HARTFORD – On Divine Mercy Sunday, snow squalls changed to sunny, blustery blue skies as more than 1,500 Catholics turned out for an April 3 event that included a public procession from the Bushnell Park Pavilion to the Cathedral of St. Joseph, passage through the Holy Door of Mercy, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the sacrament of reconciliation.
See gallery of photos by Aaron Joseph at http://thecatholictranscript.zenfolio.com/p154396477
The event was a high point in the archdiocese’s yearlong celebration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“We are giving a grand witness,” said Archbishop Leonard P. Blair as he addressed the crowd gathered for a prayer service at Bushnell Park. “This is a public act of faith to call upon the mercy of God for our archdiocese, for our cities and towns and for all of God’s people. Let us go forth in Christ – he is the way of mercy.”
Led by a police motorcade, those gathered at the pavilion then braved the wind and walked reverently but joyfully up the center of Farmington Avenue to the cathedral. Deacon Ernest Scrivani and Father Michael A. Ruminksi, organizers of the event, were out in front, followed by cross bearers, Knights of Columbus, Archbishop Blair and hundreds of pilgrims, all bundled up in hats and scarves.
Men carried aloft the Divine Mercy image of Jesus, surrounded by white lilies, while all walked in unison to “How Great Thou Art” played by the Sons of Portugal Band. Hundreds of others in attendance waited at the cathedral, where the bells pealed to beckon the faithful.
The pilgrims passed slowly and reverently through the Holy Door of Mercy. Some bowed, made the Sign of the Cross, held hands or dropped to their knees.
Archbishop Blair led all in silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, followed by Father Ruminski, who led the pilgrims in chanting the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
Archbishop Blair delivered the homily.
“When sin entered the world through the misguided use of freedom, through human choice ensnared by evil, then mercy was the form that God’s love took toward his wounded, alienated and lost creatures,” Archbishop Blair explained.
“As John Paul II said, mercy is love’s second name. It is love poured out for those who are wounded or sinful,” he said. Mercy is also defined in the Bible through the Hebrew word hesed as a “loving kindness or goodness to someone who is miserable.
“Mercy is exemplified in the public ministry of Jesus Christ,” the archbishop said, and every action he performed “is a kind of cameo of divine mercy to the afflicted, the needy, the poor and the sinful.
“What does this Divine Mercy Sunday during this Jubilee Year of Mercy ask of us?” the archbishop asked. “The command comes from Jesus himself: Be merciful even as your Father is merciful.”
Archbishop Blair told the pilgrims to look to the Our Father for instruction in forgiveness. He also urged those present to go to confession and discuss what they failed to do in terms of the works of mercy.
Following the conclusion of the liturgy, some participants gathered around the Divine Mercy image, while others took advantage of the opportunity for reconciliation. Attendees also shared their reasons for making the pilgrimage from Bushnell Park.
“I was invited by my sister and we are doing this in memory of our mother, Higinia Velazquez,” said Luz Velazquez from St. Mary Parish in New Britain. “She started promoting Divine Mercy in our parish.”
Luz’s sister Julia Velazquez chimed in. “It’s also an opportunity to show the people of Connecticut that we can be bold and be Catholic, as [author and speaker] Matthew Kelly states. And it’s a historical event – the Jubilee Year of Mercy. It’s not going to happen again, so we are making history.”
“It’s also a day to glorify the Lord,” Luz Velazquez interjected.
Norma Contois of Branford said, “It’s a chance for a plenary indulgence and it’s just a beautiful celebration.”
Tony Santangelo, of St. Mary the Immaculate Conception in Derby, volunteered to help carry the Divine Mercy image in the procession. “I’m here representing my church,” he said. “I’m honored and humbled. I also got to meet the archbishop and shake his hand.”
Still other participants recounted the highlights of the day.
“It was all a wonderful experience,” said Pat Holden of St. Martha’s in Enfield. “The procession was pretty amazing. I hope people saw it and found there is more to our religion.”
“It was awesome,” said Thomas Iacobucci of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Newington. “All the people in here, to see everybody, it was just an inspiration.”
Mike and Ellen Woolsey had a very special reason for making the pilgrimage from Jackson, Mich., to the cathedral. “To tell you the truth, the highlight is just being here with my daughter, Sister Faith Marie Woolsey,” Mr. Woolsey said.
For Sister Faith Marie, one of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in Meriden, the best part was “just seeing everybody all together praying – the turnout and the public witness.”