By Tanya Connor
WEBSTER – With the new year came the opening of the Year of Mercy at one of the diocese’s pilgrimage churches. The service included proclamations of God’s mercy in the past, and modern applications.
Sunday St. Joseph Basilica opened its Holy Door and the pastor, Msgr. Anthony S. Czarnecki, read the decree in which Bishop McManus named the basilica one of the diocese’s eight jubilee year pilgrimage sites.
These jubilee year gestures expanded St. Joseph’s regular monthly Divine Mercy devotion. Adding to scheduled events is one way the parish plans to provide spiritual opportunities during the Holy Year, said Msgr. Czarnecki. (See box on Page 6 for a list.)
Church tours are also available for pilgrims, as they were in the Jubilee Year 2000, when St. Joseph’s was a pilgrimage site, said Joan Comeau, one of the docents.
As a pilgrimage site, St. Joseph’s has a Holy Door, formed by the main doors leading from the narthex into the nave of the church. These doors contain stained glass windows of the Jubilee Year 2000 symbol. Above them, in Latin, is a passage added during church renovations in the 1990s, Msgr. Czarnecki said. The passage is from John 10:7-9, where Jesus says he is the door for the sheep, and those who enter by him will be saved. Above the main doors outside the church, Jesus is depicted as the Good Shepherd.
Sunday the Holy Door was sealed off by a banner and crucifix, and ribbons and flowers in Vatican colors of yellow and white. The banner bore the coats of arms of St. Joseph’s and St. John Paul II, who raised the church to the dignity of a basilica in 1998.
Msgr. Czarnecki knocked on the Holy Door, it was opened and altar servers, priests, women’s sodality representatives, and the congregation entered.
The service continued with prayers, songs, Scripture readings, homilies and Benediction. The Divine Mercy Chaplet was sung in English, Polish and Spanish, led by members of the Basilica Choir, Senior Choir and St. Joseph’s School Children’s Choir.
In his reflection Msgr. Czarnecki spoke of offering the Father what is dearest on earth and in heaven, love and mercy, which “has only one name – Jesus Christ.”
“Everything in our faith is about Jesus Christ,” Father Michael J. Roy, pastor of St. Roch Parish in Oxford, said in his homily.
“Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy,” he continued, quoting from “The Face of Mercy,” Pope Francis’ jubilee year bull of indiction.
Father Roy defined mercy as treating people better than they deserve to be treated, as God has treated us.
Pope Francis opened the Year of Mercy on Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, “and we’ve had the joy of opening this Holy Door on the Solemnity of the Epiphany,” Father Roy said, noting that Mary features prominently in both feasts.
In the bull Pope Francis said that, after Adam and Eve sinned, God chose Mary to be the Mother of the Redeemer.
“When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy,” the pope wrote. “Mercy will always be greater than any sin ….”
Father Roy said if he had to choose a personal motto it would start with “miser,” a Latin word which speaks of misery or sin.
“We’ve lost the ability to recognize sin,” he said. But without it, “we would have no need of a Savior.” He acknowledged that he battles sin.
“I almost despair, but the ‘miser’ is not where I want to stop,” he said.
“Misericordiae” – God’s mercy, from the heart of Christ, has covered sin with his blood. “I don’t have to be oppressed by my sin.”
His response to knowing that is “magnificat!” (Rejoicing in the Lord.)
He put the three words together for a motto: “Miser, Misericordiae, Magnificat” and explained: “We are sinners whom Jesus has come to redeem. Our response should be joy.”
Our response should also be extending mercy to others, he said.
He suggested practicing mercy behind the steering wheel and behind the shopping cart when others are rude, for at some point one will need to do the hard work of showing mercy in one’s family.
Msgr. Czarnecki said a jubilee year mission will explore Divine Mercy in the life of the parish, family and individual. It is to be given by missionaries from the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge.
Mrs. Comeau said when pilgrims come they can venerate the relic of St. John Paul II, pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, pray for the pope’s intentions to obtain the pilgrimage’s indulgence, or bring a priest to celebrate Mass for them.
She said docents will “give pilgrims a feeling and appreciation for all the spirituality that is in St. Joseph’s Basilica.”
“I consider the basilica a living catechism,” she said; learning about what’s in it can help people understand their faith.
“I like to start on the outside,” explaining the architecture, she said.
Inside, “we explain everything,” she said. She made special note of the Divine Mercy mural, an original painted for the 1990s renovations.
Msgr. Czarnecki said St. Joseph’s priests can hear pilgrims’ confessions.
– To schedule a group tour and confessions call the rectory at 508-943-0467.
