PICO BLVD — A century of tradition is currently on display at St. Anne’s Church and Shrine.
For 102 years, the congregation has celebrated the Novena, a multi-day celebration honoring the church’s namesake. Members of the church are currently in the middle of the nine-day event and they will mark its conclusion with a pair of public process this weekend.
The Novena includes daily prayers, decoration of the shrine, community gatherings, communal meals and pair of public processions through the neighborhood.
According to Deacon Raul Molina, the Novena has been part of St. Anne’s culture since the church’s founding by European immigrants. While the details of the event have changed overtime, the event has remained a central part of the Church’s identity.
“This church was dedicated to (St. Anne), to honor her on her feast day, the 26th of July, they have a Novena and the nine days prior to the feast they have prayers every day,” he said.
Molina said the Novena has become a unifying force within the church as people from different backgrounds all gather to celebrate at the same time.
“Before, it was only in English,” he said. “But now it’s in English and Spanish. We have a bilingual mass for both communities so we can celebrate the feast at the same time.”
Jennifer Corneho is a member of the St. Anne’s community and she said residents from many cultures and backgrounds come together during the Novena.
“Our community has a combination of people fro Mexico, the Oaxaca region, and they have native country dances they perform,” she said. “There are people from the Philippines who bring food.”
Every day during the celebration, the congregation follows a pattern.
“We have special prayers,” said Molina. “We invite one priest to speak and he talks about St. Anne’s, about the saint or different topics and we usually finish with the mass.”
He said participants often gather for food after the prayers.
On July 26, the event shifts and the congregation carry an image of St. Anne in a procession around the neighborhood. Molina said St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary, carries special significance for the Roma culture and there are people who travel into Santa Monica just to participate in the procession. There will be an evening mass and meal following the procession.
“It’s beautiful that they come,” said Corneho. “It always makes me happy.”
There is a second procession on July 27. Molina said people would gather at Virginia Ave. Park at about 2 p.m. and then walk to the church for a 3 p.m. mass followed by a closing celebration.
Corneho said the Novena is a great opportunity for anyone and everyone to participate in the church or to just learn more about its activities. “They can come and participate but we want them to also be aware that we are in the community,” she said. “We’re happy to have everyone come and join.”
For more information, visit http://www.stanneshrine.org.