May 20, 2014
In the second decade of the 21st Century, there seems to be few long-time traditions that are still prevalent.
One of those long-time traditions still going strong is at Holy Family Church, Nazareth, where for the 70th time on May 4, the parish celebrated May Crowning.
The tradition of May Crowning goes back to 1942, when the Second Children of Mary Sodality was responsible for the practice. The Second Children of Mary Sodality was formed that year by then-pastor Father Gregory A. Boeckman. The first queen was Florene Stork (later Florene Leinen).
The tradition of May Crowning continued, until 1965, when the Children of Mary Sodality was discontinued.
In 1969, Father (later Monsignor) Stanley Crocchiola became pastor at Holy Family Church and one of his first moves was to organize a youth society, which was named the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). In 2004, the organization was renamed the Holy Family Youth Group. In 1969, the practice of May Crowning was reinstituted, with Darlene Birkenfeld (now Darlene Schulte), the first May Queen.
The West Texas Catholic visited with four former Queens and the current Queen, Kyla Acker, and asked each of them to reflect on what it meant to be May Queen then—and what it means for them today:
Alvina Schmucker Gerber
May Queen 1946
“It was quite an honor to be chosen to crown the Blessed Virgin Mary back in 1946. It was so many years ago, but it seems like yesterday. How wonderful that we are still crowning Mary each May in Holy Family Church in Nazareth.”
Mary Lou Hoelting Schmucker
May Queen 1961
“When I was elected to crown Mary in 1961, I thought it was a great honor to be chosen by my peers. It was such a wonderful celebration as we processed through town praying the Rosary. I did not truly understand the meaning until I was standing so close to that beautiful statue of Mary and looking into her eyes. I then realized the true beauty of this saintly mother of Jesus.
“Today as I look back on the experience I am more fully aware of what a privilege it was. As a wife and mother, I look to Mary as my guide. I pray to her daily asking her to intercede to her Son in my behalf. May Crowning is one of my favorite Church celebrations because I love the hymns sung to Our Lady and it is important to pay homage to the one who gave birth to our Savior.”
Stacy Albracht Wilhelm
May Queen 1988
“May Crowning for me wasn’t a one-time thing. In the 1970’s I was chosen by my first cousin, Mary Beth Ramaekers (now Mary Beth Gerber) to carry the crown when she crowned Mary. I would have been around five or six at the time, and I still remember her asking me in the old Nazareth Hall. That was such a special honor, and even at such a young age, I knew I was being asked to be a part of something amazing.
“In 1988 when I was selected to crown Mary, weaving the threads of past, present and future together was important to me, so I asked Mary Beth’s young daughter, Stephanie, to carry the crown. Now the older I get, the more I see the importance of young children seeing teenagers practicing their faith out loud. I know how much that meant to me as a child, how it made me feel to pass that on and how amazed I am that all these years later the tradition continues.
“Honoring Mary. Passing down the faith. Old weaving with young in a timeless faith tradition. There’s a reason May Crowning has lasted 70 years, and I’m honored to be a thread in that tapestry.”
Erica Gerber Raef
May Queen 2003
“When I was voted May Queen in 2003, I knew it meant I would have a crucial role in a time-honored tradition that the community held in very high esteem. The experience was tangible: the white dress, the light blue cape, the small beaded crown, the large rosary and crown of flowers that would adorn the statue of Mary, and the many fresh, fragrant flowers that would surround her feet. There would be familiar music—songs that had been sung for many years. It was a ceremony for all, young and old.
“As I reflect upon it now, I realize that as special as it was then, it means even more to me now. Being May Queen has woven me into a special group of women, including my grandmother, mother and sister, who have had the honor of crowning Mary. Over the years, I’ve also developed a deeper relationship with our blessed Mother and I have a greater respect for the special little town of Nazareth. That town is made up of many strong, faith-filled people who have a great love for Mary and all that she is to the Catholic Church. I hope that in 50 years, I’ll get to go back and see that nothing has changed.”
May Queen 2014
“It was an honor to be selected by my classmates and the youth of the parish to be this year’s May Queen. May Crowning is a wonderful tradition that has been carried out in our parish for many years. It was a special event this year because our church celebrated its 70th annual May Crowning, which is a historical pageant of prayer and devotion to Mary. At times the planning got to be a bit overwhelming, but it was all worth it in the end. It was an amazing experience to be May Queen, and a true honor to be selected.
“When I get older, I will look back on this experience and feel blessed because I was able to be a part of this time-honored tradition.”