BUKIT MERTAJAM — Catholics will throng the Church of St Anne here from today for the annual feast, which also coincides with the church’s 128th anniversary.
More than 100,000 people are expected at this year’s event, which begins with a novena today and continues for the next 10 days.
Parish priest Msgr Henry Rajoo said this year’s feast was themed “Merciful Like The Father”, the same theme of the Catholic Jubilee Year.
He said the celebration would be of greater significance as pilgrims could now can visit the ruins of the old chapel following its restoration.
Works on restoring the chapel, located on a nearby hill, began early this year.
Rajoo said the church spent more than RM10,000 in restoration and preservation works.
Pilgrims from Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines are also expected for the annual event which celebrates the birth of St Anne, the maternal grandmother of Jesus Christ.
The chapel was first built by a visiting French priest and it named after the patron saint, who was popular among the French missionaries then.
“Many pilgrims return to the church each year as they believe they received blessings and miracles after making their offerings,” one of them told Malay Mail.
Novenas and masses will be conducted in English, Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin, Tamil, Kadazan, Thai and Tagalog.
Penang Bishop Sebastian Francis will conduct the 8pm mass outside the church on July 30.
There will be a 6km candlelight procession with a float carrying the statue of St Anne from the sanctuary to Kampung Baru and back to the church compound on July 26.
Gina Tan, 49, from Seletar in Singapore, said she made a point to visit the church when she came to Penang as she had heard so much about it.
Tan, a Catholic, said she had been leading a “meaningful” life since she returned to the path of the faith about six years ago.
“Six of my family members are with me and we feel blessed to be here as we believe our prayers will be answered. We will be here for a week and may return if we can,” she said.
Former deputy communication and culture minister Datuk Seri Maglin Dennis D’Cruz, his wife Margaret Fernandez and their granddaughter Marisa Hasshini, three, also offered prayers at the shrine.
He said he had followed his mother to the St Anne’s feast for many years, but during the last several years, he and his wife could only visit the church before the feast to offer prayers because of work commitments.