Tuesday, July 1, 2008
On 15 June 2008, St Anthony’s parish held its annual procession in honour of St Anthony. The founding parishioners promised St Anthony that if he got them the Church that had been their original parish Church, then up for sale, they would hold an annual procession in his honour. Using a front-man, and in spite of the efforts of the Bishop of Palmerston North to find out who was buying the Church, they became the owners of St Anthony’s Church plus a presbytery section with presbytery, a convent section which was empty, and a school section, also empty.
Each year the length of the procession gives an indication of the growth of the parish, as we can see from our position in the middle of the procession. First the thurifer and servers, then flower-girls, then the statue of St Anthony surrounded by flowers, then the relic carried by the celebrant accompanied by deacon and sub-deacon and flanked by torch-bearers.
Then the Papal Coat of Arms and the Papal Flag and the New Zealand Flag, then the flags of all the nations represented in the parish. Then comes the St Stephen’s Guild, the Third Orders, and then the girls of St Dominic’s College with their banner carried by the Head Prefect and Deputy Head-Prefect, followed by all the girls in uniform, walking two by two with white mantillas on their heads. Immediately behind the girls come the nuns, also two by two, the whole creating a fine sight for the many people who come out to watch the procession go by. After that comes the Schola and various other parish groups and the general parishioners, plus a pipe-band which plays stirring and martial music in between the hymns led by the leader of the Schola over a megaphone.
We always give especially bright smiles as we pass the home of Mrs Green, who writes to the paper each year to complain that the Catholics have been carrying an “idol” through the streets of Wanganui. After we get back to the Churchyard we sing “God Defend New Zealand” while the New Zealand Flag is run up the flagpole, and then “Christus Vincit” as the Papal Flag is run up the flag-pole. We then re-enter the Church for the blessing of St Anthony’s Bread (we all receive a bun) and the veneration of the relic. After that the parishioners repair to the Primary School (St Anthony’s) while the nuns go back to their Convent. In the Primary Classrooms the older girls serve the meal to the parishioners and help with the washing up.
This year we were blessed with exceptionally fine weather for the procession. It was a still, windless, Winter’s day. Quite warm and sunny, a great day to celebrate our Faith and our achievements under God. May God bless St Anthony’s and its people!