Residents of St. Edmond’s Home for Children in Rosemont crowned a statue of the Blessed Mother at a May procession on May 9, 2018. The annual celebration unites children and adults served by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s developmental programs division. (Photo by Gina Christian)

Tambourines, handclaps and a rocking version of “Hail Holy Queen” capped an annual May procession celebrated by more than 80 children and adults served by the developmental programs of archdiocesan Catholic Social Services.

Members of the Don Guanella and Divine Providence (DGDP) communities traveled May 9 to St. Edmond’s Home for Children in Rosemont, which hosted the ceremony at its outdoor Marian grotto.

The event marked the 17th year that the two groups have teamed up to honor the Blessed Mother. Together, the DGDP communities and St. Edmond’s Home form a continuum of care that Catholic Social Services provides to individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities. St. Edmond’s Home serves medically fragile children from ages six weeks to 21 years, while the DGDP communities offer a wide range of resources and support for developmentally disabled adults.

“We’d had May processions for many, many years at St. Edmond’s,” said Denise Clofine, the home’s administrator. “But we decided to expand the celebration by combining with our friends from DGDP. It’s a wonderful way to express our devotion and love of Mary and to deepen our faith in her Son, Jesus Christ.”

Following hymns, prayers and a Scripture reading, St. Edmond’s resident Cailyn Longo placed a crown of flowers atop the statue of the Blessed Mother, assisted by activities coordinator Julia Vivanco.

“Cailyn has had a tough year health-wise, but God was looking after her, and she’s really doing very well,” Clofine said. “We thought she would be the perfect one to choose for our May queen.”

Watch a video of St. Edmond’s May procession:


The procession celebrated the unique gifts of its participants. “We may do it in a different way than other schools or churches,” said Jessica Fisher, an occupational therapy assistant at St. Edmond’s. “We bring a sensory element to it as well; we pass around a rosary and let them feel it.”

Members of the DGDP communities took turns reciting a decade of the rosary, with participants adding their own expressions of prayer and petition. The crowd then sang to a gospel-style recording of “Hail Holy Queen” from the movie “Sister Act” while playing tambourines and maracas.

Sister Mary Veasy, S.S.J., coordinator of spiritual programming at Divine Providence Village, likened the event’s worship style to a “new Pentecost.”

“Just like when we talk about the Apostles, when the Holy Spirit came and they talked in tongues, sometimes it sounds like that,” Veasy said. “It’s all in their own language, but it’s just beautiful. And they know how close they are to God. It’s a more straightforward spirituality.”

Father Dennis Weber, S.C., who presided over the May procession, agreed.

“These individuals have as much spiritual depth as we do, if not more, because it’s coming from a spirit of innocence and deep love,” said Father Weber, the director of ministry and mission for the DGDP communities.

Marian devotions such as the annual May procession highlight this spiritual depth, Father Weber added.

“Mary speaks to this community in that these are her beloved children,” said Father Weber. “We all are, but I think with this particular community, she just embraces them in a way that can help us to do the same in our own lives – to recognize them as they are, as persons of dignity and persons of value. And so I think the Blessed Mother helps us to see that.”