Centenarian and old folk pay homage to St Anne

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By DERRICK VINESH
Photos by MUSTAFA AHMAD

CENTENARIAN Rita Nelligan has been religiously making pilgrimages to the St Anne’s Church in Bukit Mertajam to attend the annual St Anne’s Novena and Feast after cheating death in 1988.

Her pilgrimages have become more meaningful when she had escaped death during the tragedy at the Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal in Butterworth on July 31, 1988.

“I hurt my spine and was hospitalised for a month after somebody fell on me at the terminal’s waiting area. I was returning home to the island with a friend after attending mass at the St Anne’s Church on that day,” she said after offering prayers at the church on Thursday.

Age is no barrier: Nelligan (left), accompannied by Wenyss (right), walking outside the St Anne's Church in Bukit Mertajam after attending a special mass in conjunction with the annual festival

Some 1,000 were injured and 32 killed when the plank and steel waiting area collapsed under the weight of a crowd who had earlier attended the St Anne Feast and a Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) festival on that fateful day.

Nelligan, who will be celebrating her 101st birthday on Dec 9, said her faith has grown deeper after experiencing the tragedy.

“I strongly believe that Mother Anne’s protection was with me on that day. I am now a little hard on hearing and my eyes are failing but I will continue to give praise and thanks to God,” she said.

Nelligan is in a frail condition as she requires a walker with wheels to move around, yet she spiritedly came from the island to the mainland to pray.

Nelligan and her niece Joanna Wenyss, 67, joined fellow residents from the Little Sisters of the Poor Home, as they participated in a special mass that was conducted by Father Augustine Wong.

Getting ready: Contract workers Joseph Ambrose, 60, (left) and N. Muthianathan, 50, (right) clearing up the compound at the St Anne's Church in preparation for the annual festival

The home’s supervisor Sister Charlotte Hung said some 20 volunteers and six fellow Sisters from the home accompanied 75 of its residents for the mass,

The home makes it a point to ferry its residents to the celebration on an annual basis.

Theresa Torris, 83, said she offered prayers to St Anne, who is the maternal grandmother of Jesus Christ for relief from her ailments, noting that she suffers from heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis.

“I also pray for peace and happiness in the country,” she said.

Fellow resident Regina Chan, 84, said she had been attending the feast for many years, adding that she prayed for St Anne’s intercession to cure her cataract problem.

Writer Edmund Lee said he would be selling his recently published book, ‘A Gift of Love’ at a minimum price of RM10 outside the new church building on Sunday between 9am and noon to raise funds for the Persatuan Kebajikan Haemodialisis St Anne (PKHSA).

The 10-day feast under theme of ‘My Family, My Life,’ began yesterday and ends on July 31.

There will be two candlelight processions this year, the first on the actual feast day at 9pm, July 26, and at 10pm on the main procession day — July 30.

For more details, call the church at 04-5386405 or visit its portal at www.stannebm.org.

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