SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — An annual religious pilgrimage in Scranton is heading into its second weekend. The 98th Annual Saint Ann’s Novena began last Sunday. A pianist is bringing her music ministry to the faithful.

The familiar hymn at the Solemn Novena to Saint Ann is played by someone who is also familiar with this place of prayer.

90-year-old Helen Cummings and a piano or organ bench are a perfect match at St. Ann’s Basilica. She’s been playing here since the 1940s and for decades now has provided music at this novena.

“I’m very surprised. I’m surprised that I’m this far in my life because I didn’t really think about it. It just happened,” stated Cummings.

It happened despite some serious health battles through the years most recently a life-threatening case of pneumonia in May. She couldn’t help but think of the novena then.

“I was hoping to get well enough to do it,” said Cummings Hiller asks, “Why is it important for you to be here?” Cummings says, “I have great devotion to St. Ann. She has done so much for me in my lifetime that I just feel that I owe it, I owe it to give it back.”

Her hands have never failed her. Her presence does not go unnoticed.

“I admire her commitment, her dedication. I look forward every year to coming to St. Ann’s Novena and hearing her play,” said Karen Kearney.

Her grandson is inspired, too a musician who serves as St. Ann’s Basilica Choir Director.

“To be a colleague of my grandmother who I’ve respected forever, I mean that’s a huge blessing. And, you know, it’s not just about the music but being that that’s our ministry,” explained Patrick Dalrymple.

A ministry that Cummings continues at 90 years old.

“As long as I, as God has given me this talent, then I should use it for something good,” said Cummings.

Cummings plays daily at saint ann’s novena which concludes Tuesday on Feast Day. When asked if she’s thinking about being able to play for the 100th novena in 2024, she says no that she’ll just go with the flow.