By Arlene Edmonds
Special to The CS&T
ROSEMONT – Jimmy and Destiny were a king and queen for the evening. Destiny wore her flower wreath crown from her wheelchair, while Johnny was escorted to his seat by a personal aide.
Dressed in a pink and green flowing gown and a vested suit and tie, respectively, these guests of honor were mentally challenged 21-year-old residents of St. Edmond’s Home for Children participating in the eighth annual May procession in honor of the Blessed Mother Monday, May 11.
Father Dennis Weber presided over the ceremony held in the outdoor courtyard of the facility located at 230 S. Roberts Rd. in Rosemont. He led the rosary and a prayer for the coronation of a statue of Mary with flowers, and encouraged all to recite the closing prayer together. There were some 50 wheelchairs and more than two dozen staff members and family members in the crowd.
“It was such a beautiful tribute to Mary,” said Joan Cox, whose 17-year-old son Shawn resides at St. Edmond’s. Another son, 13-year-old Dillon, a student at Radnor Middle School, also attended the special event. The family also includes 21-year-old Casey who was unable to attend Monday’s ceremony.
The Coxes are frequent visitors at St. Edmond’s since they reside in the area.
“I love everything they do here,” Joan Cox said. “We come here all the time to have Mass on Sundays with Shawn in the chapel. Since we live only about 10 minutes away we are always here. It’s just a great place.”
Denise Clofine, administrator for St. Edmond’s, was pleased with Monday evening’s Marian tribute. She said that she has enjoyed the procession for the last five years that she has been director of the home.
She pointed out that Destiny and Junior were selected to serve in key roles in the ceremony since they are transitioning out the program that caters to those from ages 2 to 21. While Johnny will be moving to the Allegheny Valley Systems School, as of this week Destiny’s new residence had not been finalized.
“They were both excited to participate in this event in honor of the Blessed Mother,” Clofine said. “This is about faith and hope. It’s great that we can all come together as a community for a purpose. Everyone here came from various (campuses) for this great event.”
Clofine pointed out that the May procession is just the start of the outdoor events at the facility. This summer they will host an eight-week camp. Some 17 mentally challenged children from the surrounding community will be invited to join the regular residents. “Most of the children are profoundly mentally retarded and all have a wide range of physical challenges with a few who are medically fragile, yet they all participate in the camp and events like this,” Clofine said.
Participation was great during the recitation of the coronation prayer and in response to the petitions for justice and peace. When the “Hail, Holy Queen” musical recording transitioned from the traditional form to the up-tempo version from the motion picture “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit” it was clear that these children appreciated the ceremony: some were rocking their wheelchairs, others were shaking tambourines in tempo.
“They enjoy the opportunity to come together for the different programs that honor our Lord and the Blessed Mother,” Father Weber said.
Joan Cox agreed. “Anyone can see they really do enjoy the activities here.”
St. Edmond’s Home, under the auspices of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, was founded in 1916 at 44th Street and Haverford Avenue in West Philadelphia by Archbishop Edmond Prendergast. In 1956 the facility relocated to 15 acres in Radnor Township.
Arlene Edmonds is a freelance writer and St. Raymond of Penafort parishioner. She may be reached at ArleneEdmonds@aol.com.