Feast of St Anne in Bukit Mertajam, Penang

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.

The statue of St Anne with her daughter, Mother Mary, in front of the church. This area is known as Dataran St Anne and a favourite spot for photographers.
Make-shift stalls doing sales inside the church, selling T-shirts, flowers, candles, books, religious items.
There are also many stalls outside the church selling variety of items, notably candles and food-stuffs like candies and muruku.
Bottles in the shape of St Anne, filled with Holy Water, on sale.
St Anne's water were a plenty for people to bring home, or to wash their face. Some also take a sip of the water.
One of the life-size statues that depict one of the stations in 'The Stations of the Cross' . All the 14 stations are spread all over the huge sprawling church ground. The 15 Stations of the Cross depict segments in history beginning at the time when Jesus is condemned to death and ending with Jesus' glorious resurrection.
'Spiritual beggars' pilgrims lining in one row, leading to the Shrine of St Anne (in the background). They hold handkerchief, plastic bag or part of their saree to collect money from other pilgrims. They do this as an act of thanksgiving to St Anne for vows fulfilled. As they reach the steps of the Shrine, they will enter the Shrine, and with lit candles and prayers, offered their collection up in front of the statue of St Anne.
Inside the Shrine - the place where almost all pilgrims never failed to enter as they light candles and pray and offer petitions and donations. Many of them too were eager to touch the statue of St Anne and take back flowers that were placed at the foot of the statue.
Pilgrims climbing up the steps up a small hill, of which there is St Anne's grotto, where they will light candles and offer prayers.
Free food are provided for the hungry pilgrims... courtesy of generous donors. Dinner time.
... and breakfast time.
Part of the crowd.
The Church's own Gift Shop, which is open daily (except Sunday), enjoying very brisk business during the feast.
Many pilgrims camped overnight on the field. Within the church grounds, there are also rooms (hotel-like) and dormitories available for those who can afford to pay.
Night time - the flickering lights seen are candles held by pilgrims, waiting to enter the Shrine.
The procession... with the statue of St Anne and Mother Mary.
The night crowd.
Dancers performing on stage after the procession.
It's due to volunteers like this young man, that the grounds of St Anne's church was kept clean. This year, hundreds of volunteers act like 'rubbish inspector' going around the church every hour, to pick up rubbish.
Going green - the Ministry of Environment stall, telling pilgrims to waste not, leave for future generation. St Anne's church also adopted the slogan 'Going Green Going Clean' for this year, as evident in food being packed in recyclable container and the non-stop 'rubbish collectors'.