BUKIT MERTAJAM: The usually queit town of Bukit Mertajam came alive with more than 100,000 pilgrims including foreigners coming from far and near over the weekend to commemorate the feast of St Anne. The celebration which started on July 22 has been seeing streams of worshippers coming everyday, in busloads, to participate in the Novena, Mass and also to fulfil their vows. The highlight of the celebration was when the congregation took part in the candlelight procession on Saturday night. Pilgrims and worshippers were seen carrying rosary beads and flowers during the procession walking behind the decorated float bearing the statutes of St Anne and the Blessed Virgin Mary with many of them also carrying lit candles. The procession, led by Penang Bishop Rev Sebastian Francis, took the devotees on a three-kilometre journey from the church to areas nearby before returning. Saint Anne (also known as Ann or Anna) of David's house and line, was the mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus Christ, according to apocryphal Christian and Islamic tradition. She is the patron saint for unmarried women, housewives, women in labour, grandmothers, horseback rider, cabinet makers and miners. M. Thurai, 32, a first time visitor to the church said his intention of coming for the feast was to pray for his wife's safe delivery next month. "My wife is expecting to deliver our first born next month and I want to ensure all goes well for her and our child," he said, adding that he was also taken aback by the huge crowd which include both Catholics and non-Christians. "I have read and heard so much about the feast and I wanted to witness it myself," said Thurai, a Hindu who hailed from Ipoh. His wife M. Tamilarasi, 28, however is no stranger to the festival as she has been visiting the holy shrine since four years ago. "I prayed for a normal and safe delivery", said the factory worker who lives in Lunas, Kulim. A pilgrim, Lucia who came from as far as Nusa, Indonesia told theSun that she has been a loyal visitor to the church since her working days as a factory worker in Prai. "Ever since I stepped into St Anne's shrine, good things have been happening to me and I feel blessed. That is why I keep coming back every year ," said Lucia who resides in Nusa after having worked in Prai for 10 years. Earlier during the mass conducted by Rev Sebastian, he urged the congregation to be merciful to all fellow human beings irrespective of race and religion. He said being merciful is an obligation from God that humans must follow. "Be mercy to all", he said. Built in 1957, the shrine was previously known as The Church of St Anne and is now a significant part of Penang's rich history. Many historical relics can be found at the church, such as original stained glass at the altar. One of its main attractions is the life-size statues that depict the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.