Nearly seventy-five years ago, in June of 1947, a Marian Congress was held in Ottawa, where an estimated 200,000 pilgrims, coming from all parts of North America, gathered to pray for lasting peace in the world. Over the course of six full days and nights, Masses were begun every half hour, and priests were available to hear confessions until 3 am. The event culminated in the consecration of the Dominion of Canada to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, on June 22.
This year, recalling this once-in-a-lifetime moment, the Marian Devotional Movement is visiting various dioceses in Canada in a series of pilgrim statue tours of Our Lady of the Cape, Canada’s National Shrine to Our Blessed Mother. The hope is to provide Canadians with opportunities to venerate Canada's National Madonna, further deepen the national consecration to the Immaculate Heart, and to promote enrolment in the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary.
On May 14th and 15th, the Sisters of the Queenship of Mary Community visited the Miramichi with a replica of the Statue of Our Lady of the Cape, and participated in two events, at St. Michael’s Basilica in Chatham, and at St. Mary’s Church in Newcastle. Local organizers expressed a feeling of blessedness, at the thought that Miramichi would be the final stop on the Atlantic stage of this tour. It was felt that such a momentous event was unlikely to be repeated in the near future, such was the honour of having been chosen.
As was mentioned, the event was led by the Sisters of the Queenship of Mary Community from Ottawa. The Foundress, Mother Mary Bernadette, was joined by Sr. Philomena Daughter of Mary, Sr. Rose Clare of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Sr. Francis Marie, and, finally, Sr. John Paul Marie of the Trinity, who provided the music ministry for both celebrations. Founded in 2007, the first group of founding sisters made their perpetual profession of vows in the Queenship of Mary Community on the Solemnity of the Annunciation in 2015. Since this time, the community has welcomed several young women to discern a religious vocation. Sr. Philomena began by explaining the work of the community, and their purpose to love with the heart of Mary, and to bring that love to the spiritually poor. Even in the midst of dark times, she assured those gathered that there was hope, and encouraged all to open their hearts to Mary in the celebration that followed.
A procession with the Statue marked the beginning of the gathering, assisted by the Knights of Columbus Fr. Broderick Council (#1219) and Father Dixon Council (#4886). Both Councils have generously contributed to the ongoing work of the Queenship of Mary Community. Young people from the faith community also took part in each procession, bearing the diadem with which the statue was crowned. May Crowning is a traditional Roman Catholic ritual that honours Mary as the perfect follower of Christ; the “crown” of creation.
There followed the praying of the Rosary, calling to mind Our Lady’s instruction to St. Dominic that this form of prayer was an antidote to heresy and sin. Later, Sr. Philomena explained that, while praying the rosary privately has great value, how powerful an experience it is to pray it with others, as a community of the faithful. She encouraged those present to continue to pray this special devotion, and to begin to do so, if they had yet to start. She called attention to the Rosary Confraternity, a spiritual association whose members make a special effort to pray the entire twenty mysteries of the Rosary during the course of each week. More information on the Rosary Confraternity can be found at https://visitationproject.org/
Sr. Philomena went on to explain the story of Father Luc Desilets, the pastor at Cap-de-la-Madeleine from 1864 until his death in 1888. In 1867, after finding a pig chewing on a rosary in the church, an experience that was both shocking in its extremity, but also illustrative of a lack of devotion among his congregation, he consecrated himself to the Blessed Mother, and vowed promote further enrolment in the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. As these efforts proved more and more successful, the parish began to grow, and eventually the church was too small and a larger church was required. Unfortunately, or so it must have seemed at the time, the stone to build the new church needed to be brought from a quarry on the far side of the St. Lawrence River. An unusually mild winter in 1879 made the prospect of transporting the stone across the River even less likely. As Father Desilets and his congregation prayed to Our Lady for a bridge of ice, despite the lengthening days of March heralding the end of winter, a tremendous storm blew in on the Feast of St. Joseph, and packed ice to form a bridge; later referred to as the ‘Bridge of Rosaries.’
The ceremony began to conclude with the Blessing of the Roses and distribution of rose petals to those assembled. This is a tradition from Trois-Rivières, that has been known to offer healing, freedom from evil, and miraculous effect to those who receive Mary in this special way. Following the distribution, those assembled recited the Marian Consecration Daily Prayer.
Our Lady of the Cape, Queen of the Holy Rosary, Queen of Canada; I offer and give our prayers, sacrifices, good works, time, talent and treasure to your Immaculate Heart, to do with as you please, for the greater glory of God.
I thank God the Father, for choosing you to be our heavenly Mother. I thank God the Son, for giving you to us as He was dying for our sins, and those of the whole world, on the cross. I thank God the Holy Spirit, for the graces He gives us through you.
Help me, by your prayers, to be faithful to the vows of my Baptism. Help me, by your prayers, to accomplish all that God has planned for me in advance to do.
A reception followed each celebration, and opportunities were provided to speak with the Sisters at greater length. Fr. Daniel Bastarache offered thanks to the Sisters for their service, and for their coming to share time with those on the Miramichi, and wished them good health and many years of service to come. All who attended the celebrations, offered prayer and contemplation, and spoke with the Sisters afterwards, could not but be deeply moved and thoroughly filled with the light of faith.