To see more photos from the day go to Photo Galleries
The door of God’s mercy is always open
By Tanya Connor
Calling on people who have drifted away from the Church to return home, Bishop McManus, on Dec.13, marked the beginning of an extraordinary jubilee year called by Pope Francis.
“A jubilee is time of grace and joy, a time blessed by the Lord in a special way,” the Bishop said in his decree for the Year of Mercy, which was read Sunday.
He encouraged people to “experience in a powerful way the tender mercy of God’s forgiveness,” especially in the coming year.
The Holy Door was opened, part of the papal bull was read, and prayer cards and symbolic pictures were distributed as part of the celebration.
Nearly 1,000 people, including clergy, religious and laity from around the diocese joined Bishop McManus at St. Paul Cathedral to begin the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy. Among them was Archbishop Michael W. Banach, apostolic nuncio to Papua, New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. A priest of the Worcester Diocese, he is home for the holidays.
At the celebration, which included solemn vespers, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and benediction, Bishop McManus opened the new Holy Door inside the cathedral.
Sindy Collazo, St. Paul’s business manager, gathered the images for the door, and Gary Gagne, director of maintenance, constructed it, said Msgr. Robert K. Johnson, cathedral rector and director of the diocesan Office for Divine Worship. It is modeled on the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica that Pope Francis opened when inaugurating the Year of Mercy Dec. 8.
“[T]he Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope,” Pope Francis said in Misericordiae Vultus, his Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
In the bull, from which excerpts were read at St. Paul’s, the pope says there will be a holy door “in every local church” – at the cathedral or another significant church.
Going through a Holy Door symbolizes going from one place and one state of being to another, entering into the jubilee, said Msgr. Johnson.
“With the solemn opening of the Holy Door which will be called ‘The Door of Mercy,’ the Diocese of Worcester formally begins its year-long celebration of the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy,” Bishop McManus said in his homily Sunday.
“The Jubilee Year is an opportunity for renewed prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, especially for the Divine Gift of Mercy bestowed by God through the Life, Death, and Resurrection of … Jesus Christ … I am encouraging pilgrimages to the sacred places in the world or to the designated churches in our diocese.”
Bishop McManus gave framed copies of the decree to pastors of these churches, which he has designated as pilgrimage sites for the Holy Year. The church buildings are: St. Paul Cathedral, 38 High St., Worcester; Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, 135 Nichols St., Gardner; Our Lady of the Rosary, 7 Church St., Spencer; Notre Dame, 446 Main St., Southbridge; Sacred Heart of Jesus, 7 East Main St., Milford; St. Joseph, 49 Woodland St., Fitchburg; St. Joseph Basilica, 53 Whitcomb St., Webster; St. Luke the Evangelist, 70 Main St., Westborough.
Msgr. Johnson said that to receive the Holy Year indulgence the faithful are to go on pilgrimage to one of these churches, make a sacramental confession, receive Communion, pray for the Holy Father’s intentions and do a work of mercy.
After Sunday’s service, priests and parish representatives received prayer cards, designed by diocesan chancellor Raymond L. Delisle, in English, Spanish or Portuguese, and framed pictures of the cross depicted on the diocesan coat of arms, Msgr. Johnson said. The picture includes the coat of arms, the Year of Mercy logo and the message: “Behold the door of mercy.”
“It is my wish that this cross should be placed on the door of the confessional or reconciliation room in every parish church in our diocese,” the bishop said in the prepared text for his homily.
“Because Jesus did not wish to leave us orphans after his Ascension into heaven, he gave to his Church the seven sacraments which continue in our own time his salvific mission,” the bishop said. “During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, I pray that all of us will avail ourselves of the Sacrament of Penance so as to experience in a powerful way the tender mercy of God’s forgiveness.
“I would also take this opportunity to issue an appeal from this pulpit of the Cathedral … with heartfelt sincerity, I invite all those Catholics in our diocese who have drifted away from weekly attendance at Sunday Mass to return home to your Father’s house, your parish Church, and to enter prayerfully and devotedly into the celebration of Holy Mass where you will be fed spiritually with the very Body and Blood of Christ. To receive the Holy Eucharist worthily is to be immersed in that inexhaustible fountain of mercy who is the crucified and Risen Christ. …
“The only proper response to the infinite mercy of God that has been lavished upon us through the gifts of faith and baptism is a joyful gratitude that leads to peace.”
Among those walking through the holy door after the service was Thaddeus Iwueke, a St. Paul’s parishioner. He was carrying his son Emmanuel, whose first birthday was that day. He said his son Tobias, 7, is to make his first penance and first Communion during the Year of Mercy. Asked what he thought of the service, Tobias said, “I like going to church.”
