptorist missionaries, the church preserves a replica of the original miraculous icon (painting) of Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, painted on wood by an eastern artist about five centuries ago.

The original icon has been preserved at the shrine of St. Alphonsus Liguori in Rome, the headquarters of the Redemptorists. In 1867, Pope Pius IX venerated the image and honored it with a canonical coronation.   

Each year Novena Church holds a novena procession when thousands join rallies for prayers and blessings with the icon of Mary.

This year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, only 500 vaccinated participants were allowed to attend the procession, prompting the organizers to arrange a mobile procession with the icon of Mary, reports Catholic News of Singapore Archdiocese.

Some of those who came to the prayer services, which included non-Catholic staff, were in tears

“As we were trying to organize the procession, we encountered obstacles as the nation went into heightened alert. We wanted to remind the faithful that even though they could not come to see our Blessed Mother at our church, she is close to them, especially during this pandemic,” said Edwyn de Souza, a member of the organizing committee and pastoral coordinator of Novena Church.

The icon of Mary was placed in a lorry and driven around national landmarks in Singapore in August. The lorry made stopovers in several parishes and organizations that represented the church’s outreach in social mission, education, health care and pastoral care to the faithful.

This special visit enthralled the faithful and even non-Catholics who welcomed the icon with eagerness and enthusiasm.

“Some of those who came to the prayer services, which included non-Catholic staff, were in tears,” said Gordon Pinto, general manager of Agape Village, a Catholic charity serving disabled people.

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Joe Roger, 63, a maintenance worker and volunteer with Novena Church for 48 years, said he felt honored to drive the icon around the city.

“I was thrilled when I was asked to drive the lorry, and it was a great honor and pleasure. By the grace of God, everything went smoothly,” he said.

Novena Church held an in-person procession with 500 participants who were either vaccinated or had taken a pre-event test on Sept. 5. The program was broadcast live on YouTube and Facebook, drawing more than 50,000 viewers.

In his homily, Redemptorist Father Alvin Rex said Novena Church has played a vital role in the history of Catholic Church in Singapore as a place of prayer and preaching, and a center of evangelization, bringing countless people to the Catholic faith since it was founded 70 years ago.

The priest reminded the faithful that Mary, Our Perpetual Help, always leads those in need to her Son, Jesus.

“The thing the Church needs today is the ability to heal wounds and warm the hearts of the faithful,” Father Rex said, recalling the words of Pope Francis, stressing that Novena Church will continue to be a place where “wounds are healed and hearts are warmed.”

In 1948, the Redemptorists acquired a piece of land where they started novena services to honor Mary in a small community chapel the following year

The Redemptorists, members of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, are a global Catholic religious order serving in about 100 countries.

In 1934, French Bishop Adrien Devals, bishop of Malacca Diocese, which then included Singapore, wrote a letter to Father W. Byrne, the Australian provincial of the Redemptorists, inviting the order to serve in the diocese “to help in the work of salvation and sanctification of many souls.”

The first group of six Redemptorists, led by Father Aloysius Brennan, arrived in Singapore on July 30, 1935. Between 1935 and 1941, the Redemptorists pioneered ministering to the locals using colloquial dialects that significantly strengthened evangelization efforts.

During World War II, Japan occupied Singapore and all the Redemptorists, except one, were incarcerated in Changi Prison. At the end of the war, the resilient priests resumed their mission.

In 1948, the Redemptorists acquired a piece of land where they started novena services to honor Mary in a small community chapel the following year. As the novena prayers became popular and crowds started to flock, Novena Church was built.

French Archbishop Michel Olçomendy, the first archbishop of Singapore, blessed and opened the church in 1950 and the first annual novena procession was held in 1953.

This article uses material from a report published by Catholic News of Singapore on Sept. 21.

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