‘It’s a beautiful tradition that works,’ says pastor of annual Immaculate Conception procession.The sweet smell of incense mixed with the aroma of Saturday night dinners in the streets of Monrovia when parishioners at Immaculate Conception Church held their annual procession in honor of the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception last December.The air was chilly and the stars were appearing after the 5:30 p.m. multi-cultural Mass when more than 500 walkers gathered at the front of the church to make the trek through the Monrovian streets. Led by members of the Knights of Columbus, priests took turns carrying the Blessed Sacrament under a canopy, walking alongside parishioners who sang and recited the rosary as they slowly processed through the residential area. Neighbors peered through windows at the procession; some came to the curb to watch and/or to take photos. One friendly resident hollered out, “Good evening!” to the parishioners, many had brought their young children to the event.Towering over the heads of the procession, a statue of Our Lady was also carried by parishioners who exuded a calm reverence for the tradition that started four years ago at the church.“We never thought this would be an annual event, but it certainly has grown and the parishioners wanted to continue with it,” said Katie Tassinari, director of pastoral ministries at the church.Tassinari explained that the procession’s origins started back in 2009 to coincide with the church’s new Perpetual Adoration Chapel. A procession was organized to bring the Blessed Sacrament from the church to the chapel. “It was such a wonderful success,” she said. “People got attached to the ritual.”Some years, the procession was done just on sidewalks, but when the numbers got too big, parishioners moved out into the streets. Local police have helped directing traffic on procession day.A few years ago, the area experienced a number of gang-related murders, one taking place only half a block from the church. Tassinari said there was quite a bit of discussion if the procession should take a different route or even continue. But through the discussions, it became evident that the parishioners wanted the tradition, said Tassinari. “They believed that by “taking Jesus into the streets [they could] help calm the area — and combat the gang violence.”“That’s made this tradition even more beautiful,” she added. “People say this procession is driven by the Holy Spirit.”Ed Grana has been a parishioner for 20 years at the church and has participated in three processions. “It’s also a wonderful way to let the surrounding community know that we are here, our church is right here near them,” he said. Immaculate Conception’s new pastor, Father Leo Alberg, was delighted with the turnout and response to this year’s procession. “I’m so impressed by the number of people who came to walk the streets,” he said, noting that the spontaneity of songs and rosary recitation gave the procession a very heart-felt edge. “This procession certainly comes from our people, our community wanting to express who they are, united in prayer,” he said. “It’s a beautiful tradition that works.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/01180/sgimmaculate/{/gallery}