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Parish holds novena to Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette

Posted By February 13, 2014 | 12:56 pm | Lead Story #1

Parish holds novena to Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette

By Tanya Connor

NORTHBOROUGH – From student, to teacher, to priest, to bishop, faith was a main focus, in various ways.
It was the 22nd annual novena to Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette at St. Bernadette Parish. It opened Monday with a Mass celebrated by Bishop McManus, as usual.
“You can feel the faith of the people,” said Father Ronald G. Falco, the new pastor, who was making the novena for the first time. “One of the first things they told me about when I came in November was the novena. … They’re very excited about preparing for it, meeting with music ministry, the deacon, people on the pastoral staff. Everyone has their part to play. They’re very proud of this – and they should be. It’s not only for the parish, but the good of the whole diocese.”
He said people commented positively about homilists chosen for the novena services, being held at 7 p.m. each night through Feb. 18.
Due to predictions of a storm for yesterday, Father Falco said participants would be encouraged to take the booklets home Wednesday and say the prayers there if necessary.
Homilists for the remaining nights are: tonight, Father José A. Rodríguez, pastor of Holy Family of Nazareth Parish in Leominster; tomorrow, Father Laurence V. Brault, pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Upton; Sunday, Father Dennis J. O’Brien, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Leominster, and Monday, Father John F. Madden, pastor of St. John Parish in Worcester. Tuesday Father Falco is to celebrate the closing Mass.
The other nights Mass is not celebrated, but there are prayers, songs, Scripture readings, and adoration and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
During the closing Mass, worshippers can process forward with yellow roses they bring with them or purchase at the church for $3 each. This Lourdes tradition is a way of expressing thanks for graces received during the novena, Father Falco said.
“What a privilege it is to serve in a parish that has such wonderful devotion,” said the associate pastor, Father John F. Hamm, who was ordained last June and was also making the novena for the first time. “Their faith is alive. … It’s a childlike, youthful faith. And when people come to visit, it’s contagious, and they leave uplifted.”
“It helped me believe more in God and trust more in God” – because the songs were prayers – Gabriella Clune said of the novena. A fifth-grader at St. Bernadette Elementary School, she sang in the joint children’s/adult choir Monday with her mother, Monica Clune, who teaches Spanish at the school.
“For me the novena is a reason for all of us to offer our needs to St. Bernadette and give it up to her and God,” said her mother, another first-timer there. She said participants’ burdens are lifted there.
“It’s offering a petition, but it also makes me more prayerful, in that a novena isn’t a usual occurrence, and you bring your requests and hopes and desires,” said Anne Keegan, who teaches Spanish, French and Latin at the school. “Most of the teachers come for the opening, and some will come during the week,” though their attendance is not required, she said.
Jamie Rame, of St. Bernadette’s, who came with family members, said her prayers have been answered at the novena. Her brother-in-law, an alcoholic she prayed for there, is now reformed, she said.
“Right now I’m praying for conversion for my family,” she said.     She said this year she’s also praying for healing for Thomas Beirne, a sick child from St. John, Guardian of Our Lady Parish in Clinton. Thomas has Leigh’s disease, a rare genetic disorder which involves progressive damage to the central nervous system. His sister Sheila, who also had it, died last May, after the family returned from a trip to Lourdes.
Mrs. Rame said the novena is moving; one can feel the graces coming from heaven. And having the bishop make room for it in his schedule each year makes it special, she said, adding, “It wouldn’t be the same without him.”
Joshua Rahn, an eighth-grader at St. Bernadette’s, said it’s an  honor for him to be an altar server the night the bishop comes.
For his part, Bishop McManus called the novena a “wonderful testament to the faith of you, the people of this parish.”
“The power of our gathering … is rooted in … ‘The Lord hears the cry of the poor,’” he said.
In the Gospel, Jesus’ miracles are usually lined up with the poor, the disenfranchised, the sick, he said. In Monday’s Gospel (Mk 6:53-56) the people had such faith they believed they would be healed if they simply touched the tassel on Jesus’ cloak, he said.
Pope Francis has reiterated that Jesus’ face can be found in the poor, Bishop McManus said.
“St. Bernadette was one of those people to whom you might not give a second look,” he said of the uneducated child the Blessed Mother appeared to in Lourdes, France in 1858.
In apparitions in other places, the Blessed Mother also chose to reveal herself to the poor, the uneducated, the children, he said. He asked why, and answered that one of the characteristics of childhood is dependence.
Human beings live and move and have their being in God, who holds them in the palms of his hands, he said, and indicated that novena-goers realize their dependence on the Lord.
He told of a father involved in church, who grieves because his eldest son, a married, successful man, seems to find the things of God irrelevant. But, the bishop said, uncertainties come crashing in on people, and it is important to have a sense of one’s need for God, as well as to do one’s own part.
He said he believed many of his listeners could give wonderful testimony about how their prayers have been answered. He closed his homily by leading them in asking the Blessed Mother’s prayers.