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  • Jul
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Offerings at St. Anne Shrine focus on need for healing

Posted By July 10, 2014 | 1:38 pm | Lead Story #1
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By Tanya Connor

STURBRIDGE – A spiritual place. A place of healing, peace and joy – for people of all religions and cultures.
That’s the vision Assumptionist Father Dinh Votran has for St. Anne Shrine.
Father Votran, who took the helm as director last September, is preparing for the shrine’s major and original devotion. The annual novena in honor of Jesus’ grandparents – St. Anne and St. Joachim – begins July 18 and culminates on their feast day, July 26.
After talking with others, Father Votran says he wants to develop the shrine’s spiritual nature, including healing of all types – spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical. He says he wants the shrine to be a healing place, since God’s love and mercy is available to all.
In the broadest sense, healing goes beyond physical healing, Father Votran says, and he believes healing leads to peace. He says he would love for the shrine to be a place of deep peace and joy. That doesn’t mean suffering will end, he explains. But people can find peace, joy and healing by connecting with their source – God.
How does he plan to help them do that?
Father Votran says he will continue what the shrine has been doing, offering Masses, sacraments, the novena and a place for private devotions. He’d like to preserve the shrine’s natural beauty, for “the beauty of nature can lead the people to God,” he says.
He’s also started new programs.
Father Votran says he tries to meet visitors and bring them into community. He noted that the shrine is a mission of the Augustinians of the Assumption, who seek to build God’s kingdom through faith formation, community and outreach.
“I am here to serve them,” he explains. “I try to be available for confession, spiritual direction. And, through that, the healing can happen.” And he uses their requests for blessing of religious articles to talk to them further.
He has also initiated group gatherings, under three umbrellas.
The intellectual umbrella, “Thinking and Moving with the Church,” includes lectures through which speakers share how the faith has helped them. The idea is to help participants be in communion with the universal Church by learning about what is happening in it, Father Votran says.
So far, scientist André Chapdelaine has spoken about the Shroud of Turin, and Father Votran has spoken about the history of the ecumenical movement, and about the beauty of God’s Word in the handwritten, illuminated St. John’s Bible.
Father Votran said he wants to offer catechetical classes, and a presentation about family in connection with the Vatican’s synod on the family this fall.
A healing umbrella is “St. Anne and Her Healing Touch,” aimed at honoring the shrine’s patroness, Father Votran says. It includes the sacrament of the sick the first Sunday of every month and “Dry the Silent Cry.”
The latter seeks the intercession of St. Anne and Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn, for parents who lost a child through miscarriage or abortion. Healing Masses open to all are to be held the 12th of December (the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe) and the 12th of March, June and September. Also planned are retreats and meetings for the parents and healthcare professionals.
The third umbrella, “spiritual development,” includes devotions, and one-day retreats during Advent, Lent and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Father Votran says he’d also like to start luncheon gatherings at which participants can share their faith.
Father Votran cleaned and rearranged the shrine’s Hall of Saints, setting an altar in the center for eucharistic adoration, which is now held from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. The rosary is prayed there at 6 p.m. Wednesdays and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at 3 p.m. Fridays.
But the main devotion at the Diocese’s largest shrine, which shares 35 acres with its parish, St. Anne and St. Patrick, is the St. Anne Novena. This year the schedule is the same each of the nine nights. There are confessions at 6 p.m. at St. Anne’s Church, where the rosary procession starts at 6:30 p.m. Mass follows at 7 p.m. in the outdoor pavilion. On the feast day, July 26, there is also a Mass, with the sacrament of the sick, at 11 a.m. in the pavilion, and a tour of the shrine at 2 p.m.
Outreach initiated by Assumptionist Father Peter R. Precourt, pastor, and former shrine director, are continuing. He welcomed as novena participants people from a variety of cultures, prisoners, nursing home residents and the homebound.     Since many of these cannot attend the novena, the prayers and prayer intention slips have been sent to people who minister to them to distribute. These ministers are encouraged to pray with them and return the intentions to the shrine, where they,  with those of novena-goers, are burned as an offering the last night.
And, as before, some will share their artwork and crafts for display during the novena, reminding novena-goers of their participation.
Priests and musicians from different cultures share their faith at the Masses, which are in English, with some songs in their native languages.
Father Votran is celebrating the opening Mass July 18, with Bishop Reilly preaching. Father Precourt is celebrant and homilist for the closing Mass, which is followed by a candlelight procession, July 26.
In between are the following: Father Tam Bui, pastor of Our Lady of Vilna Parish in Worcester (Vietnamese); Father Alex Castro, the Assumptionists’ assistant novice master (Filipino); Father Nicholas Desimone, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Uxbridge (youth ministry); Father Peter Joyce, pastor of St. John Paul II Parish in Southbridge (Hispanic); Vincentian Father Matthew Pothalil, of St. Thomas The Apostle Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Framingham (Indian); Assumptionist Father Peter Omwoyo, of St. Anne and St. Patrick (African) and Father Stanley Rousseau, of the Haitian community in Boston.