And the Hand-Off Goes to ... Pope Francis!
By Felix Carroll (Oct 9, 2013)
If you'll note the photo above, two things immediately stand out. One: the Pope, of course. Two: a man holding out a Divine Mercy image.
That man is Fr. Dante Aguero, MIC, superior of the Marians' Argentinean Vicariate
Mission accomplished. Members of Pope Francis' entourage graciously accepted the gift as the Holy Father made the rounds in the Popemobile on Wednesday, Sept. 18, in St. Peter's Square in Rome.
It was a fitting moment in more ways than one. The Pope, after all, has made the mercy of God the hallmark of his pontificate. Moreover, he has just announced the date (April 27, 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday) for the canonization of Blessed John Paul II, known as the "Divine Mercy Pope" for his steadfast promotion of the Divine Mercy message and devotion. Finally, handing the Holy Father a Divine Mercy image was icing on the cake for the 15th annual international meeting of the Association of Marian Helpers.
The meeting, at the Marians' headquarters in Rome, focused primarily on many of Congregations' worldwide efforts to spread Divine Mercy, including the new initiative of printing and distributing high-quality Divine Mercy images on canvas, identical to the one now in the possession of the Holy Father.
"It was a great moment," said Kevin Dougherty, executive director of operations for the Marian Helpers Center in Stockbridge, Mass. "We had been talking earlier about trying to get in close enough and present something to the Pope. We decided on the image, since that seemed only fitting.
"So as we took our places by the railing to cheer on the Pope, Fr. Dante held the image high in the air," Mr. Dougherty continues. "Meanwhile, the Vatican photographers from across the way were encouraging Fr. Dante to keep the image held up high, and as Pope Francis approached, it worked — it caught the Pope's attention. The Pope gave a nod. He recognized the image, and Fr. Dante was able to hand it to one of Pope Francis' assistants."
Seeing the Pope up close was one of many highlights of the annual meeting of Association leaders who are charged with helping to bring Christ's message of redemption to the world through the charism of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.
Amidst seminars and talks involving Association leaders from the United States, Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland, Argentina, and England, the meeting included many opportunities to foster spiritual growth. A highlight was a private Mass at Blessed John Paul II's tomb. In his homily, the main celebrant, Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC, the Marians' vicar general, spoke about Blessed John Paul's ability to teach by example during his life.
"He taught us how to pray," Fr. Joe said. "We can always remember how recollected he was with his eyes tightly closed during Masses before huge numbers of people. He let nothing distract him. He was united with God in those moments. ... He taught us how to get things done. ... Finally, at the end of his life, he taught us how to accept suffering and death with grace and dignity according to the will of God. He is a great saint, and he continues to intercede for the Church."
It was Mr. Dougherty's first trip to Rome and his first Association meeting since taking over at the Marian Helpers Center, following the retirement of Fran Bourdon.
"Being at the Vatican, praying before the tomb of Blessed John Paul II, and seeing the Pope, really brought home how the work we do at the Marian Helpers Center is so intertwined with the mission and ancient truths of the worldwide Church," Mr. Dougherty said.
The meeting also provided opportunities to brainstorm and share initiatives on ways to evangelize and strengthen the bonds between the laity and the priests and brothers of the Congregation of Marian Fathers. Worldwide some 500,000 members strong, the Association of Marian Helpers is the spiritual benefit society that prayerfully and financially supports the Marian Congregation's charism of spreading devotion to Divine Mercy and Mary Immaculate, praying for the deceased, and serving in parishes where the need is greatest.
Mr. Dougherty traveled to the conference with Mr. Bourdon; Br. Andrew Maczynski, MIC, general promoter of the Association of Marian Helpers; and Maciej Talar, manager of the International Department in Stockbridge.
Mr. Dougherty and Mr. Bourdon gave presentations on books recently published by Marian Press in Stockbridge; the seminarian campaign; the new Hearts Afire Parish-Based Programs for the New Evangelization; and, yes, the highly successful program of providing museum-quality Divine Mercy images on canvas at low cost in order to get the image into every home, as Jesus requested through St. Faustina.
God willing, one of those images may now be in the living quarters of the Holy Father. Imagine that.