By Catherine Risling     6/16/2021

Despite coronavirusrelated restrictions, last month St. Norbert Catholic School officials decided May Crowning would return. However, rather than in the church, the ceremony would be celebrated outdoors. 

There was just one obstacle: The school had only a 2-foot-tall statue of Mother Mary.  

Principal Joe Ciccoianni wondered about the impact of such a grand tradition with a small version of Mother Mary. In addition to the 280 students, the blacktop would be spaced several yards back with family and friends who may struggle to see the actual crowning.  

The principal put out a call for a larger statue to crown. Within weeks, the call was answered with an act of kindness. 

Thompson Building Materials, located just two blocks from the Orange school, was happy to loan a concrete statue and base that measure an impressive 5½ feet tall.  

Then an act of generosity followed. 

A friend of the school, who had facilitated the borrowing, purchased the statue and gifted it to SNCS. 

“I thought the statue was gorgeous,” says the donor, who asked to remain anonymous. “We have longstanding ties to St. Norbert and felt it was a nice thing to do for the kids going through the school.” 

The donor said he’s also been moved by the many people he’s witnessed over the past year step up in various ways. 

St. Norbert’s principal, in turn, also was moved. 

“When I found out she was being donated, I was humbled and brought to the verge of tears,” says Principal Ciccoianni. “We’ve received numerous gifts over the years, but this gift was personally affecting, since our Blessed Mother has had a profound impact on my life.” 

The statue may have been a donation to the school, but it was a gift to the Brule family. 

St. Norbert mom Barbara Brule grew up admiring May Crowning. She had attended Catholic elementary school herself and looked forward to the tradition every year. Secretly, she envied the honor of doing the crowning. So when her daughter, Isabelle, was given the responsibility this year, Barbara was ecstatic.  

“The idea that Mary looks out for my daughter, to have that experience to crown her was so special,” Barbara says. “Watching Isabelle stand next to Mary as she prayed, it was like she was embodying the spirit of Mary. It brought tears to my eyes.” 

While her mother beamed with pride, Isabelle reflected on the true meaning of the occasion. 

“Mary was the mother of Jesus and she was only a couple of years older than me when she said yes to God and had Jesus,” says Isabelle, this year’s SNCS student council commissioner of religious affairs. “I can’t imagine having to go through that. She is so brave and so special. It was an honor getting to crown her.” 

After the crowd prayed the Rosary, “Bring Flowers of the Rarest May Crowning Song” played as two students from each grade walked down the aisle and presented bouquets of flowers to Mary. Second graders, dressed in their First Communion attire, joined the 3rd grade class—who missed participating in May Crowning last year due to the coronavirus—at the foot of the statue. Hands in prayerful position, together they recited “Lovely Lady Dressed in Blue” in unison. 

While the statue awaits its permanent resting place, Principal Ciccoianni says the location will be “a fitting place for our Blessed Mother to reside.” 

“The donation of this beautiful statue of our Blessed Mother is a sure sign that God is working through the hearts and hands of our school community, inspiring generosity and kindness that bears fruit in the lives of our students,” says Principal Ciccoianni.