I have reproduced the article
because I fear that I will be taken down. I noticed it on 30 June 2009.
church mass to fit statues with new crowns made of donated gold, blessed by pope
Melrose Park church to celebrate new crowns for statues made of donated gold, blessed by pope
By Margaret Ramirez | Tribune reporter
June 28, 2009
When parishioners of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Roman Catholic Shrine in Melrose Park decided to create gold crowns for statues of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, they donated to the cause by reaching deep into their hearts and memories.
Joe Rosa gave his grandfather's wedding band. Corinne Principe wept as she slipped her own wedding ring off her finger. Antonio Godinez removed the big Jesus medallion he wore close to his heart and plopped it into a collection basket.
In all, 15 pounds of gold was given, including a dozen gold watches, several rings, bangle bracelets, earrings, chains and medals. Carrying out a religious tradition from Southern Italy, the donated gold was then melted down and molded into two new 14-karat gold crowns appraised at $75,000.
The call for jewelry went out last July during the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and brought donations not only from the parish but from Italian Catholics across the nation. Struck by the devotion, the pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Rev. Claudio Holzer, e-mailed the Vatican to request a papal blessing for the crowns.
Few expected a response. But within a week, a Vatican aide approved and asked that the crowns be brought to Rome. Last month, Holzer and 35 parishioners traveled to Italy for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI where he blessed the crowns."This is very emotional for all of us," said Principe, who has been married for 41 years. "I didn't think twice about giving my wedding ring. I wanted a piece of me to be with her always, so she could pray for me and my family."
On Sunday, the Melrose Park church will hold a historic mass as it crowns the 5-foot statue of "La Madonna del Carmine" and the baby Jesus that she holds in her left palm. After a procession that takes the Madonna statue through the streets, three Chicago archdiocesan bishops will celebrate a pontifical high mass, which will be broadcast live on EWTN, the global Catholic network.
Only three other images of the Virgin Mary have been crowned with Pontifical Authority: Our of Lady of Mt. Carmel in New York City's East Harlem; Our Lady of Perpetual Help in New Orleans; and the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico City.
The papal blessing, a rare ritual, validates the faith of the Italian Catholics who started the Melrose Park shrine and inspires current families that continue the devotion today.
Rev. James Presta, rector and president of St. Joseph College Seminary in Chicago, said the pope's blessing on the crowns is consistent with his desire to restore practices of the early church. Coronations of Mary were common and grew in popularity before the changes of the Second Vatican Council.
In recent years, the face of Melrose Park has changed as Italian immigrants left the western suburb and were replaced by Mexicans. But the devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel is a tradition that remains untouched, luring back Italians from across the Midwest every July for the Mt. Carmel feast that includes a nine-night prayer novena, a weekend carnival and an outdoor field mass.
Thousands are expected to flock to the church to attend the coronation Sunday and the 116th annual celebration that runs from July 3 to July 12.
"For the feast, all the Italians of Chicago, they come back here for this," said Holzer. "It's like a homecoming. They come back for her."
The beginnings of the shrine date to 1894 when an Italian immigrant named Emmanuella De Stefano made a promise to God.
Fearing her sick husband would die, she promised the Virgin Mary that if he lived, she would establish a Melrose Park feast in honor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel as it was celebrated in her native village of Laurenzana in Potenza, Italy.
When her husband's health improved, De Stefano obtained a replica of the lifelike statue that is worshiped in Laurenzana, brought it to her home, and started the first feast that year. By 1903, with the rapid growth of the Italian community, the archdiocese established Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish at 1101 N. 23rd Ave. In 2006, Cardinal Francis George recognized the chapel as a national shrine. The crowns, created by La Grange Park jeweler Gino Blando, mark another historic chapter at the shrine.
Though the statue wore modest gold crowns when brought from Italy, they were replaced with more ornate tin ones in 1969. The new crowns replace the tin ones and use melted gold from the originals as the base.
The Madonna statue stands on a pedestal high above the altar in a glass case and is only brought down for the July feast.
Josephine Roberto said she turned to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel when she was diagnosed with endocrine cancer in June 2000. In tears, she brought her husband and two young daughters to the chapel and asked to get better. After several surgeries that removed part of her pancreas and 80 percent of her liver, Roberto is close to being cancer-free.
Adoration has even spread to Mexicans in Melrose Park such as Antonio Godinez. Although most Mexicans revere the Virgin of Guadalupe, Godinez said being raised in Melrose Park made him come to love the Madonna del Carmine.
"I feel like she's done miracles for me," he said. "All the good things in my life, I believe they have come because of her."
Last week, church members excitedly prepared for the coronation mass. The statue was taken down from her pedestal and washed. The men prepared a wooden cart that will take the Virgin through the church. The women who will carry the statue finalized the lineup for the procession.
This will be the first time the statue will be carried by women during the ceremony. Roberto, one of the women, said she believes the coronation is the church's way of giving back to the Virgin. "Whenever I needed her, she answered me. So, I see the papal coronation as God's way of rewarding her for all the blessings," she said.