By Fr Santo Arrigo, C.Ss.R.
A time of celebration! A time of prayer and thanksgiving! A time for Jubilee! From June 23 – 25, 2015, St. Patrick’s Shrine Church to Our Mother of Perpetual Help welcomed pilgrims from across the Greater Toronto Area to the annual celebration of the Novena Triduum. Each evening, over one thousand pilgrims gathered at the church and in the adjacent hall where the celebration was broadcast simultaneously. Fr. Philip Dabney C.Ss.R. (pictured below), associate pastor at the Basilica “Mission Church” of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Boston, was our celebrant and homilist for each evening. His gentle and simple messages inspired pilgrims through 3 themes. “Blessed is she who believes”, “Do whatever He tells you”, and “Behold your Mother”. Each night, Fr. Phil shared with us about his relationship with Mary since his youth, and how she inspires each one of us in our call to discipleship, and how she points us to her Son while interceding for us to be inspired to live our vocation and call to service to our brothers and sisters. On Wednesday of the Triduum, pilgrims and devotees had the opportunity to celebrate the grace of God’s healing love through the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. On Thursday, the community gathered in the basement of the church for an International Feast, with stations around the hall with food from around the world. It was truly a wonderful way to bring to completion and closure a week of prayer and celebration.
Being the start of our 150th Anniversary of the Mission of the Redemptorists to “Make her known throughout the world”, St. Patrick’s has been preparing for these three days and for this year of Jubilee in many ways. New in the church is a pictorial history of the Shrine and Church from about 1931 to present, highlighting periods of celebration, prayer cards, promotional materials from the last hundred years inviting pilgrims to come pray at the Shrine. By the shrine, there is a subtitled video playing of Archbishop Gerard Pettipas C.Ss.R. sharing his story about coming to know Our Mother of Perpetual Help and a bit of the history and story of the Icon. New pamphlets and prayer leaflets are available at the shrine as well to invite pilgrims and devotees into a new way of prayer to Our Mother. Some of these materials are available in different languages.
This 150th Anniversary also coincides with the 20th Anniversary of the Television Devotions to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. We thank God for the gift of the TV Devotions as it has reached out to so many who have had a longstanding devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, yet have been unable to attend regular devotions. We are blest that the Office for the Perpetual Help Devotions is now located adjacent to the Shrine, on the lower level of the Redemptorist Residence. Villagers Media, who produce the Television Devotions recorded the Homilies during the Triduum and will assist in the production of a DVD for Pilgrims to have in remembrance of our time together this week.
St. Patrick’s and the Redemptorists will animate monthly events welcoming pilgrims to deepen their relationship to Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help through talks, processions, and special events. Some of these talks and presentations include: History of the Icon (with Fr. Santo Arrigo C.Ss.R.), the Meaning of the Icon (with Br. Dan Korn C.Ss.R), Perpetual Help: A Soul Magnified (with Anne Walsh, LMMHR), St. Alphonsus and the beginning of the Redemptorist Congregation (with the Redemptorist Novitiate Community), Praying with Icons (with Bishop John Pazak C.Ss.R.) and more. A Street Procession from St. Michael’s Cathedral to St. Patrick’s Church will take place April 26, 2016 to commemorate the transfer of the Icon from St. Mary Major to the Church of St. Alphonsus in Rome on April 26, 1866. There will also be other celebrations and commemorations planned for the other historical dates as well.
For more information about the program calendar for this Jubilee Year at St. Patrick’s Shrine Church, you can visit the Parish Website at stpatrickstoronto.ca.
One more important item for St. Patrick’s in this year of Jubilee and celebration is the beginning of the process to have St. Patrick’s “National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help” officially recognized and declared with this title by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. The unofficial declaration of this title has been in popular use since the 1950’s. Now because of our national significance through the Television Devotions, and because of this year of recognition and celebration through the Jubilee Year, it is quite appropriate to have this title made official, as it is already made official through the sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful).
We continue to invite your prayers for our Mission at St. Patrick’s Shrine Church, the “National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help” for the Shrine Ministry, but also for our Communities reaching out to the Poor and the Abandoned in our community and throughout the world, our work for Social Justice through committees and education to students across the city, and in our inviting lay people and vocation prospects to learn more about our Charism and mission within the Church, as well as the work of the TV Devotions on this 20th Anniversary.
We thank God for the gift of our Parish Community, who along with the Redemptorists serving at St. Patrick’s, provide generous service and contribute to the mission of the Shrine Ministry while supporting and carrying our Mission to all walks of life throughout the city of Toronto, and beyond.