It was a full day of celebration and giving honor to the Blessed Mother in southeastern Missouri.
Catholics ushered in the month of May — dedicated to the Mother of God — with Mass, a Marian consecration with members of Vincentian Marian Youth and a May Procession, all held May 1 at the National Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville.
Barbara and Dave Ptacek drove from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to participate in the May Procession, which drew about 800 people from Missouri and other parts of the country and included a Rosary walk and crowning of a statue of Mary in the grotto. The annual procession is more than 100 years old, dating back to 1921.
Barbara Ptacek has long been devoted to the Blessed Mother as a member of the Association of the Miraculous Medal — which is headquartered next to the shrine in Perryville. Last spring, she experienced a major stroke, which affected her hearing, vision and use of the left side of her body. She credited her husband for getting her the immediate medical attention she needed.
“I was wearing my Miraculous Medal, and the next day, at the Hour of Mercy, I walked out of the hospital,” she recalled. “There were some special graces that happened. This is our pilgrimage in gratitude to Mary for the graces she’s given. We just want to give thanks to God — and Mary and Joseph and Jesus.”
The May Procession included the recitation of the Rosary along the Rosary Walk, a pathway with a mile loop that processes from the shrine church, past Bishop Joseph Rosati’s log cabin and Vincentian cemetery to the Marian grotto and back. The accessible pathway includes “beads” marking the prayers of the Rosary.
The procession concluded with a ceremony in the Marian grotto including prayers, singing and crowning the statue of Mary. Children who recently received their first Communion placed flowers at the foot of the statue, and teens who were confirmed presented boxes of prayer petitions. Members of the Children of Mary Sodality at St. Vincent de Paul High School in Perryville served as a court that presented the crown of flowers to be placed atop Mary’s head.
“Our mother Mary, like all good mothers, teaches us to appreciate the good and the beautiful within ourselves and within all creation,” said Vincentian Father Patrick McDevitt, who spoke at the ceremony. “Mary chose us — our goodness, and our beauty — in her love for us, in her affection for us and in the peace that Mary gives us in our relationship with her. … This day, this month of May, this month of Mary, this season of Easter invites us into the light — into life and into goodness and beauty.”
Claudia Otte, president of the Marian sodality at St. Vincent de Paul High School, had the honor of crowning the Blessed Mother. It’s also a family tradition, as an aunt and cousin both had the opportunity to crown the statue at processions in the past. It’s important to give honor to the Blessed Mother, because “she is the mother of our Lord,” Claudia said. “It’s amazing to know that we go to Jesus through Mary.”
Keith and Carolyn Buckner of All Souls Parish in Overland have attended three processions at the shrine grounds in Perryville. The Buckners made their visit part of a weekend getaway, which included
visiting several Catholic churches in the area, including St. Joseph in Apple Creek and Ste. Genevieve.
“It’s a wonderful devotion to the Blessed Mother, and in May we try to do something to honor her,” said Keith Buckner.
Earlier that morning before Mass at the shrine, three high school teens and one young adult consecrated themselves to Jesus through Mary as members of the Association of Vincentian Marian Youth. The four who were consecrated were Gabriel Pecaut, Joseph Flieg, Abby Marzuco and Genia Feher.
Those who seek consecration take a deeper dive into their baptismal promises, while planting a stronger desire for service and evangelization of the poor. Participants also seek to strengthen their relationship with Mary and grow closer to her Son Jesus. The formation includes classes over a period of six months and is open to anyone in high school or older.
During her junior year in high school, Abby Marzuco became involved with Vincentian Marian Youth Southeast Missouri, a Catholic community dedicated to bringing youth to Jesus through faithful devotion to the Blessed Mother. The ministry also has a focus on Vincentian charisms and virtues centered on outreach serving individuals living in poverty.
Abby said her involvement with Vincentian Marian Youth has brought together faith and fun, but she started to feel called to go deeper into her faith. When Vincentian Marian Youth’s executive director, Michael Giasi, announced sign-ups for the consecration program, Abby took that as her sign.
“It’s definitely impacted my life in an enormous way,” said Abby, now a senior at Valle Catholic High School in Ste. Genevieve. “I find that when things are not going well, I tend to pray to Mary. She takes everything to Jesus, and she’s easy to relate to. We learned more about how Mary said ‘yes’ to God, and I feel like this is my ‘yes’ to Mary to live a more virtuous life like she did.”
Giasi said the ministry’s mission is to ultimately draw young men and women closer to the Lord and to help them live their faith in a meaningful way. Marian consecration is an important step in faith formation, he added, noting that every consecrated member becomes part of a Vincentian family that expands around the globe.
“It’s a further step in understanding your faith,” Giasi said. “It’s not just understanding the Rosary or understanding the mysteries, but it’s an understanding of your baptismal promise and the call to live that baptismal promise. It’s a call to see the Blessed Mother as an example in her service, in her life and in her humility and love of the Lord. She draws us to her Son, Jesus, who we come to know is love.”
“It’s truly amazing to see the graces they receive — to see them grow closer to Christ and to live their faith in a meaningful and passionate way in all they do,” he said.
>> Watch online
Don Fulford, President and CEO of the Association of the Miraculous Medal, describes the importance of the annual May Procession at the National Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in Perryville. https://youtu.be/ncALjsBKkeo
>> Association of the Miraculous Medal
The Association of the Miraculous Medal is an apostolate of the Western Province of the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians). It’s located at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal on Saint Mary’s of the Barrens campus in Perryville.
The Blessed Mother gave the design for the Miraculous Medal — originally known as the Medal of the Immaculate Conception — in three apparitions to St. Catherine Labouré in the 1830s. She instructed the Daughter of Charity novice to “have a medal struck upon this model” so that “those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck.”
The Association of the Miraculous Medal was founded at Saint Mary’s in 1918, with seminarians, Vincentian brothers and priests building a grotto to Our Lady of Miraculous Medal, starting in 1917 and finishing in 1920. The first May Procession was held on the grounds in 1921.
In 2018, the grotto and statue of Our Lady were renovated, and the campus was enhanced with a Rosary Walk, a one-mile loop walkway resembling a Rosary, with stops along the walkway that include all five decades.
For more information on the Association of the Miraculous Medal and the National Shrine of the Miraculous Medal, call (800) 264-6279 (MARY) or visit www.amm.org. The association and shrine are located at 1811 West Saint Joseph Street in Perryville.
>> Vincentian Marian Youth of Southeast Missouri
Vincentian Marian Youth Southeast Missouri is a Catholic community dedicated to bringing youth to Jesus through faithful devotion to the Blessed Mother. The ministry also has a focus on Vincentian charisms and virtues centered on outreach serving individuals living in poverty.
It is part of an international youth movement, which began in France as the Association of the Children of Mary Immaculate. The first association was organized into groups in different regions of France between 1835 and 1847. The first members were girls in schools and workshops run by Daughters of Charity to protect the rights and safety of poor young factory workers. It eventually expanded to other countries and became known as Vincentian Marian Youth.
Vincentian Marian Youth Southeast Missouri was formed in 2003. Upon returning from a Steubenville youth conference, Vincentian Father Ron Hoye saw how the young people there were on fire for the faith. He recruited Cathy Peirick and Shirley Klump to help start a youth group with a Vincentian influence, and Vincentian Marian Youth was born.
There are groups for middle school and high school students, a monthly youth Mass and an annual summer mission trip. In 2012, Vicentian Marian Youth opened a thrift store named Labouré Exchange to help people in need.
For more information, visit www.vmysemo.org.