By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press
SOUTHBRIDGE – Walking to a pilgrimage church, and through its Holy Door, is a source of grace for pilgrims and their priests, according to some who have done it.
St. John Paul II Parish has been holding a pilgrimage the first Friday of each month during the Year of Mercy.
Pilgrims meet at 6 p.m. at one of the parish’s church buildings, St. Mary’s, and process to its main church building, Notre Dame. They enter Notre Dame through the Holy Door and celebrate Mass there. Notre Dame is one of eight churches in the diocese that Bishop McManus designated as a pilgrimage site for the jubilee year.
“It’s a privilege to go through the door,” parishioner Francisca Pérez said after the pilgrimage and Mass Sept. 2. “We are a very, very lucky parish to have the Holy Door … because you receive grace. You have to come to Mass to receive strong grace.”
People realize it’s a blessing to have the Holy Door, said Father Juan G. Herrera, associate pastor, who had just led the pilgrimage and celebrated the Mass in Spanish. He translated some things into English for the sake of some of the pilgrims.
The parish has been alternating between English and Spanish for the pilgrimages. The next pilgrimage, Oct. 7, is to be in English, and the final one, Nov. 4, bilingual, Father Herrera said. There are printed programs in English and Spanish for those who make this pilgrimage and for anyone who visits the pilgrim church at another time.
Father Peter Joyce, pastor, said the parish’s school, Trinity Catholic Academy, made the pilgrimage during the day Sept. 2 in conjunction with their opening-of-school Mass.
Father Herrera said pilgrims have come from nearby parishes, the deanery and other states and are encouraged to come as groups.
The pilgrimages renew his priesthood, he said; he’s had the opportunity to be a good shepherd this jubilee year, especially on First Fridays.
Sometimes as priests “we are forgetting that we are walking with people, that we need to go through the Holy Door,” he said. Having priests do that helps people see priests are not above them, but leading them while walking with them, he said.
On Sept. 2 Father Herrera added his own comments to the pilgrimage ritual, which includes prayers, and readings from Psalms 122, 24 and 103; Lk 1:46-55 and Mt 16:13-19. The ritual was adapted from one promulgated by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, the program says.
“You are about to traverse the short distance of a town block that separates you from the Holy Door,” says the initial reflection. “Collect your thoughts and the intentions you want to bring with you to the goal of your pilgrimage.”
Father Herrera said they would walk to remind themselves of life’s journey, which involves suffering, through which they can gain joy. Everyone loves to be in a comfort zone with no worries, but God is calling them to go out, he said.
They would walk through the Holy Door, he said, noting that the Gospel says Jesus is the door, and individuals must go through him to meet God face-to-face. Then they would celebrate Mass, through which they could encounter God’s mercy.
Father Herrera and about 50 pilgrims processed to Notre Dame, where they stopped outside the front entrance.
“Christian holiness begins with the amazement that we experience before the mystery of our God, incarnate for our salvation in Jesus Christ,” said the reflection. “He is the living face of the Merciful Father. Entering into the church we are mindful of how we encounter this gift of God through our life in the Church and her sacraments. We are called to realize in this jubilee that he is both our God and our neighbor, uniting in himself – once and for all – the two great commandments.”
Pilgrims prayed a Prayer for the Jubilee, which said, in part: “You have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father … Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with his anointing, so that the jubilee of mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.”
Door of mercy
Pilgrims then processed to a side door that has been designated as the Holy Door of Mercy.
The reflection, from Pope Francis’ Bull of Indiction “Misericordiae Vultus,” (2.3) said, in part: “Anyone who enters the Door of Mercy will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.”
In his homily Father Herrera said, “Today’s Gospel (about new wine) is an invitation to renew our lives.” He spoke of forgiving and forgetting, instead of getting stuck in the past.
After Mass Milton Soto, who made the pilgrimage for the first time, said, “It surprised me, because I carried the cross” for the procession between churches. He said it was a “very, very special” day for him, because pilgrims entered the Holy Door.
Prosper Gadoury, who make the trek on crutches, said he did that each month, and spoke of coming closer to God.
Group visits to pilgrimage churches | Sunday, Sept. 18
Pilgrimage Church: St. Paul Cathedral, 15 Chatham St., Worcester
time: Meet outside cathedral at 2:45 p.m. Process through Holy Door into cathedral at 3 p.m. for Mass with Bishop McManus.
Sponsor: The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the Diocese of Worcester
Pilgrimage Church: Sacred Heart of Jesus, 7 East Main St., Milford
time: Meet at St. Mary of the Assumption Church, 19 Winter St., Milford. Confessions noon-1 p.m. in the lower church. Multi-lingual rosary procession 1:10 p.m. to Sacred Heart for a talk about the Holy Year indulgence and Mass at 2 p.m., with a reception afterward in Sacred Heart’s Bell Tower Room.
Work of mercy: Do a corporal work of mercy and bring a canned good for Milford Daily Food Pantry.
sponsorS: Collaborative effort of St. Mary’s and Sacred Heart parishes.