After Pope Francis visited Our Lady of Knock in Ireland on the morning of Sunday Aug. 26, Holy Child Jesus parish in Richmond Hill held their own Our Lady of Knock celebration that same afternoon.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish association, teamed with the Knights of Columbus for their fifth annual charity barbecue honoring the Queen of Ireland.
Walter Cooper, a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians who organized the picnic, said the event was dedicated to Our Lady of Knock to honor her feast day, Aug. 21 and to commemorate Irish heritage. The Great Hunger is such an influential part of Irish and Irish-American heritage that it seemed appropriate to dedicate the food-pantry fund raiser to Our Lady of Knock, Cooper said.
The day was also a chance for families to gather together in the parish lawn for a meal accompanied by live guitar music, including Irish songs like “Our Lady of Knock.” And there was even a bishop of Ireland present for the celebration: Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros, who is the titular bishop of Eanach Dúin, Ireland.
Among the ladies enjoying the shade with friends and food was Frances Greene, a third generation Irish-American woman. Having a personal devotion to Our Lady of Knock, Greene said it was beautiful to see Pope Francis visit the shrine in Ireland.
“What our Blessed Mother teaches, we need now more than ever,” she said. Greene said she looks to the pope for leadership for the Church in Ireland and the entire world.
“He carries the burden of all the negative things that happen in the Church,” she said. But can help bring the Church to light by his “example and humility.”
Kate Mooney, also third-generation Irish, said she wishes the pope would have said something more direct when it came to sexual crimes in the Church and the lack of dignity for women as shown by the mother and baby homes in Ireland. She said it is time for the crimes in the Church to be investigated by laity, not bishops.
Although she is distraught by the news coming out of the universal Church, she has no intention of leaving. She said it is like in the Gospel reading for that day, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
Even members of her own family have given her hints that she should leave the Church. However, she said, she is full of hope in the Lord. The Church is not a game of statistics, but a community of believers.
Cooper said he was heartened by the turn out for the Mass concluding the World Meeting of Families. Although he realizes that not as many people came out to see him as during other trips, he still sees that people want to hear what he has to say and still have respect for the Church.
Cooper thinks that Pope Francis is the right man for the difficult man for the job laid out for him, bringing the Church to closer to Truth, Love, Justice and Mercy.