Students and faculty from St. Jerome School, West Long Branch, participate in an outdoor May Crowning ceremony and Living Rosary on May 6. Rich Hundley photos
Students and faculty from St. Jerome School, West Long Branch, participate in an outdoor May Crowning ceremony and Living Rosary on May 6. Rich Hundley photos
Holding on to a rope, St. Jerome School students formed a Living Rosary on parish grounds May 6 as they honored the Blessed Mother with a May Crowning.

“This was a perfect opportunity to bring the community together,” Filippini Sister Elizabeth Seton Dalessio, principal, said as she reflected on the 65 years the West Long Branch school has gathered to pray the Rosary and crown a statue of the Virgin Mary.

PHOTO GALLERY: St. Jerome May Crowning

“We emphasize the importance of prayer – especially family prayer. It is a great source of peace to see so many families come together to pray,” Sister Elizabeth Seton said, noting that the date also marked the National Day of Prayer.

“Most importantly, as our Blessed Mother has always told us, pray for peace,” she said. “We pray for peace within ourselves, our family, our school, state and nation and throughout the world.”

With each child representing a Rosary bead, the students recited the Rosary after eighth-grader Karen Rabe crowned the Blessed Mother statue. Vases of multi-colored flowers were set up nearby.

“I was really honored to have a major part in today’s ceremony,” Rabe said.

Eighth-grader Neo Sartorio, who escorted Rabe, said it was important to set aside a day during May to honor the Virgin Mary. “The Blessed Mother was the mother of Jesus, and without her, Jesus, the Son of God, would not exist.”

Father Sheldon Amasa, pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish, presided over the ceremony that also included participation by the second- and third-grade First Holy Communion classes.

Fourth-grader Jaidah Grant, a Living Rosary participant, realized the importance of honoring the Mother of Jesus. “Without Mary, Jesus wouldn’t have died on the Cross to save us.”

Sister Elizabeth Seton thanked the school families and parishioners from Our Lady of Hope Parish who volunteered to help set up for the outdoor service by cutting the lawn, gathering flowers and preparing the fields and altar. She also praised the many students who helped set up chairs and risers and those who brought flowers from their home gardens to place in front of the Blessed Mother statue.

“The children really take on the leadership roles here, and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” she said. “I am so very happy that the children [want to] take ownership of their school. The students, without realizing the title, are servant leaders.”

Sister Elizabeth Seton shared that the school community was also keeping in prayer seventh-grade student Raquel, who died unexpectedly from a non-COVID-19 related illness.

“This had a profound effect on the seventh grade and in a sense brought them closer together,” she said, noting that along with their prayer, the class planted a tree in Raquel’s memory.

Video from freelance photographer Rich Hundley contributed to this report.