The superior general of the Redemptorists, Fr. Michael Brehl, is in Campo Grande, Brazil, participatin in the opening celebration of the first International Congress of Our Lady of Perpetual Help which is taking place from the 12th to the 16th of May. On Monday evening he concelebrated the Eucharist with the provincial superior of Campo Grande, Fr. Joaquim Parron, and the participants of the Congress. Fr. Dirson Gonçalves, the rector of the Sanctuary/Shrine of Campo Grande, animated the celebration. The church was full of faithful people who also received with joy an official copy of the original Icon brought from Rome by Fr. Luciano Panella.
Fr. Enrique López presided over the celebration. He spoke to the people, during his homily, about the meaning of icons and recalled that this Icon is really a synthesis of three traditional icons: the icon of the Mother of God, the icon of the Virgin of the Passion and the icon of the Virgin who indicates, with one of her hands, the Son, the Redeemer of the world. These icons are well known and ancient in the Church and are, in a certain way, present in the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Fr. Enrique also said that the Redemptorist missionaries gathered this week in Campo Grande represent the Congregation scattered throughout the world and while they are here, among other tasks, will try to study, revitalize and spread devotion to Our Lady.
At the end of Mass, Fr. Michael Brehl spoke to the people gathered in the Sanctuary/Shrine, first in Portuguese and then in English, counting on the translation of Fr. Joaquim Parron. “Thank you for hosting this week here in Campo Grande. We are here, coming from all over the world, and we are happy to celebrate with you this day,” he said.
The superior general of the Redemptorists began his message about the Congress in this way: “There is no greater joy in the heart of a mother than to see her children gathered together, sharing a banquet around the altar. You can imagine the joy of Our Lady, Mother of Perpetual Help, this night. Her family gathered here, coming from all parts of the world: from Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines; from every country in Latin American; from the Caribbean and North America, from Europe and also from Africa. It is her family that gathers in this Congress to honor her as our Mother.”
And Fr. Brehl continued: “The Congress of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is not just a week of study and reflection. It is also a week of celebration. It is a week to pray. It is a time for receiving the graces that God has to offer each of us through the intercession of our Mother of Perpetual Help. Some people asked why this Congress is being held in Campo Grande, since it is not a city with easy access to the rest of the world. It is being held here in Campo Grande because in this city live a people who love Our Lady and we cannot hold her Congress far from the people who love her.”
The superior general of the Redemptorists also stressed that: “Our Lady does not only belong to the Redemptorists. She belongs to the whole People of God.” And he made an affectionate gesture to the gathered assembly and said: “She belongs to you!” He continued: “It is important for us to be with you this week, to celebrate this Mass with you and to participate in the novena on Wednesday when many others will come for their devotion, and to celebrate the Mass with you on Friday. We are going to pray together in your presence because Our Lady belongs to you!”
Fr. Brehl made reference to the gesture made at the “Gloria” of the Mass, when the assembled community welcomed the Icon from Rome: “We ask this parish and this sanctuary/shrine to receive this gift that has come from Rome. Fr. Luciano, the rector of the Sanctuary/Shrine in Rome, brought this Icon to remain in this church. This gift will be a permanent reminder of this week together here in Campo Grande. My final word is: thank you!”
(Translation: Fr. Joseph Dorsey, CSsR)