By Antonina Zielinska
Pilgrims filled buses at the crack of dawn in Brooklyn and Queens June 18 to embark on the diocesan pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass.
“The main purpose of this pilgrimage is to rediscover and celebrate the mercy of God in the cold world,” said Father John O’Connor, head of the diocesan Liturgy Commission.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio welcomed the pilgrims at the steps of the small shrine church located on a Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception complex on Eden Hill. He prayed with the pilgrims, including a prayer for the Pope’s intentions, so that pilgrims entering the Shrine’s Holy Door would receive a plenary indulgence. They also needed to fulfill the requirements of confession and communion.
Bishop DiMarzio explained that this pilgrimage was different from visiting a Holy Door in the diocese because it required more effort, more of a financial sacrifice and it offered the opportunity to bring one self out of one’s comfort zone. He likened the pilgrimage to when the prophets of old would go out into the desert to be able to better listen to the Lord.
During his homily at an outdoor Mass, Bishop DiMarzio spoke of the Saints of Mercy. He referred to Jesus’ message to St. Faustina Kowalska that the sin of mistrust in God’s mercy is a major obstacle.
“When we don’t trust God, we certainly cannot trust ourselves,” the bishop said.
At the end of Mass, the pilgrims received a special blessing with a first class relic of St. Faustina.
Doris St. Rose, from St. Catherine of Genoa, Brooklyn, said she enjoyed the day because it focused on prayer instead of talks and teachings. She came up with her parish group that brings Communion to the home- and hospital-bound.
The group was unable to secure enough seats on the bus, so its members decided to drive up. They started their day with a rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy in the car. St. Rose explained she was able to focus on prayer throughout the day.
“It’s so peaceful, we feel blessings surround us,” she said.
John Modeste, her fellow ministry member, said he was impressed by the architecture of the complex and was thankful to get a glimpse of the life of the Marian Fathers.
Rita, Margherita and Joe Ripepe, from St. Margaret, Middle Village, said they were grateful to be at the pilgrimage because they have been trying to come to the shrine for nearly two years. The pilgrimage they originally signed up for was cancelled at the last minute due to inclement weather.
Margherita said she was thankful for the opportunity especially after Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. because he spoke of the need for mercy often during his visit.
Rosalind Meyr, the secretary of the Legion of Mary at St. Matthias, Ridgewood, said she received a special grace during her pilgrimage.
“I wanted to be closer to the Lord,” she said. This pilgrimage “helped me take any anger that I had and give it to the Lord. It’s a spiritual experience that goes right into your soul.”
“It was a very spiritual day,” said Yvette Vives, a parishioner of Divine Mercy, Williamsburg. “I feel so much joy in my life.”
“God has had mercy on my life in so many ways,” she said. Adding that her devotion to the Divine Mercy comes from a friend, Rosa Espinosa, who gave her life entirely to the Lord and shared the devotion with her.
Vives said her devotion to the Divine Mercy was solidified when she saw how peacefully her friend died during Holy Week this year at 3:05 p.m., even though she was suffering a difficult illness.
Father Gerard Sauer, director of the diocesan Pilgrimage Office, said his office did not have trouble signing people up for the diocese’s first trip to the National Shrine of Divine Mercy as part of a special calendar of events celebrating the Holy Year. The shrine only accepts four buses at a time. The diocese brought four buses that made a total of eight stops in Brooklyn and Queens to bring 200 pilgrims to the shrine.
Upcoming diocesan pilgrimages for the Year of Mercy include the Oct. 25 pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C. and a pilgrimage to Assisi, Rome and the Holy Land in September.