Fr Eamonn Power, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Canvey and the English Martyrs, Canvey Island, attended the Feast Day Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe in December 2019. It was on that occasion that the idea of the Relic Image visiting Canvey Island was born. The Guardians’ team visited Canvey in February 2020 to plan a visit in July of that year, but the pandemic caused it to be postponed until 24th – 27th June 2022.
Guardians Donna and Barbara arrived at the church in Canvey at around 8.30 pm on the Friday evening with Donna’s husband, Graeme, kindly driving the van. Devotion to Our Lady in this place was immediately evident by the presence of a small grotto at the front of the church and a statue of her situated in the tower wall of the church.
We were warmly greeted by parish priest Fr Eamonn, his parishioners and the Knights of St Columba from Province 10, Brentwood. Brother Liam, Provincial Grand Knight organised several teams of Knights who gave invaluable assistance for which we are most grateful.
The Relic Image was placed at the front of the church flanked on either side with roses, against a backdrop of eight mosaics of the English Martyrs on the wall behind the sanctuary.
The events of weekend began at 11 am on the Saturday with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and the opportunity for confession. The Mass of Reception followed at 12 noon, where the Relic Image was formally entrusted to the parish for the duration of the visit. After lunch break, we offered the Sorrowful Mysteries for Peace and the Joyful Mysteries for Life and Families, followed by the Chaplet for Divine Mercy.
Barbara then gave a talk on the history and symbolism of the Relic Image and Donna explained some of the interesting facts. This was followed by veneration and confessions before the 6 pm Vigil Mass, after which veneration continued and refreshments were available thanks to the parish team of helpers.
On Sunday the Parish Mass was at 10 am and we were delighted to be joined by a coach from four parishes in East London, including one where Fr Eamonn had been the parish priest before coming to Canvey Island in 2015. Thanks to Caroline who organised this and to all those who attended. After Mass our visitors venerated Our Lady, as well as visiting the repository which was set up at the back of the church. Our collection of pictures, statues, rosaries, booklets and cards were well received, as were our free prayer cards, Life cards and leaflets.
At 12 noon, we offered Rosaries for Peace and for Life and Families.
After lunch, Donna once again explained the history and interesting features of the Relic Image to the new audience, but also drew attention to Our Lady’s title as Patroness of the Unborn. One of our visitors was a member of a local life group and had asked if he could share details of the March for Life in London on 3rd September.
A Chaplet of Divine Mercy followed, and then Fr Eamonn and Fr Luke, who had come from one of the visiting parishes, conducted the ministry of healing. Many of those present availed themselves of this opportunity and it ran very naturally into the planned time of praise and worship which ended the day.
Monday morning marked the visit of St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School. They came in time for Mass at 10 am, in which some of them participated as servers and readers. There were some 120 of them and the church was completely full. After Mass they had a short break in the presbytery garden before coming back into the church to see a PowerPoint presentation of the Guadalupe story and to hear some of the history and interesting facts about the Relic Image.
Three yellow roses had been placed in the church and those children sitting in that spot were invited to come forward and place them at the feet of Our Lady: A rose for Life, a rose for families and a rose for peace. The visit ending with all the children and teachers coming forward to place a petition in the box and to touch their prayer card to the Relic Image. At this time, and indeed throughout the weekend, the Knights of St Columba (KSC) were on hand to purify the Relic Image after each contact.
Some of the children said how much they had enjoyed the visit and they went off happily back to school for lunch. It then only remained, with the help of the Knights, to place the Relic Image back into its travelling case, put the remaining repository items back into their boxes, and to load the van. Before leaving, we presented Fr Eamonn with a gold-framed picture of Our Lady as a memento of our visit, and invited him, his parishioners and the Knights to join us in the Feast Day Mass at the Shrine in December.