EAST MILLINOCKET — Catholics from East Millinocket, Millinocket, Benedicta, and beyond gathered together each evening from Aug. 31 through Sept. 8 to celebrate the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a commemoration that culminated with a birthday “party” and outdoor Mass on Sept. 8.

“Each day at 6 p.m., we came together at the statue of Mary at St. Peter Church in East Millinocket and prayed for different intentions and recited the Rosary,” said Fr. Dominic Savio, HGN, the administrator of Christ the Divine Mercy Parish (St. Martin of Tours Church, Millinocket; St. Peter Church, East Millinocket) and St. Benedict Parish in Benedicta.

“Two tents were set up with chairs available to allow parishioners to be comfortable and safe,” said Judy Ouellette of Christ the Divine Mercy Parish.

On Sept. 8, an outdoor Mass was celebrated on the Feast Day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Fr. Savio and concelebrated by Fr. Tony Chinnaiyan, HGN, administrator of Our Lady of the Eucharist Parish in Lincoln and Howland. Fr. Savio and Fr. Chinnaiyan are members of the Heralds of Good News (HGN), a missionary society of apostolic life started in India in 1984 that promotes vocations to the priesthood.

“After the Mass, we had cupcakes and a special cake for our Blessed Mother,” said Ouellette. “Everyone enjoyed it. It was beautiful.”

The Church has celebrated the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary since at least the sixth century. The word novena is taken from “novem,” the Latin word for nine, and is made up of nine days of prayer and meditation usually to ask God for special prayer requests or petitions and are often used to ask specific saints to pray for us. Novenas are an ancient tradition that goes back to the days of the Apostles. Jesus told His disciples to pray together after His ascension into heaven, so they went to an upper room along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, (Acts 1:14) and joined constantly in prayer for nine days.