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Thousands prepare to celebrate 70th Marian Procession

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It is the longest continuously run religious festival in the State and later this month the Marian Procession will reach another significant milestone when it celebrates its 70th anniversary.

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An estimated 6000 people assembled at St Francis Xavier’s Seminary, Rostrevor, on August 21 1949 to participate in the ‘first outdoor act of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary’ held in the Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Seven decades later the event is still going strong with organisers expecting more than 3000 Catholics to attend this year’s procession and peace rally in the South Parklands on Sunday May 19.

Archbishop Matthew Beovich was responsible for establishing the event and at the time said it served to provide an opportunity for Catholics to thank Mary for her protection of Australia during the war and to ask for her intercession in the future.

As reported in The Southern Cross, the first procession went from the Major Seminary to the Minor Seminary at Rostrevor.

‘The order of the procession was: cross-bearer and acolytes, schoolgirls, Young Catholic Students, girl Guides, schoolboys, National Catholic Girls’ Movement, Young Christian Workers, CYMS, women’s sodalities, HACBS, Holy Name Society, Children of Mary, statue of Our Lady carried by Holy Name Society executive, Religious, clergy, His Grace the Archbishop, attended by V Revs M Bayard and C Hoy, and then the general public,’ the newspaper article said.

A hallmark of the procession throughout the years has been the diversity of those attending.

As Dr Josephine Laffin, senior lecturer in Church history at the Australian Catholic University explained, the Marian Procession has always been an important event for Catholic migrants and refugees.

She noted how ‘new Australians’ wearing their national costumes featured prominently in the procession at the end of the Marian Congress in 1951.

“So I suspect that the Marian Procession has always provided an opportunity for Catholics from different ethnic backgrounds to gather together.”

This was certainly the case in 1978 when then Archbishop James Gleeson rejoiced at seeing “one of the biggest gatherings we have ever had”.

That year the event attracted an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people, with Archbishop Gleeson acknowledging the support of the different nationalities in the Archdiocese.

“I feel in a way that the world is represented here, with so many people from so many different nations who have found a home, peace and joy here,” he said at the time.

“In a special way I would like to welcome the newest group to join our ranks – the group from Vietnam. We know of the great anxiety that many of them have for their families and the many anxieties they had in coming here.

“We trust the hearts and homes of Australians will always be open to receive you, as we have received other people in the past.”

In 1998 the Rostrevor seminary closed and the following year – the procession’s 50th anniversary – it was celebrated at the CBC ovals in the east parklands.

The 70th Marian Procession and Peace Rally will be held on Sunday May 19 at Pilgrim Peace Park, next to Veale Gardens in the South Parklands. People are asked to assemble at 1.30pm for the procession which begins at 2pm. For more information contact Archdiocesan Events Office T: 8210 8220, E: events@adelaide.catholic.org.au

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