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Forming the Future: St. Monica School, Methuen, holds multicultural May crowning

Students gather for the May crowning ceremony outside St. Monica School in Methuen. Pilot photo/Jacqueline Tetrault

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METHUEN -- Every year, St. Monica School typically has two special events in May: they hold a multicultural celebration, and, like many other Catholic schools, they hold a May crowning to honor the Blessed Mother. This year, the school combined the two events, holding a May crowning that celebrated Marian devotions from different countries.

The event was largely organized by St. Monica School Principal Donna Henderson and Apprentice Principal Dan Simard. In addition to his administrative role, Simard has also been teaching religion to students in the second grade and junior high school.

As part of the celebration, students in all grades made tri-fold poster board presentations about different Marian devotions. They featured coloring pages, infographics, and text about the stories behind the various titles and traditions associated with the Blessed Mother.

With the help of the art teacher, the first-grade students made diorama "shrines" to Our Lady of Lebanon. These were displayed on a table next to the statue of Mary that was crowned in the school parking lot on May 25. The posters were also brought outside for the event.

At the start of the school day, the students gathered in the parking lot, sitting with their classmates in the morning sun. A number of parents also came and stood at a distance to pray with the school community.

Father Darin Colarusso, the pastor of St. Monica and St. Lucy Parishes, gave welcoming remarks, explaining the idea behind the event. They were there, he said, to honor the Blessed Mother under the titles of her many apparitions. However, he pointed out, she also has titles not attached to apparitions, such as Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Comfort of the Poor, "all kinds of hopeful titles, all kinds of support titles."

"On this day, we give thanksgiving to God, and we honor our Blessed Mother under those titles of support, particularly as we start entering into warmer weather, we start entering into a time when we don't have to feel so locked down and stressed out," Father Colarusso said.

Before they started the recitation of the rosary, Simard encouraged everyone to think of someone to whom they could dedicate this rosary and to ask the Blessed Mother to intercede for them.

Eighth-grade students took turns leading the prayers. Simard then ended the rosary with a litany of Mary's titles followed by the response, "Pray for us." These titles included Our Lady of Aparecida, Grace, Fatima, Guadalupe, Akita, Lourdes, Czestochowa, La Vang, the Hudson, and Knock.

The second-grade students wore the suits and gowns they had worn when they received their First Communion a few weeks earlier. They were invited to line up along the statue of Mary. Then an eighth-grade student crowned the statue while hymns to Mary played over the speaker.

"It was really nice to see, to be able to be together in prayer and community," Henderson said after the event.

She noted that every class was represented in some way during the ceremony.

"Every child had a hand in one of the boards or the shrine or did a reading. So, it's definitely a community-builder," she said.

It was the first time in the academic year that the entire school gathered together at once. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, they have not had any in-person assemblies over the past year.

"It was a little emotional to see the whole school together like that. But I'm happy we did it, though. It was a nice way to end the year," Henderson said.

Simard also looked back on the past year, saying that it "started out on an uncertain note, but it's closing out on a high note."

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