By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press
Bishop McManus closed the Holy Door at St. Paul Cathedral Sunday, officially closing the Holy Year of Mercy here.
At the beginning of a prayer service at 3 p.m., the Hour of Mercy, the congregation of more than 100 people faced the Holy Door behind the pews. The clergy and liturgical ministers walked through it. The bishop closed it and Deacon Anthony J. Xatse, who serves at the cathedral, taped it shut.
The service continued with a Liturgy of the Word and eucharistic adoration.
Afterwards Tuyet Nguyen and her son Kemp Nguyen, of Our Lady of Vilna Parish in Worcester, touched the sealed door. She said they came when the Holy Door was opened last year.
“I’m really excited,” she said, struggling to verbalize her sentiments about God’s love.
“It was just a holy feeling” going through the door three times before the service, said Patricia Caramello, of St. George Parish in Worcester.
“I think it resonated quite a bit with people in the Diocese,” Bishop McManus told The Catholic Free Press, in reference to the jubilee year Pope Francis called for last year.
The worldwide observance officially began on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 2015, and ended on the feast of Christ the King, Nov. 20, 2016.
Bishop McManus expressed appreciation for a good turnout for the opening of the Holy Year and the Holy Door at St. Paul’s Cathedral last December. He also said a number of groups made a pilgrimage to the cathedral, one of eight churches he designated as pilgrimage sites for the jubilee. Among them were college students.
“I was very impressed with that,” he said.
The bishop praised parish pilgrimages to the designated churches too. He mentioned seeing a Catholic Free Press story about Father Edwin Montaña inviting his Athol and Petersham parishioners on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Gardner. The bishop also said the newspaper has been helpful in communicating national and international Holy Year events.
He also spoke of the pilgrimage he led to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge.
In his own preaching he tried to incorporate the theme of Divine Mercy, he said.
He did that again at Sunday’s closing service.
Noting that it was the feast of Christ the King, he said Christ rules from a throne made not of gold but of the rough, blood-stained wood of the cross. Crowned with thorns, he died, and blood gushed from his side, bathing all creation in mercy.
“By his wounds we are healed,” the bishop said. “It is the mystery of divine mercy … divine mercy which is at the heart of our Catholic faith.”
He spoke of reactions of those who saw Christ crucified: passersby who were hardly shocked, Jewish leaders and soldiers who saw the cross as a sign of defeat, and the thieves crucified with him, one of whom mocked him, one of whom pleaded for mercy and was promised paradise.
The bishop spoke of people today receiving Christ’s mercy and grace through the sacraments and said God’s love is available to all and gives people hope that everything will work for good.
Though closing the door of mercy, “may we open the doors of our hearts to Christ the King,” and to other people, Bishop McManus said. “Let us be instruments of mercy … to build up the Church.”
Bishop McManus told The Catholic Free Press that Father Robert D. Bruso, pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in Leominster, had him speak about the Year of Mercy and wrote to him about confession times there. The bishop said he wanted to share this with other priests and perhaps they could do something similar, in addition to or instead of the annual Tuesday Lenten confession initiative, “Come Home to God’s Mercy.”
Father Bruso said parish council members John and Mary Crochetiere suggested celebrating the Holy Year. He began offering monthly adoration, followed by a Mass, one of which Bishop McManus celebrated. The pastor said someone asked if he was going to hear confessions, so he started offering the sacrament during adoration.
Studying this year’s Diocesan Directory, he concluded that more than 80 parishes have no regular confession times other than a half hour to an hour on Saturdays.
St. Cecilia’s summer seminarian, Victor Sierra, told him that in his country – Colombia – confessions are available much more often, which Father Bruso had noticed when he was there.
So during the Holy Year the pastor added a Wednesday and a Friday hour to St. Cecilia’s Saturday hour.
“It’s going to continue because it was successful beyond my wildest dreams,” he said.
Since he started this in September there was only one night when no one came, he said. The other nights he had two to seven penitents, and they had not been to confession in years.
“I’m convinced that if priests make the sacrament more available, people will take advantage of it,” he said. “It’s one thing to say, ‘It’s really important to go to confession.’” But priests demonstrate that they really believe that when they take time to extend confession times.
Bishop McManus said the Year of Mercy was an intense reminder of the call to perform the works of mercy. Years ago people memorized them and this year people were reintroduced to how to practice them. He said he wanted to challenge members of the Diocese to come forth from the jubilee year with a renewed recognition of how fundamental it is to the Christian life to perform these works of mercy, on which they will be judged, according to Matthew 25.
The diocese was fortunate to have three priests who were among missionaries of mercy receiving a special Year of Mercy mandate from Pope Francis, Bishop McManus said. They are: Father C. Michael Broderick, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Rutland; Father Peter Joyce, pastor of St. John Paul II Parish in Southbridge, and Father Dinh Vo Tran, an Augustinian of the Assumption, who served as director of St. Anne Shrine in Sturbridge.
This week Pope Francis said he was extending that designation indefinitely.