From May 4-6, 2015, the town of Marystown and Burin on the Burin Peninsula on the island of Newfoundland, Canada, was the setting for a parish mission facilitated by Fr. David Purcell, C.Ss.R. and Anne Walsh, a Lay Missionary of the Most Holy Redeemer, both from the Edmonton-Toronto Province. We decided to entitle the mission: Our Mother of Perpetual Help – How do I click with this Icon?! The technological allusion was not lost on the people who took part, as many people are now familiar with icons on their computer and smart phone screens.
When Anne and Fr. David arrived in Marystown, we were delighted to be greeted by the Archbishop and all of the priests of the Burin Peninsula, and we all shared a meal and some lively conversation together. It was a wonderful experience of community and hospitality.
Each evening at the mission prayer service, Fr. David and Anne explored with the community some aspect of the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, and invited them to connect this aspect of the icon with their own lives. Each night the icon was enthroned and venerated. Reflective music, was led by Anne Walsh on guitar and Fr. Cecil Critch on organ.
Mental prayers and prayers of affections were based on the writings of St. Alphonsus. Scripture readings and intercessory prayer rounded out the celebration. On Monday night, we explored Our Mother’s Help Through Loving Eyes, and we contemplated the gaze of Mary, and how it reflects God’s loving gaze upon us, God’s beloved. On Tuesday we contemplated how Mary Holds Us in Sickness and Suffering. To conclude our time of mission on Wednesday, we celebrated the Votive Mass in Honour of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and the extended homily focussed on how Mary Helps Us to see Jesus in the Breaking of the Bread.
The mission featured other times of gathering. On Monday and Tuesday, we gathered at 12:10 p.m. for Mass with an extended homily. On Wednesday we entered into the traditional Devotions to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Each of these were followed by a delicious lunch prepared by the parish priest, Fr. Cecil Critch and the parish housekeeper, Geraldine Power. During lunch each day there was a catechetical discussion led by Fr. David and Anne. These conversations were lively and interactive, and were very well-attended. They provided opportunities for people to ask questions about their faith, and engage one another, Fr. David, Anne and their own parish priest and deacon in conversation.
During the noon Mass on Tuesday we celebrated the Anointing of the Sick, and after the catechetical session we also celebrated the Anointing of the Sick in the context of a Mass at one of the local nursing homes.
An unexpected blessing on this mission was the participation of Deacon Nelson Boren, who was completing his deaconate year in Sacred Heart Parish, Marystown and St. Patrick’s Parish, Burin. One week later, we participated in Deacon Nelson’s ordination to the priesthood at St. Patrick Basilica in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Deacon Nelson used this mission as a time of retreat in preparation for ordination, and invited the parishioners to walk with him during this experience. He had learned a devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the Philippines where he was born. His mother taught him this devotion as she attributes the birth of Deacon Nelson to the perpetual help of Mary.
Though we’ve known each other for many years, this was the first time that Anne and Fr. David had an opportunity to work closely together, and both found it enriching, growth-filled, lively and a lot of fun! We discovered that we work very well together and, although undoubtedly very different, we are complementary in style, skills sets and temperament. “There were no awkward silences,” as one of our confreres is known to say! We both have much on which to reflect, and much for which to give thanks, as a result of this mission. We certainly clicked with the icon, and with the people of Marystown-Burin, and they with us and Our Lady of Perpetual Help. We are filled with gratitude.