The faithful venerate the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the sanctuary after an annual Mass for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford.
Archbishop Leonard P. Blair was the celebrant.
The archbishop also blessed the image, which was carried into the cathedral by members of the Grupo Guadalupano, an organization of Mexican Americans. (Photo by Aaron Joseph)
Carmela Recupero arranges poinsettias in the sanctuary of St. Anthony of Padua Church in the South Village neighborhood of New York Dec. 22.
Ms. Recupero and fellow volunteers were decorating the church in advance of the parish's Christmas Masses. (CNS photo /Gregory A. Shemitz)
BRISTOL – The Archdiocese of Hartford Office of Religious Education and Evangelization (OREE) presented its annual Faith and Evangelization Congress on Nov. 15 at St. Paul High School in Bristol. This year’s theme was titled “Making God Known: Sharing the Stories of Faith.”
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' Christmas greeting to the Vatican bureaucracy this year was an extended warning against a host of spiritual ills to which he said Vatican officials are prone, including "spiritual Alzheimer's," "existential schizophrenia," publicity-seeking, the "terrorism of gossip" and even a poor sense of humor.
Shawnee Baldwin, coordinator of youth and young adult ministry for the Office of Religious Education and Evangelization, was honored with a regional leadership award Dec. 6 from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The apostolic visitation of U.S. communities of religious women, though initially met with some resistance, ended up promoting a greater sense of unity in the church and helped the women become more aware of how God is working in their lives, said the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
"May the self-assessment and dialogue sparked by the apostolic visitation continue to bear abundant fruit for the revitalization and strengthening of religious institutes in fidelity to Christ, to the Church and to their founding charisms," said Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, the prefect, at a Dec. 16 news conference at the Vatican.
EAST HAVEN – Carol Scussel and Judy Esposito could never have imagined either the success or longevity of the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help that they began 18 years ago at of Our Lady of Pompeii Parish.
From a humble beginning with an attendance of 35 people in 1995, the annual nine-week novena ended on April 24 this year with more than 200 people gathered for the concluding Mass, eucharistic adoration, outdoor candlelight rosary procession, individual veneration before the image of Our Lady and presentation of a holy card. (Click here to visit photo gallery.)
"It’s exciting and very rewarding for us because we see so many people who have benefitted from the petitions and prayer intentions," said Mrs. Esposito. "We’ve seen many people cry because the experience was so spiritual for them."
Adds Mrs. Scussel, "We have so much devotion to the Blessed Mother. I know prayers have been answered through her intercession."
It was a parishioner from a neighboring parish who first approached Mrs. Scussel about the idea of holding the novena. "It was such a coincidence because I had just received a prayer card with the image of Our Mother of Perpetual Help," she recalled.
After obtaining permission from Father Dennis Hussey, who was then pastor of the parish, the two women began the nine-week novena as a Lenten program for the parish, starting two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ending the week after Easter. They ordered novena booklets from the Redemptorists, who have been charged with spreading devotion to the image since 1865.
Visiting priests are invited to lead the weekly devotion that includes a Scripture reading, homily, exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, recitation of the rosary, and the novena prayers accompanied by hymns to the Blessed Mother. The priests also lead healing prayers and conduct the blessing and investiture of the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, or brown scapular.
Other members of the parish have also volunteered to help with the novena, including the Knights of Columbus and the Columbian Squires, the youth fraternity of the Knights for boys between the ages of 10 and 18.
Both women find it hard to believe that it’s been 18 years since they organized the novena. "The time has flown by," said Mrs. Scussel, "but we hope to continue for another 18 years."
They attribute the growing success of the novena to their pastor, Father John L. Lavorgna. "He’s wonderful … such a blessing and so inspirational," said Mrs. Scussel.
Father Lavorgna said the novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help "is a wonderful and joyful tradition of our parish."
He said, "I am grateful for the involvement of so many members of our community, from the parish and beyond," he said, "because the novena really strikes to the heart of our Catholic identity – joining together to worship the Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; to seek the intercession of Our Blessed Mother; and to pray for our needs and those of our relatives, friends and neighbors. During this Year of Faith, and in the face of so many societal challenges, these spiritual exercises take on a whole new meaning and purpose. We need to turn to God always."
As parishioners concluded the novena, the two friends were tearful as they stood in the back of the church receiving expressions of gratitude from participants. "It’s so emotional," said Mrs. Esposito. "This is our best one yet … so many prayers were answered."
The ancient icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help is one of the most recognizable images of the Mother of God in the world. The original miraculous icon and shrine are housed in the Church of St. Alphonsus Liguori in Rome.