Cardinal Joseph Tobin CSsR, Archbishop of Newark, U.S.A., presided at a solemn Mass at St Alphonsus Church in Rome on Sunday 26 June, the eve of the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, and led a procession with an icon of Our Lady through the streets around her Shrine in Rome. The concelebrants were Msgr Gérard Pettipas CSsR, Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan in Canada and Fr Michael Brehl CSsR, Superior General of the Redemptorist Congregation.
“With joy, we begin this solemn celebration after two years of limitations caused by Covid. We thank God that we can all come together to pray to the Mother of Perpetual Help,” said Fr Gianni Congiu CSsR, Rector of the shrine, as he welcomed the participants to the liturgy. He also led the Perpetual Novena before the Holy Mass.
Cardinal Tobin recalled in his homily that the celebration marks 156 years since Pius IX entrusted the icon to the care of the Redemptorist missionaries, and entrusted them with the mission of “making it known in the world”.
The icon was not exclusively associated with the Redemptorists; there was always a clear link with the poor, immigrants, war victims and the forgotten. It is a powerful tool of evangelisation, especially in the big cities of Asia.
The cardinal added that he had met non-Christians who, when asked why they visit the “Novena Church” in Singapore, replied: “We want to talk to the merciful Lady”.
Cardinal Tobin said that this precious icon of Our Lady would help us find the courage to look at other icons, images of suffering people that surround us. And it will encourage us to ask for a sign of hard hearts changed into merciful hearts.
“In this image of Perpetual Help, Mary teaches us how God chose Her to participate in the merciful and abundant redemption in Christ. All who look at Her image are invited to reflect on how God asks them to become ambassadors of mercy,” said the Cardinal.
Numerous Redemptorists from the Roman communities attended the celebration; there were Redemptorist students, religious sisters and lay faithful representing the pastoral ministry of the various language groups present in the shrine of the Mother of Perpetual Help – Italian, English, Polish and Spanish. The procession was accompanied by the Orchestral Band of Lazio Region, which held a short musical entertainment in the churchyard at the end.
The celebration of Our Mother of Perpetual Help feast began with a nine-day novena and will end on the evening of 27 June, the liturgical feast day of Mary.
Due to the pandemic, the procession through the streets of the city was not held for the past two years, and a limited number of people could only attend the celebration in the church. Therefore, the resumption of the traditional celebration of the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help was gladly welcomed by the faithful.