FALL RIVER — For 149 years, through wars, pandemics, depressions, and the normal ebb and flow of life, one thing has remained constant and a highlight in the life of the faith in Fall River: the St. Anne’s Novena and feast held each July in the shrine dedicated to the Mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
2021 marks the third Novena and feast of Saints Anne and Joachim (July 26) overseen by the St. Anne Shrine Preservation Society.
While the commemoration in 2020 was subdued due to the restrictions enforced because of the pandemic, 2021 saw the Novena and feast returned to their rightful place as the greatest of activities held during the year at St. Anne’s.
This year, the Novena was preached by Father Andre Feain, Franciscan of the Immaculate from Our Lady’s Chapel in New Bedford. Father Feain touched many times on the manifold graces to flow from a devotion to the Shrine’s patroness, especially as it honors the grandmother of Jesus. One special event, proclaimed by Pope Francis, was the celebration of Grandparents’ Day on the 25th, fortuitously adjacent to, and part of, the closing of the Novena and the opening of the feast of the grandparents of Our Lord on the 25th.
Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., was not able to celebrate the festival Mass on the 26th. His place was taken by Father Richard D. Wilson, vicar general of the Diocese of Fall River. Concelebrating were Father Feain and a number of priests from the diocese, including Shrine chaplain, Father Edward Murphy, who welcomed Father Wilson on behalf of the Society; Fathers Thomas Washburn, Michael Racine, and others were present and added to the solemnity of the feast.
Knowing of the bishop’s focus on education, the St. Anne Shrine Preservation Society’s treasurer, Cecile Michno, presented Father Wilson with a charitable donation for the Foundation to Advance Catholic Education (FACE) in support of Bishop da Cunha’s efforts in this important ministry.
Keeping with the traditions established over many years, the end of the feast was marked by the traditional procession of the relics of St. Anne and her statue around the church, concluding with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the Shrine to close the Novena and feast.