By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press
It was a welcome experience of coming together – and being welcomed.
That’s how pilgrims described the Year of Mercy celebration in Milford on Sept 18.
Some performed a work of mercy, bringing donations for a food pantry.
There were confessions and a brief service in St. Mary of the Assumption Church.
Then about 150 people processed to Milford’s other Catholic church, Sacred Heart of Jesus, which Bishop McManus named a pilgrimage site for the Year of Mercy. Pilgrims prayed the rosary and sang in English, Spanish and Portuguese, the languages of St. Mary’s Anglo, Hispanic, Portuguese and Brazilian communities.
“Gracious welcome to you; God love you,” Sacred Heart’s pastor, Stigmatine Father Richard A. Scioli, said as they arrived.
Father Leonard J. Ferrecchia, a retired Stigmatine in residence there, also greeted them.
Pilgrims walked through the Holy Door into the church, where Father Raymond M. Goodwin Jr., St. Mary’s pastor, celebrated Mass. Concelebrants included Father Scioli and St. Mary’s associates, Fathers Dario Acevedo and Mateus Souza.
Other Deanery VIII parishes were invited, and some of their priests concelebrated: Father Thomas G. Landry, pastor of St. Peter’s in Northbridge, and Fathers Lawrence J. Esposito and Daniel E. Moreno, pastor and associate of Good Shepherd in Linwood and St. Augustine in Millville. Deacons David F. Vaillancourt Sr., of St. Mary’s, and Pasquale G. Mussulli, of Sacred Heart, assisted.
“God’s mercy speaks every language,” Father Souza, a Brazilian, told worshippers.
Father Acevedo, a Colombian, asked the “beautiful people of Sacred Heart” to stand.
“Thank you, thank you, gracias, gracias,” he said. “You have a beautiful church. Pray for us, your sister parish.” He said there are many struggles in town and suggested they address them “as Catholics together.”
Pope Francis speaks of caring for one another on the spiritual journey, Father Scioli said, and talked about the indulgence the pope has offered for the jubilee year.
The indulgence was one reason Father Landry said he scheduled 20 additional hours to hear confessions the previous week – in preparation for the pilgrimage.
“While I couldn’t make the procession outside today … those 20 hours (were) my participation in the procession,” he said.
To obtain the Jubilee Indulgence “the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door … as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion,” Pope Francis said in writing to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
Other things he called for were confession, Mass, a reflection on mercy, the profession of faith and prayer for the pope and his intentions. He said individuals also obtain the indulgence by performing works of mercy.
“You don’t get many chances” to get an indulgence, Judy Mach, of Good Shepherd Parish, said at the reception that concluded Sunday’s celebration. “It was just a spiritual experience I enjoyed.”
“I was so thrilled, very emotional, seeing our parishes come together … seeing Father Scioli opening the doors, welcoming us,” said Rosemary Trettel, of Sacred Heart, who also attends Masses at St. Mary’s.
“There’s so much potential, sharing resources, among these two parishes,” said her husband, Steven. He said they are the foundation of the town, built by ethnic groups that came first, with others coming later. They previously stayed with their own, but now there is more coming together, he said.
Many people have been saying they want to get together, and it was nice they did so for this, said Rosemarie Creasia, of Sacred Heart.
Teca Silva, of St. Mary’s Brazilian community, said this was her first time in Sacred Heart. She expressed appreciation for the celebration. So did Benilde Alves, a native of Portugal from St. Mary’s.
“It really was a holy moment” to see it come together after all the hard work, said Sandy Piwko, an organizer, who coordinates religious education at St. Mary’s.
“It was nice to see that many priests together,” said Carol Drew, Sacred Heart parish secretary.
Priests too expressed appreciation for the experience.
“The whole moment of people seeking reconciliation,” said Father Goodwin, St. Mary’s co-pastor in the 1970s and now its pastor. “And then to go out” in procession. “There was a certain peace.… To see how the people have grown … to hear decades (of the rosary) in Portuguese, Spanish and English.… Just the whole presence of God in his people, and I was part of it.”
Father Souza raved about the number of people who came to confession: “It’s wonderful, families all together – the kids, the parents.” He and Father Acevedo also rejoiced in the different languages used.
“The common ground was … walking in this little procession, to remind us of the walk of faith,” Father Acevedo said. “We are walking together … toward Jesus, by the hand of his mom, and that’s why we were praying the rosary.”
“It showed the great breadth of the Church … the call to be one Church, one faith, one baptism,” said Father Scioli.
This was the first pilgrimage to his pilgrim church, but an average of 25 people per week have visited individually or in small groups, he said. He said the parish has increased confession times, now from about 2 to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
All the Diocese’s parishes and neighboring parishes in the Boston Archdiocese are invited to come Oct. 2, he said. Confessions are from noon-1:30 p.m. that day. The sacrament of the sick is to be offered at Mass, which begins at 2 p.m. The Divine Mercy Chaplet is also to be prayed.