By Patricia O’Connell
The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy is coming to a close.
This Nov. 20 marks the end of a year in which Pope Francis has asked us to live out lives of mercy. This jubilee also gave us the chance to make a local pilgrimage to one of the Holy Doors of Mercy established throughout the world and in our diocese.
These jubilee Holy Doors were established at St. Joseph Parish in Fitchburg, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church at Annunciation Parish in Gardner, St. Paul Cathedral in Worcester, Notre Dame Church at St. John Paul II Parish in Southbridge, Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Milford, Our Lady of the Rosary Church of Mary, Queen of the Rosary Parish in Spencer, St. Joseph Basilica in Webster and at St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Westborough.
Special graces are attached to visiting one of these parishes and walking through the Holy Doors. Also, pilgrims can receive a plenary indulgence, provided the requisite conditions are met.
With the Holy Year of Mercy approaching its end, Father Edwin Montaña, pastor of Our Lady Immaculate in Athol, last week planned a pilgrimage to Annunciation parish in Gardner, which is part of his deanery.
“I’m running a pilgrimage with my three churches,” he said, in a telephone interview before the pilgrimage. “I invited the people to go down to Holy Rosary in Gardner to gain the indulgence on All Souls Day.
Father Montaña’s other two parishes are St. Peter in Petersham and St. Francis in Athol. He also put announcements in the bulletins of the other churches in the Gardner/Athol area deanery.
The reason he planned the pilgrimage was so that Catholics in the area could easily gain the plenary indulgence by participating. He said some people “do not feel like doing it by themselves,” adding that going on pilgrimage in a group also makes it easier to fulfill the requirements, which include receiving Holy Communion as well as the sacrament of reconciliation.
He also felt All Souls Day was an appropriate day to have the pilgrimage, since the plenary indulgence can be gained either for oneself or for a Holy Soul in Purgatory. (A plenary indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment that result from previously forgiven sins. Even though these sins have been confessed and forgiven, temporal punishment may remain.)
Father Montaña said he chose the Gardner parish as a pilgrimage destination because it was the closest Holy Door in the area. He said his deanery regularly holds Lenten pilgrimages to different churches in the far northwestern corner of the diocese, and this was just a different variation.
About 150 pilgrims attended the All Souls Day Mass. They prayed the rosary and there was also an opportunity to go to confession.The Mass was concelebrated by Father Montaña and Father Joseph Jurgelonis, pastor of Annunciation and head of the local Gardner area deanery. Deacon Scott Colley also assisted with the pilgrimage.