The annual St Anne’s Novena and feast day celebration in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, has become a tourist attraction as one of the country’s largest religious celebration.
Every year, the celebration sees more than 100,000 people flocking to the Church of St Anne, one of the largest in the country.
The pilgrims came from all over the country and there were also many who came from other countries like Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia Myanmar.
The 10-days celebration turned Bukit Mertajam town into a carnival like atmosphere with lots of stalls selling items and food outside the church.
This year’s theme was ‘Evangelisation through Liturgy – telling the story of Jesus’. There was a special ‘Evangelisation Stall’ set up where people who wanted to know more about the Catholic faith, could approach the stall.
What attracted the pilgrims to the feast?
St Anne, the grand-mother of Jesus is one of the most venerated saint. She has been known as an intercessor of healing in particular, especially to do with marriage and family.
Many barren women who honored St Anne and prayed to her, had their wishes granted.
Pilgrims, who attended the feast, will lit candles and offer prayers to St Anne, asking for petitions or to thank her for previous petitions fulfilled.
Those who had their petitions fulfilled will come back the following year, making vows to ‘beg’ for money or some other vows.
The highlight of the celebration was a 30 minutes long procession within the sprawling church’s ground on 28 July.
There were more than 10,000 people present during that day.
In the procession, the statue of St Anne and her daughter, Mother Mary, was carried in a wooden palanquin by volunteers. Altar servers and flower girls lead the procession, carrying lanterns, flags and crosses. The pilgrims followed behind the statue.
Before the procession, there was a mass, celebrated by Penang’s Bishop-elect, Sebastian Francis,Penang’s Emiritus Bishop Antony Selvanayagam and parish priest of St Anne’s church, Fr Henry Rajoo.
The morning Mass on 29 July, was attended by thePenang’s Chief Minister and his wife.