By Joyce Gan

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Like in previous years, thousands participated in this year's procession at Novena Church.

Left, altar boys pave the way for Mother Mary's float to pass at the annual Novena procession.

SINGAPORE - The hot sun did not deter the faithful who started filling up the Novena church carpark at Thomson Road from as early as 2pm on Saturday Sep 3 for the 5.30pm procession. This first Sunday of September is dedicated to the annual Novena procession, that began more than 50 years ago, in honour of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

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The crowd wishing to participate in the procession was huge - estimates ranged up to 30,000 people - and spilled out of the carpark, to across the road, along the shops and restaurants, wherever they could find standing space.

Right, volunteers help the disabled to designated places for clearer views of the procession amidst the crowds.

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(Last year, there was a light rain that threatened to turn into a storm. But just before the procession started, the rain dwindled to a drizzle and then stopped. Father Paul Pang recalled, "As far as memory goes, there has never been a rainy day during the procession." "We pray hard," he joked.)

A cool breeze blew as the procession began and Mother Mary "appeared" on a float carried by attendants.

"It was very touching. This was the first time I attended a Novena procession so I didn't know what to expect," neophyte Anne Wong, who was baptized at Novena Church just this Easter, shared. "It was moving, especially when Mother Mary appeared."

"The mood was very reverent and prayerful," Father Pang observed.

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The procession made its way round the church carpark as the rosary was prayed in English, Mandarin, Tagalog and Malayalam. It was followed by Mass.

Left, the Redemptorist priests gather for the celebrations.

One blind old man lost his family in the crowd and a woman fainted during the celebrations. People went to their aid without hesitation.

Despite the huge crowd, Communion was handed out in a very organized way; there with no jostling by communicants. When hymns were sung, thousands of voices joined in one jubilant accord.

This show of solidarity was moving for some people as it reminded them of the community that is theirs in contrast to many others around the world who stand isolated.

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It took three days to complete the beautiful floral wall at the church, one of the "striking features" that Father Pang was proud of.

"It started with a few bouquet of flowers and the spontaneous response of people allowed it to grow to the present size," he said. "Just like the procession. It started in the 1950s, a procession in honour of Our Lady, and it just grew and grew!"

What moved him this year? "I think [people come] for Our Lady. Even non-Christians have this innate sense of needing Our Lady's love. Their weekly attendance at the Novena services is a basis for them to come. I felt all these people, with all their simple faith, really have a great love for Our Lady," he smiled.

The theme for the procession this year was "God is Love". "Each procession is special. This year, the theme truly speaks of God's love for his mother and his love for all of us too," Eunice Chew from the main organizing committee said. "[Personally,] the spectacular sight of people from all walks of life at the procession, coming to honour our Blessed Mother, is really wonderful and inspiring."

 

Photos by Raymond Tan and Daniel Tay

 

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