“And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Matt 13:52)
In the Roman Catholic Church, the month of May is traditionally set aside as a time to honor Mary, the Mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. An older custom associated with the day involved crowning Mary as the Queen of all the saints and of heaven. Bishop Thomas K. Gorman Catholic School in the Diocese of Tyler continued this custom of the May crowning on May 1 this year.
The custom of crowning a statue of Our Lady, or laying flowers at its base, began in Italy in the 1750’s. In the United States, May crownings were especially popular in the 1950’s. They became great times of devotion and celebration in Catholic schools and parishes.
Beginning last year, Bishop Gorman revived the tradition of the Marian crowning which had been held at the school in years past. This year, an alumna, Mrs. Carol (Bieber) Quirk, Class of 1961 Valedictorian and the first to crown Mary at the school's present location in 1960, was again chosen to crown the school’s statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that stands at the front entrance, greeting all those that enter.
After the beautiful celebration of Holy Mass for the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, offered by Bishop Joseph Strickland the Chancellor of the School, there was a procession from the Chapel of Saints Peter and Paul to the front of the school. Leading the procession was Bishop Strickland and Deacon Fournier, and acolytes. They were followed by local Knights of Columbus who accompanied alumna Mrs. Quirk, students, staff, and guests. Bishop Gorman’s high school and middle school choirs led the procession singing beautiful hymns honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary and praising the Lord Jesus Christ.
Upon arriving at the front of the school, the students gathered in front of the statue of Mary. A beautiful violin rendition of Ave Maria was played by a student in the background. The senior girls honored the Blessed Mother by laying roses at her feet. Bishop Strickland then led the faithful in a beautiful series of prayers as Mrs. Quirk walked towards the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary and placed the crown on her head like she did sixty-three years ago!
The Bishop then gave a blessing to all the faithful.
Mrs. Carol (Bieber) Quirk reflects:
“It is always a special privilege to be asked to take part in May Crownings in the Catholic schools. It was the Spring of 1960. The new high school, known then as Tyler Catholic High School, had only been open a couple of years (1958). It was a very exciting time in my young teenage life. It would be the very first outdoor May Crowning at the new high school. Traditionally, May Crownings were held indoors at the Immaculate Conception Church, now the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
It was a beautiful warm and sunny May afternoon. The entire Catholic school community participated. The high school girls were dressed in long formal gowns, and the most recent First Communion class from St. Gregory was there dressed in white Communion dresses and veils, and white suits. The Knights of Columbus in their uniforms stood guard, as parents, grandparents, and friends watched from the sidelines.
This particular year there was a specially-built raised platform in front of the high school for the altar and tabernacle, laden with candles and flowers, with the beautiful statue of Mary, carefully brought over from the Immaculate Conception Church downtown. A student from the oldest class was selected to carry the crown of roses for Mary in procession. A blue satin cape with a long train was worn by the girl crowning Mary. This was an important tradition of past May Crownings held in Immaculate Conception Church, probably since the beginnings of St. Gregory school in the 1940's and 1950's, when the school taught grades K - 9. Wearing this special cape was always a part of this formal event. Hymns to Mary were sung, the familiar and beautiful “Bring Flowers of the Rarest”, “On This Day Oh Beautiful Mother”, and “Oh Mary We Crown Thee With Blossoms Today.” These same hymns were part of my early childhood memories at my home growing up. Both of my parents had a special devotion to Our Blessed Mother Mary, teaching my older sisters and me to pray the daily rosary and decorate a May altar at home with freshly picked wildflowers.
With these memories in mind, it was an honor for me to be asked to represent my class at the very first outdoor May Crowning to be held at my high school, the present Bishop Gorman Catholic School. Now to be asked to do this May Crowning once again, 63 years later, in May, 2023, is a most humbling privilege for me honoring Our Blessed Mother Mary a second time.”