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  • Pompeii Rising

Our New Patroness, Unveiling Pompeii

Click the right arrow in the picture to unveil the image of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Pompeii.

On May 8, 2024, the feast Day of Our Lady of Pompeii, we hosted the unveiling of one of only two official replicas of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Pompeii in Our Lady of Pompeii Church. This painting holds great significance as it was commissioned to ensure a copy of the Image of Our Lady of Pompeii remains in the United States. Gifted to the Society of St. Pius X's Jacksonville chapel, its purpose is to spread devotion to the Holy Rosary during these challenging times.

Over 250 people gathered, some as far as Connecticut, to join us for this joyous occasion. Our guests included priests, families, young professionals, and children, all coming together to witness and partake in the unveiling. Christine Crafton, a member of St. Thomas More Priory north of Orlando, drove over two hours to participate in the joyous occasion. "With the restoration of Our Lady's church, our local Catholic community will greatly expand such that all of the social as well as spiritual needs of our parishioners will be fully met." Crafton has family in Jacksonville who attend St. Michael's and has a vested interest in seeing Our Lady of Pompeii open its doors. "Our children and grandchildren will flourish spiritually in a truly Catholic environment."

Acrylic on canvas, Nora Hammonds, age 16
Despite the scorching 96-degree heat, which felt upward of 100 degrees due to the humidity, attendees began arriving at Four o'clock for self-guided tours. As they approached the church's grand entrance, many paused to admire the majestic carved relief of Our Lady of Pompeii adorning the facade. Like most, it was Nieves Lehmann's first time seeing the church in person. "I have been praying specifically to Our Lady of Pompeii to work a miracle in our family." Stepping through the magnificent double doors, Lehmann and others entered the vestibule, where they could observe the ongoing renovations and learn more about the project. Inside the nave, people were free to explore the space and take pictures. Tables were set up with informational booklets, prayer cards, and detailed pamphlets outlining the evening's itinerary. A beautiful painting of the church's exterior, created by one of our young parishioners, added to the ambiance.

Choir members from Jacksonville and Sanford blend together to take advantage of the amazing acoustics
Further inside, guests encountered the veiled Miraculous Image of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Pompeii, positioned where the Gospel-side altar will soon stand. Candles awaited the faithful, inviting them to light them and offer prayers. A statue of Saint Philomena, the project's patron saint, stood nearby, seeming to oversee the festivities. As more people arrived and socialized, anticipation filled the air. Guests were treated to Polyphony and Gregorian Chant, sung by a joint venture of choir members from both Jacksonville and Sanford.

At Six o'clock, the evening's ceremony commenced with the Regina Caeli, followed by brief speeches highlighting the history of the miraculous image and its journey to our possession. Then came the moment everyone had been awaiting—the grand unveiling. As the curtain was drawn back, a hush fell over the crowd, and all eyes turned to behold Our Lady gracefully bestowing the Holy Rosary upon Saints Dominic and Catherine of Siena. A small altar set before the image held first-class relics of both saints, adding to the sacred moment. The Rev. Fr. Marc Vernoy, Prior of St. Thomas More Church, incensed the sacred image, installing it as the heart of the restoration effort.

Led by Fr. Thomas, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel and Project Head of Pompeii Rising, the faithful offered prayers of supplication, through the Suplica, a prayer and petition composed by Blessed Bartolo Longo for the Feast Day of Our Lady of Pompeii. Following the speeches, unveiling, and prayers, the image was officially dedicated in our church, bringing the evening to a close. "I am extremely excited that Our Lady is making Her presence known here in Jacksonville," said Mike Hardin of Jacksonville. "She will be visibly present to encourage and protect us and our families." Hardin has been attending St. Michael's more in the last year. He continues "It is exciting to see the large number of young, vibrant Catholic families." Hardin's daughter was recently married, one of the many nuptial Masses at St. Michael that could benefit from a larger space.

Afterward, around 6:30 pm, attendees gathered at a popular Springfield restaurant, Strings, to enjoy a time of socializing over happy hour, appetizers, and a delicious dinner. The event wouldn't have been possible without the generous contributions of many volunteers who dedicated their time and efforts to prepare the venue and create a welcoming atmosphere.
L to R: Fathers Settimo, Vernoy, Thomas, and Pieroni, along with the 1st Class Relics of Ss. Dominic and Catherine of Siena
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all who supported this project through their prayers, donations, and time. This endeavor is dedicated to Our Lady, and we are especially thankful for her blessing upon our church. May her continued guidance accompany us on this journey. Remember we are doing this for Her.

Special thanks to Captured Passions Photography these wonderful photos and video of the evening.

Edit: We followed up with Nieves Lehmann after the event to thank her for helping clean up. Lehmann updated us that since the event, major decisions were made in her house that brought much peace. Also, she received a letter of eligibility for her sick mother dated May 08. "This might seem like a coincidence for some, but for me they are big miracles," said Lehmann.
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