The Book That Sparked the Divine Mercy Movement... Read more
Photo: Marie Romagnano, RN
One Hundred Years of Gratitude
For a congregation that prides itself on serving as a humble, oft-overlooked "dust cloth" in the hands of the Lord, sweeping up the cobwebs in the corners of His House, being center stage is rare. But from Sept. 5-7, the closing of the jubilee celebration of the Congregation's presence in the United States, the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception took a weekend for recalling 100 years of ministry in the United States and giving thanks to God — and found themselves in a rare spotlight.
"One can't help but think that the reason the Congregation was restored, renewed, kept from going out of existence was precisely because our Lord and His mother had in mind that there would be a congregation that would be dedicated to proclaiming Divine Mercy, and we're so grateful that you do that and you do it so beautifully," said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., during a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Sunday.
Noting the Marians' publishing apostolate, its mission work around the world, and its administration of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass., Cardinal Wuerl told hundreds gathered in North America's largest Catholic church that the Marians "have always been joyful heralds of a very clear and simple message — the message of God's mercy, consolation, the message that God is always there for us." In imitation of Mary, he said, the Marians "have always said yes" to God's plan of salvation and have inspired countless lay people to do likewise.
View our photo gallery from the weekend.
View the Cardinal's full homily:
And his closing remarks at the conclusion of the Mass:
The weekend celebration capped off the jubilee year. It was in August 1913 that the Marians established a permanent presence in the United States, under the direction of a Lithuanian priest who, in 1909, secretly joined the Congregation when it had dwindled down to a single member due to persecution in war-torn Eastern Europe.
It was that priest, George Matulaitis — since beatified — who rewrote the Marian Constitutions. He was inspired to take the congregation founded in 1673 by Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski and make it flourish in contemporary times. Moreover, recognizing the Marian religious could not bring the Gospel to every home without working together with the laity, he established in seed form what is now known as the Association of Marian Helpers — the fruits of which include an American ministry headquartered in Stockbridge that has served at the epicenter in the spread of the Divine Mercy message and devotion, as revealed to St. Faustina. The Marians are publishers of her Diary, now recognized as a modern spiritual classic.
It was Blessed George who famously wrote "may [I] be like that common dust cloth which, when worn out, is tossed into a dark corner somewhere. May I be used and worn out in the same way as long as some tiny corner in Your Church is cleaned, as long as Your house is a little tidier and brighter. Grant that I may be despised, spent, and worn out if only your glory grow and spread, if only I may thus share in the growth of Your Church. Grant that I may be able to work and suffer for You, Your Holy Church, and its visible Head, the Holy Father."
Blessed Matulaitis has inspired subsequent generations to become faithful servants following in Christ's footsteps.
Indeed, as much as the jubilee celebration marked an opportunity to look back with thanksgiving, it also was cause for forward-charging hope about the future.
Six men professed perpetual vows on Friday, two of whom were ordained to the diaconate on the following day.
"A jubilee is a year of blessing, especially for the path which still awaits us," said the Superior General of the Marians' worldwide congregation, the Very Rev. Andrzej Pakula, MIC, in his homily before the six men made perpetual vows, thus becoming permanent members of the Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception.
"I can say the sign of God's blessing is found in these six men," said Fr. Andrzej, who flew in for the weekend, joined by Marian leaders serving in Rome, Poland, and Lithuania.
View his full homily:
Professing perpetual vows were: Br. Allen Alexander, MIC; Brother Keith Andre, MIC; Br. Michael Baker, MIC; Br. Gabriel Cillo, MIC; Br. Jonathan Inskip, MIC; and Br. Thaddaeus Lancton, MIC. All but Br. Keith are pursuing the priesthood. Brothers Jonathan and Thaddaeus took a step closer to the priesthood when, on Saturday, they were ordained to the transitional diaconate by the Most Rev. Barry C. Knestout, auxiliary bishop of Washington, D.C.
View his homily:
The many Marian Helpers who attended the centennial events echoed the very public acknowledgement by Cardinal Wuerl of the Marians' long labors for the salvation of souls.
"We've been involved with the Marians for many years," said Dorothea Creaven of Delaware. "We're excited to be a part of this movement of spreading Divine Mercy and love for Our Lady. We've received many graces as a result."
"I learned about St. Faustina and her Diary through the Marians," said Don Keith, who flew in for the celebration from California, along with his wife Jan. "It has inspired me to step out and be present to people."
"It has been amazing to watch how their mercy apostolate has been taking the Church by storm, just in the last few years alone. It seems to be everywhere now," said Rev. Melvin C. Blanchette, S.S., a formation advisor and a spiritual director at Catholic University of America's Theological College in Washington, D.C.
"I look at the young guys in formation, some of whom we've known for quite awhile, and it gives me a lot of hope, especially with the world today and the disaster it seems to be in," says KC Davy of Maryland, mother of Fr. Andy Davy, MIC, who is pastor of St. Mary Parish and School in Plano, Ill. She knows well the "dust cloth" quote. It's been Fr. Andy's rallying cry.
"I keep thinking of that quote," she said. "And it's true. The Marians are a small congregation, comparatively speaking, but they're everywhere — writing the books that they're writing, the humble parish priests on the front lines, etc. They're spreading out in such a short amount of time, just in the last three years even."
Indeed, the men who professed vows this past weekend represent a bumper crop of vocations in recent years for the Marians. The uptick has bucked trends within the Catholic Church in the United States, which has seen vocations drop precipitously in the past 20 years. The Marians, numbering more than 500 priests and brothers in 20 countries, now have 24 men in formation in the United States — "and a whole slew of guys looking to join," said Vocations Director Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC.
"It's huge," he said in an interview following Sunday's Mass of Thanksgiving. "We're at a point that we've been waiting and praying for for years. Divine Mercy is huge, and love of Our Lady is huge. These are guys who don't necessarily care what work they would do for the Marians — whether working in parishes, or at the Shrine, or in many of our apostolic ministries. What they just want is to serve our Lord, spread devotion to Mary Immaculate, and help spread the message of Divine Mercy in whatever capacity is needed."
Brother Michael, who joined with his five Marian brothers on Friday in pledging to perpetually live "in conformity to the life of Christ, who was poor, chaste, and obedient," said that as he was professing his perpetual vows, he couldn't help but to reflect upon the words of our Lord to St. Faustina — specifically, when Christ told her that she would help prepare the world for His final coming (see Diary of St. Faustina, 429).
"As perpetually professed members, we're now perpetually linked to that mission of helping spread the message of the Divine Mercy and preparing the world for His final coming," said Br. Baker, a California native. "I am both humbled and filled with gratitude to be a member of the religious congregation which, by God's providence, has been given the awesome task of helping aching mankind encounter the Divine Mercy Himself — Jesus Christ."
Deacon Thaddaeus thanks seminarian supporters: