Welcoming and mercy, the Redemptorist presence in shrine leadership


The Shrine, a place of prayer and evangelisation

Just type the word “shrines” into our website, and you will immediately see the Redemptorist presence in shrines worldwide: Brazil, the Philippines, Poland, Mexico, Italy, the United States, etc. There are about 60 shrines in the world run by Redemptorists involving about 500 confreres, which means 17% of our Congregation is engaged in this important ministry.

Among the most famous shrines in the world, the names of the four led by Redemptorists stand out: Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida (Brazil), Basilica of Santa Ana en Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré (Canada), Shrine of Baclaran (Philippines), the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Rome). Besides the larger ones, many pilgrims are also attracted by the local shrines where Redemptorists carry out their ministry: Our Lady in Tuchow (Poland), Our Lady of Perpetual Help in La Laguna (Mexico), National Shrine of St. John Neumann (USA), Materdomini Shrine (Italy), Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Enugu (Nigeria) and many others.

Redemptorists at the 2nd International Meeting for Shrine Rectors at the Vatican

Father Ronival dos Reis, CSsR, Prefect of the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rome, St Alphonsus Church, led a dialogue with Father Eduardo Catalfo, CSsR, Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida, Brazil and with Father Domingos Savio da Silva, CSsR, who works at the Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida.

They are in Rome because they participated in the 2nd International Meeting for shrine rectors and those assisting them worldwide, held from 9 to 11 November 2023 at the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican.

Father Ronival asked them to briefly recount the work being done at the Shrine and the experience of this recently concluded International Congress:

“A very positive experience to see that the Shrine of Brazil is walking in the direction proposed by the Magisterium of Pope Francis,” reported Father Eduardo. Then he added: “Next year’s novena will have as its reflection the Jubilee of Hope.” “I would like to emphasise,” Father Eduardo reported, “that in Brazil, the province of Nossa Senhora Aparecida includes the states of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais and Bahia. In this new province, we have large and important shrines. In addition to the Shrine of Nossa Senhora Aparecida, there is also the Shrine of Bom Jesus da Lapa, the Shrine of St. Joseph, in Belo Horizonte, and the Shrine of Curvelo in Minas Gerais, dedicated to Saint Gerardo.”

Father Domingos recalled that shrines are a place of passage but always a house of prayer, so the welcome is significant because those who arrive are always pilgrims. “We as a missionary Congregation, Father Domingos said, should understand that the Shrine is a place of mission. A place that, for many people, sometimes represents almost the only experience of their deepest faith. Therefore, a place of prayer, let us also say, is a place of mission that is also a strong time, helping pilgrims live the entire jubilee year as a deeper life experience.”

Father Eduardo commented that there is a whole pastoral work developed with those who collaborate in the shrines: “The gesture of welcoming is a team effort, both of the brothers, the religious communities that work, the volunteers, the committed faithful, who carry out their tasks in the Shrine, and the collaborators. This is also fundamental and always because of the mission.”

Father Roni said: “We have been able to understand these powerful moments that we have touched, and that also helps us to intensify them in our shrines. These special moments are, in a way, even more intense.” “The Pope spoke a bit about forgiveness, Father Roni continued; he also spoke about being welcomed, embraced, about having this deep experience of God in these special moments. The Word meets the Word in the celebrations, in the Eucharist, in the sacrament of reconciliation, of penance, which is forgiveness for all. And he insists on forgiveness for all and being merciful because God is also merciful with us.”

Father Eduardo reported something important: “One last feature I would like to highlight is the Redemptorist presence as a protagonist in Brazil’s shrines for more than 40 years, since the 1980s. The National Shrine of Aparecida has exercised wonderful leadership in the shrines of Brazil. We meet habitually every two years and always live with this perspective of exchanging ideas, working together and ensuring that other shrines, small or medium-sized, also gain this beautiful visibility.”

At the end of the dialogue, Father Roni noted that there was a significant Redemptorist representation at the international meeting: apart from confreres coming from Brazil, there were also Redemptorists from Italy: the rector of the St Gerard Shrine of Materdomini, Father David, and Father Daniele, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help of Bussolengo in the diocese of Verona.

About the International Meeting in the Vatican

“The Shrine: A House of Prayer, on the Way to the Jubilee 2025” was the theme of the 2nd international meeting for shrine rectors and those assisting them, organised by Vatican Dicastery for Evangelisation. It gathered six hundred participants.

After three days of conferences and sharing valuable experiences, the group met the Holy Father. In fact, during the Audience of 11 November 2023, the Pope addressed the participants, saying, among other things:

“In the history of each Shrine, it is easy to touch the faith of our faithful people, which is kept alive and nourished through prayer, first and foremost the Rosary, which helps to pray through meditation on the mysteries of the life of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. To enter spiritually into those mysteries, feeling a living part of what constitutes our salvation history, is a sweet commitment, which gives a flavour of the Gospel to daily life.”

The Pope recalled three reasons why God’s people go to the Shrine: to pray, be consoled, and look to the future with greater confidence.

In the end, he recommended: “In our Shrines, we pay a lot of attention to the welcome – please don’t forget this: to welcome pilgrims well – and it is right that it should be so.”

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