Thousands Celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday 2005
Over 17,000 pilgrims traveled to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA in the United States, and braved the rain, cold, and mud as the Marians of the Immaculate Conception celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday and the life of Pope John II.
Bishop Timothy McDonnell of the Diocese of Springfield, MA, substituted as the main celebrant and homilist for Archbishop Sean O'Malley, who, due to the death of the Holy Father, remained in Boston. Bishop McDonnell was joined on the altar by Bishop Elliott Thomas, retired Bishop of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Provincial Superior, Very Rev. Walter M. Dziordz, MIC, and the Rector of the Shrine, Fr. David Lord, MIC.
Because of the death of Pope John Paul II, the theme of the weekend quickly evolved into the life and legacy of Pope John Paul II known as the great Mercy Pope.
Mercy Sunday weekend included two days of Masses, speakers, music, and presentations. Fifty-two priests from four states participated in the weekend and over 1,000 confessions were heard. Over 250 buses arrived for the weekend with large pilgrimage groups of Filipinos, Hispanics, Haitians, and French Creole in attendance. Individual pilgrims came from as far away as Equador, the Philipines,and Afghanistan.
The highlight of Divine Mercy Sunday was Holy Mass celebrated by Bishop McDonnell. Standing in the softly falling rain, the Bishop delivered a personal, moving homily as he shared his thoughts on the passing of the Holy Father, his recent visit to meet the Holy Father in Rome, and John Paul II's impact on the world: "The weather today, you know, reminds of us of Pope John Paul II ... Weather like this April showers seemed to have followed Pope John Paul II anytime he was in our country. And yet he said on one occasion that they were simply tears of joy from the heavens, and this is what we enjoy today because we believe he has gone safely home."
Speaking to the crowd of pilgrims gathered, holding umbrellas and clad in raincoats, Bishop McDonnell consoled the pilgrims saddened by the death of Pope John Paul II: "Today is Divine Mercy Sunday. And what does the Gospel tell us time and time and time again Jesus' words to His disciples: 'Peace! Peace!' and again, 'Peace.' Jesus says it over and over and over. The risen Lord's message to His people: 'Peace... .'
"And didn't Pope John Paul II radiate that sense of peace? Wasn't he one in whom you saw the joy of Christ? Wasn't he one for whom Christ was so real that he wanted to make Him real to others?"
Bishop Mc Donnell continued, "We have lost a priest and a pastor, a father and a friend. We have lost our Pope. But the Church goes on. Christ is still with us. Christ's peace still reigns in our midst. God's mercy is still showered down upon us."
This year's celebration was once again broadcast live around the world in English and Spanish by EWTN, the Eternal World Television Network. Father Joesph Roesch, MIC, and Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD, were co-hosts of the three-and-a-half hour broadcast that presented a one hour pre-show, the Mass, and recitation of the Chaplet to an estimated audience of 22 million. The pre-show featured the Very Rev. Fr. Walter Dziordz, MIC, Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, Fr. David Lord, MIC, and representatives of the Marian lay ministries: Dr. Bryan Thatcher (Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy) and Joan and Dave Maroney (Mother of Mercy Messengers). At the three o'clock hour, The Divine Mercy Chaplet was sung by the Flynn family group, Still Waters.
Prior to the Mass, the Marians presented their own pre-show program featuring the theme: "Take Divine Mercy Home With You." Father Donald Van Alystne, MIC, was Master of Ceremonies for this three hour program for pilgrims. It featured inspirational speakers and music led by the National Shrine music director Bruce Carlson.