“I loved it,” Anna Gentile, of Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Ann Parish in Worcester, said after the service. “I didn’t know what it was going to be about.”
She said it reminded her of when she touched the Holy Door in Rome in 1961. It was shut, because that was not a jubilee year, she said.
“I was thinking of the pope, when he opened the door,” she said. “I would’ve loved to be there.”
Stigmatine Father Richard A. Scioli, pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Milford, said they are pleased to be a pilgrimage church. They completed an $800,000 restoration of the upper church in May, and now have a beautiful place to welcome pilgrims, he said.
To see a linkable list of pilgrimage churches: mercy-local-r2links
The grace of going through the Holy Door
By Msgr. Francis D. Kelly
Despite the tease of a few raindrops at the start and a chilly December wind, about 70,000 people filled St. Peter’s Square on Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, for the Mass and historic opening of the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy. The attendees faced a new hurdle made necessary by the increased threat of terror in Europe; each had to go through a metal detector to get into the Square.
Nonetheless, by the time of the Mass the great Square was comfortably filled as the procession of white-robed concelebrants filed onto the great outdoor sanctuary before the huge stone pillars of the facade of St. Peter’s.
The concelebrants included hundreds of bishops and 40 cardinals. Two United States bishops were among them: Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Bishop Paul D. Sirba of Duluth, Minnesota. Personally, I was pleased after Mass to have a cordial reunion with Bishop Burbidge – we had both served as seminary rectors at the same time and he now boasts of having 28 seminarians in his diocese in the heart of the Bible Belt.
The Mass of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception unfolded beautifully – it was enhanced by the singing during the Offertory of the familiar “Immaculate Mary – Ave, Ave, Ave Maria,” which was probably sung in a lot of our parishes that day, but, generally, popular hymns are not used at papal ceremonies.
Pope Francis’ homily was strong and striking. He said that his purpose in organizing the Holy Year was to emphasize “the priority of grace.” From his pastoral experience he feels many Catholics simply have a warped idea of Christianity: Viewing God as some kind of angry “super cop” always on the watch for our falls. And thinking that if we struggle enough we may manage to please him and win salvation. Instead, he insisted, God is the Being of Supreme Love and Mercy – it is he who is seeking us out at all times and forgiving us when we fall. In our relationship with God, he said, “We must abandon every kind of fear….His justice is always in the light of his mercy.”
In the homily the Pope made an interesting comparison. This day was also the 50th Anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. The Pope said the Council itself was “a door” by which the Church, after many centuries of being closed in on itself in a defensive posture, opened itself to the modern world and its needs and questions. He suggested that some of that “missionary thrust” seemed to have waned in the Church and he hopes the Holy Year will reignite the spark of an outward, open, welcoming spirit in the Church.
At the end of the Mass all attention turned to the Holy Door which is located in the Atrium of the Basilica.
I was privileged to be among those invited to stand in the Atrium. To the surprise of all, His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI appeared in a simple white overcoat and was embraced by Pope Francis. Pope Francis then led the special prayer for the opening of the Door and, with both hands and with some effort, it seemed, pushed the two doors open. He entered and stood on the threshold his head bowed in silent prayer for some time and then went into the Basilica. Pope Benedict, seeming quite frail went up the three steps with the assistance of his Secretary, Bishop Georg Ganswein, and thus, was the second person to enter the Holy Door.
Then followed the other prelates who were invited – as we entered the door kissing the cross on its lintel – very conscious that we were among the first of literally millions who will cross that threshold in the year ahead. We were also very conscious of the beautiful reality it symbolized – the merciful embrace of Christ the Savior which is available to us at every moment of our journey to him!
We assembled then at Peter’s Tomb for the final prayers and concluded by singing the “Salve Regina” to Mary on her feast day.
It is wonderful to know that on Sunday, Dec. 13, Bishop McManus will conduct a similar ceremony at St. Paul Cathedral in Worcester and all the blessings and graces that I have described are available to the faithful of our Diocese of Worcester.
On the evening of Dec. 8 we were back in the Basilica again for a special service conducted by our Archpriest, Cardinal Angelo Comastri. We processed through the Basilica singing the Litany of the Saints and asking the intercession of each of them – we marched to the Atrium and again entered the Holy Door. Then we processed to the High Altar for the singing of Second Vespers of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
This priest of Worcester that evening felt especially graced to have entered the Holy Door twice on the first day of the Jubilee! May the year ahead be one of rich spiritual joy and grace for all Catholics!
– Msgr. Kelly, a priest of the Diocese of Worcester, is a canon of St. Peter’s Basilica.