Local church to host Infant Jesus statue enthronement

The Catholic congregation at Mary, Star of the Sea Church will celebrate the arrival of a new Infant Jesus of Prague statue, 6 p.m. Saturday, July 16 with an enthronement ceremony officiated by the Bishop of San Diego, Robert McElroy, at 7669 Girard Ave. in the Village. The event will include a bilingual Mass.

Mary, Star of the Sea is also starting a devotion association for the new figure. Volunteer Marie Hemming has been involved in the process and said, “this turned into something much bigger that we could have ever imagined. We thought we would do some prayer … and now the Bishop is presiding over the Mass!”

She said the project began 10 years ago when a parishioner first had the inspiration to pray to the Infant Jesus of Prague. In 2015, Hemming called a devotion association in Vancouver, Canada to find guidance for her practice, and there she found Susan Hauck.

“It’s been Hauck’s mission for 17 years to expand devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague over the world by giving statues of Jesus to churches around the world,” Hemming explained. Hauck offered a statue to Mary, Star of the Sea, and last May during a trip to Prague, she acquired the figure.

The statue, which will soon arrive to La Jolla, is made of porcelain. Its dimensions are 23 inches high, 24 inches wide and 20 inches deep. The church is having a cabinet made to display the figure in its Mary Chapel.

Hauck is also gifting Mary, Star of the Sea with three garments for the Infant Jesus statue that will resemble the habits of a priest. “Purple during Advent, most of the year green, but red for some events,” Hemming said. The silk tunics will be decorated with gem stones that Hauck sewed together.

The devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague started in Spain in the 15th century. Legend tells that Saint Teresa of Ávila gifted the figure to a noble Spanish family, and it eventually made its way to Prague, where the original carving in wood and wax is exhibited.

“A lot of people including myself, when I first heard of this devotion, thought, ‘what is this doll?’ ” laughed Hemming. She explained that the church’s large Hispanic and Filipino communities understand the devotion a lot better than Americans.

She gave an example: “There’s a Hispanic woman in our church, who when she was a child in Mexico, was very sick and her parents took her to a church. Her mother decided she would dress her daughter like Jesus for six months, and the girl would dress like Jesus every day. She said that she felt so special. One day, while her parents were praying over her for healing, she saw an image of the Holy Infant dressed in blue, and after that, she was cured.

“We are reuniting and continuing the devotion to Baby Jesus ... that’s really what this is all about.”

Of the upcoming enthronement, Rev. James Rafferty said, “As pastor of Mary, Star of the Sea in La Jolla, it is with great joy that I welcome an ancient devotion of the church to the child Jesus as the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague.”

After the enthronement, parishioners will hold novenas (from the Latin, novem, meaning nine, an act of devotion consisting of private or public prayers repeated for nine days in belief of obtaining graces) after the daily 8 a.m. Mass, and will also say rosaries (special series of prayers). “We will be trying to get people to become members of the Society of the Infant Jesus of Prague, and we can pray for their special intentions,” Hemming said. Church members are considering a monthly Mass to honor the Infant Jesus of Prague.

On Saturdays, Mary, Star of the Sea has a 5 p.m. Mass in English and a 6:30 p.m. Spanish service, however, on July 16 there will just be a 5:30 p.m. bilingual Rosary and a 6 p.m. bilingual Mass with refreshments. (858) 454-2631.