By Eileen Connelly, OSU 

The Filipino community brought the traditional Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May) celebration to St. Mary’s in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, for the first time on May 11, in a joyful and colorful festival that honored and expressed gratitude to the Blessed Mother.  

The event was organized by a core group of parishioners under the leadership of Tony Dacanay, who serves as the coordinator of Filipino ministry at St. Mary’s.  

“I suggested it as a way of preserving our culture and sharing the joy of our faith and received a lot of positive support,” Tony explained. “We have a lot of Filipino Americans in the parish who don’t know anything about the devotion. Even those who grew up in the Philippines may have some misconceptions about it because even though it is still widely celebrated there, in some parts of the country, it has become very secularized and more about the pageantry.  

“The devotion has been lost. Our intention was to return to the original tradition,” he said.


A smiling group of parishioners holds up a sign that reads

Parishioners show their love and gratitude for the Blessed Mother.  (Photo by Delia Vince-cruz)

A statute of Mary wearing a beautiful white lace veil stands in the center of a colorful floral arrangement made of white, pink, red, yellow and purple flowers

A statue of the Blessed Mother with a variety of flowers placed at her feet as part of the Flores de Mayo celebration (Photo by Delia Vince-cruz)

Parishioners carry a statute of Mary surrounded by flowers on a platform down a residential street

A statue of the Blessed Mother is carried during the Flores de Mayo procession. (Photo by Delia Vince-cruz)

A group of people process toward a church led by two women carrying a sign that reads

Parishioners process from the prayer garden at St. Mary’s to the church during the Flores de Mayo celebration. (Photo by Dr. Jacklyn Sta. Maria)

People carry a statue of Mary surrounded by flowers into a church.

Children dressed as angels lead the procession into church. (Photo by Dr. Jacklyn Sta. Maria)

A group of women in formal wear process down a residential street. They carry rosaries and are wearing sashes representing different women from the Bible and Church history.

Women dressed as biblical characters take part in the procession. (Photo by Delia Vince-cruz)

Flores de Mayo is said to have been introduced in the Philippines by the Spaniards in the mid-1800s. Marked by prayers and flowers, it is celebrated every day throughout May to thank Mary for the beneficial rain she sends to make all of the beautiful flowers bloom everywhere following the dry season. On the last day of Flores de Mayo, Santacruzan (Holy Cross), a Filipino ritual pageant, is held to commemorate the finding of the True Cross by Helena of Constantinople (known as Reyna Elena), mother of Constantine the Great.  

At St. Mary’s, the devotion began at the start of May with members of the Filipino community, joined by others across the country, in praying and saying the rosary via Zoom. The group will continue their prayers until the end of May and invites others to join.  

On May 11, the celebration started in St. Mary’s prayer garden, with a statue of the Blessed Mother situated on a platform constructed by parishioner Robert Reylado. A procession to the church followed, led by children dressed as angels, as well as the statue of Mary and the sagalas (maidens in costume), women portraying biblical characters.  

Br. Julian Jagudilla, OFM, who is from the Philippines and serves at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in New York City, joined the faith community to celebrate Mass, which was said in English and included Filipino hymns.  

For him, the devotion is meaningful on a variety of levels.  

“It gives me a sense of connectedness and nostalgia. It reminds me of home,” he said. “It’s also an opportunity for catechesis. We are proclaiming our faith to the public. It shows how we celebrate our faith in the Philippines, so there is that cultural link, but it also reminds us that the Catholic Church is a universal church, one that is all embracing.”  


A priests lifts up the host during the Eucharistic prayer

Br. Julian Jagudilla, OFM, a native of the Philippines, celebrates Mass at St. Mary’s in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. (Photo by Delia Vince-cruz)

Two smiling priests look on as parishioners genuflect before a statute of Mary

Parishioners place flowers at the feet of the Blessed Mother as Brothers John Aherne, OFM, left, and Julian Jagudilla, OFM, look on. (Photo by Delia Vince-cruz)

A crowd of people who attended the Flores de Mayo celebration gather for a photo in front of the altar of the church

Participants in the Flores de Mayo celebration pose for a group photo. (Photo by Delia Vince-cruz)

“It is a way of catechizing the younger generation, preserving our culture and sharing the joy of our faith,” said Tony. “It’s a beautiful devotion and a way of celebrating that strengthens the bonds of the whole faith community.  

“One thing we did is ensure that all of the flowers placed at the feet of Mary were different," he added. "We feel this shows who we are as a faith community – all different, but all created in the image of God, and all loved by the Blessed Mother.”  

Br. John Aherne, OFM, parochial administrator of St. Mary’s said, “One of the things that I loved about this was that the Filipino community came to us with the idea saying, ‘We want to do this, this is an important part of our culture.’ They planned the liturgy and the music; they built the platform that the statute rests on; they organized the potluck dinner.  

“For me, it’s a great example of parishioners taking ownership of the church,” he emphasized. “They brought what is important to them, organizing and staffing it. It’s their church, and I’m happy that they feel empowered to do all of this. As we talk about the synodal church and the people of God being ministers of the church, it’s a great example of that.”