On Divine Mercy Sunday, April 8, a diverse congregation of Italian, Polish and English-speaking parishioners gathered at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church, Ridgewood, for a prayer service celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Witold Mroziewski.
Fathers Anthony Sansone, pastor, and Johny Chengalan Thomas, C.M.I., parochial vicar, participated in the service, which included the dedication of two images of the faith’s matriarchs: Our Lady of Czestochowa and the mother of Mary, St. Anne.
“We stay in the front of this altar in this beautiful church and we ask our Father to bless the icons of Our Lady of Czestochowa and St. Anne,” Bishop Mroziewski told the congregation.
“It is very significant that three years ago Bishop [Nicholas] DiMarzio blessed the Chapel of the Divine Mercy on the other side of this church and three years later we will pray together in the front of the icons of Our Lady of Czestochowa and St. Anne. Thanks to the community of this parish – the Americans, Italians, Polish-speaking, the other people who join together in this holy place. We are united in one faith under the protection of Divine Mercy.”
The first celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday occurred in 2000 when Pope St. John Paul II designated the first Sunday after Easter as a special feast. The date symbolized a connection to the year when St. Faustina Kowalska was canonized.
Revelations of Mercy
Based on the writings of the young, uneducated Polish nun, she recorded messages of mercy revealed to her by Christ in the 1930s. About 600 pages of revelations were revealed to her, when Jesus assured St. Faustina with one of many special messages recorded in her diary including: “Humanity will not find peace until it turns trustfully to divine mercy.”
What Pope St. John Paul II told the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square that day holds true to its word nearly 18 years later. According to his statement in the Vatican newspaper, the saintly pope said that the “message of Divine Mercy and the image of the merciful Christ of which Sister Faustina Kowalska speaks to us today are a vivid expression of the spirit of the Great Jubilee which the whole Church is celebrating with joy and fruitfulness… May the thought of God’s loving kindness stir up in your hearts new energies for works of faith and Christian solidarity.”
An Invitation from God
For those gathered at the Ridgewood church’s Divine Mercy observance, pious reverence and solemn celebration were the key takeaways. Congregants young and old took to heart the words Father Sansone, who shared how Divine Mercy is a direct invitation, relationship and grace from God.
“Despite all of our weaknesses and sins, we are loved by God in such a way that He sends His son Jesus the Christ to suffer, to die and rise back to life again so that He becomes a symbol for us of strength and courage in this world,” Father Sansone said.
“Truly we are blessed today because we come to venerate the saints who have come from the life of Jesus and the power of the spirit of God. St. Anne nurtured the faith in Mary that allowed her to say yes to God and accepted the very privilege and humility of being the mother of Jesus the Christ – Redeemer, Messiah and Savior. Truly we are blessed this day and for our strength we rely not only on the intercession of the saints, but most of all in the presence of Jesus Christ who is Divine Mercy for all of us.”
With incense making its way around the church and up into the heavens, Bishop Mroziewski and the clergy made their way to the new section of the church dedicated to the matriarchs. Father Sansone revealed the new images to sounds of awe and signs of the cross.
Each priest said a special blessing and the bishop was the first to light an offertory candle.
Nations around the world have consecrated themselves to the Blessed Mother. In Poland, they refer to Our Lady of Czestochowa as the Queen and protectress of the country. The Marian shrine there attracts millions of pilgrims from around the world to venerate the original painting.
A similar devotional following also exists in Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal – where a group of Italian women faithfully pray to the Blessed Mother since joining the parish 30 years ago.
“For us, today is a marvelous day,” said Maria Pellegrino. “She’s the Madonna. She’s the mother of all.”
Her friend and fellow parishioner Geuseppina Vinci were among the first to light votive candles at both images. Despite the language barriers that can exist within such a diverse parish, their faith allows them to understand each other.
“When I come over here, I was embarrassed because I didn’t understand nothing,” said Vinci. “But this is very, very special.”