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Photo: Dan Valenti
Father Anthony Gramlich, MIC (left), with Monsignor Jeremias Rebenal (middle), who served as main celebrant and homilist, and co-celebrant Fr. Edgardo Jocson of St. Michael’s Church in Cranford, N.J.
'With Him in Unity'
By Dan Valenti (Jun 25, 2012)
About 500 pilgrims visited the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy on Saturday, June 23, to celebrate the Marian Fathers' annual Filipino Day. Busses came from parishes throughout the Northeast.
"We come every year for this," said Victoria Alpapara from Hudson County in New Jersey. "It is a day to experience thanks for all the blessings that God has granted to us. To be here is to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit inside of us. It is wonderful to experience such peace."
'Refreshed and Renewed'
Francisca Ramos, Victoria's friend, picked up on the thought: "To pray here in this beautiful chapel [the National Shrine] and on these beautiful grounds is to feel enlightened. I come away feeling refreshed and renewed. When I get home, I try to share this feeling with others."
"Yes," Victoria added. "Renewed and fruitful, so we can have this peace and strength when we get back to our [everyday] lives, with our sorrows, problems, and
Victoria and Francisca epitomize something Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, vocations director of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception and spiritual director of the Thirteenth of the Month Club newsletter, often says to describe the determined spirituality of Filipino women: "They are the Green Berets of the Catholic Church."
The line never fails to get a hearty laugh. It is a laugh of recognition acknowledging the truth contained in the observation: Many a Filipino woman — through her prayer, patience, persistence, and perseverance — has brought countless people back into the faith or introduced them to Catholicism for the first time.
In Fr. Donald's case, such a woman worked with his mother, then a lapsed Catholic, and reignited the spark of faith. The result can be seen every day, as Fr. Donald continues his evangelistic work as a vocations director, priest, best-selling author, and popular speaker.
'Are We Willing to Trust That?'
The day, of course, centered on the Eucharist, particularly the celebration of Holy Mass under beautiful sunshine at the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine. Monsignor Jeremias Rebenal, retired prelate from the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., served as main celebrant. Homilist and co-celebrant Fr. Edgardo Jocson of St. Michael's Church in Cranford, N.J., reminded pilgrims that God is love and mercy:
A loving father will never abandon his children. Let us never forget: We are His children, and He will always be there for us. Perhaps the main message that Jesus gave to St. Faustina is that there is nothing to fear and nothing to worry about. Jesus asks us today: "Are we willing to trust that, and are we willing to gives our lives to that [truth]?"
In an interview before Mass, Fr. Edgardo spoke of "the opportunity for faith" represented by Filipino Day. "It's wonderful to see so many people coming together to celebrate their shared cultural and spiritual heritage. This fellowship springs from the truth represented by the Lord's mercy for us."
'His Assurance to Us'
Father Edgardo, who has been to Eden Hill before but was making his first Filipino Day visit, spoke of the importance of God's mercy: "Divine Mercy is the Lord's real effort to assure us of His love and goodness. This is His assurance to us, that what He truly desires for all of us is to be more with Him in unity. There's nothing else that we need to do but trust in His mercy and love."
Asked to expound on the thought, Fr. Edgardo said that we "need to allow God to show us how much He loves us. God loves us. There is really nothing to worry about. That's the message of today's Gospel reading" [Mt 6:24-34 — "Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day"].
A Strong Marian Presence
Many Marians were on hand to help with the day, including Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, a co-celebrant at Mass; Deacon Ron McBride, MIC, who helped with the planning; Br. Chris Alar, MIC, driving a shuttle cart and general assistance; Br. Brent Thayer, MIC, information and lector at Mass; and Br. Thad Lancton, MIC, shuttle cart driver.
Brother Brent said the day gave him a boost: "It's great to see these people coming together like this. To see their devotion, their love of Divine Mercy, is like an endorsement of our work here at the National Shrine. It gives a different perspective to what we are doing." Brother Chris spoke is how such a day "allows us to see the power of Divine Mercy. This is the fruit of what the Marians are doing on behalf of the message of Divine Mercy."
The day began at 10 a.m. and concluded at 5 p.m. Many enjoyed picnics on the benches under the welcoming shade of the hospitality tents and visited the various shrines located on Eden Hill. In addition to Holy Mass, Filipino Day included confessions, a Rosary for Life, Adoration, Benediction, praying of the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy, and the blessing of religious articles.