For nearly 100 years, Viatorians have continued a devotion to St. Anne through a
nine-day novena that culminates on her feast day, July 26.
Viatorian priests have run the historic St. Anne Church — located in tiny St. Anne, IL and site of the nation’s original shrine — since 1920 and as a result, they have faithfully continued the tradition started by its French Canadian founders.
For the last 20 years, Fr. James Fanale, CSV, has been caretaker of the novena. As pastor of St. Anne’s, he has organized the novena and welcomed worshippers to the parish each July.
Just last week, Fr. Fanale was featured in a news story in the Daily Journal, which covers the Kankakee Valley area.
In the story written by Dennis Yohnka, Fr. Fanale acknowledged that numbers of
people attending have dropped over the years, and is dependent on the weather as much as anything, but he still believes it to be a spiritual experience for those who make the trip.
“It’s still a very meaningful, prayerful experience, but we don’t see people get out of their wheelchairs,” he said in the interview. “I still believe miracles are taking place, but they’re on a more personal level.”
This year, the novena began July 18. Each day, a special Mass is said, with prayers, a reflection — by Fr. John Peeters, CSV, Fr. Patrick Render, CSV and Fr. Fanale — and the litany to the saints offered.
It culminates on the feast day with a whole list of activities, from a morning reflection offered by Associate Marilyn Mulcahy, an outdoor anointing Mass, followed by a procession with the relic through the surrounding neighborhoods, and a closing Mass that night.
During the day, parishioners offer a grilled chicken dinner, as well an outdoor marketplace with religious artifacts, local flowers and gifts, and a children’s program.
“This is a place of grace, where many have found peace and healing,” Fr. Fanale adds. “What a wonderful intercession she is for all us who have come to St. Anne, with the sense that she knows just where we are in our lives. With the tender brush of her hand, we are her much loved children.”