Mission Blog Day 1
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Fifth Avenue, New York. His Eminence Cardinal Dolan likes to refer to St. Patrick’s as “America’s Parish Church.” Last night, amidst the droves of New Yorkers, mixed in with tourists from all over the world, it truly seemed more like “the World’s Parish Church.” Our missionaries, sprinkled around the great cathedral, were handing out rosaries and spreading love to hundreds of souls, and many of them then headed into one of our seven confessionals for a hug from Jesus. Lines got so long by late afternoon that the good Cardinal himself headed into the confessionals to dispense the Lord’s mercy. What a night! I have so many stories I will just leave you with a sprinkling to leave a little glimmer into what this very joy-filled evening was like….
“A reason for everything”
Selena from Rhode Island is approached a missionary.
“May I have one of the rosaries please?….
“… Let me ask you, am I Catholic? I was baptized, but never received First Holy Communion or Confirmation….
“I have to tell you, I don’t know if I agree with all of the Church’s teachings...”
“Selena, I have a surprise for you. I don’t think I understood them fully either when I re-converted 25 years ago….
“You know, faith is a journey, not an end point. I’m still on that journey myself. And so are you. You will come to understand the wisdom of Chruch’s teachings over the course of that journey. All you have to do is take the first step….”
“Steve, I know everything happens for a reason. There’s a reason I found you here tonight. I’m going to put this together…”
“Keep the Faith”
Yvonne from Cork, Ireland stops for a chat with her two teenage kids. Their first visit to the great Cathedral, and they are in awe.
“Can I have the black one please?.....”
”I’d like the red.”
“The purple for me.”
“Good to have you hear, Yvonne. Many of our missionaries have a particularly fond place in our hearts for the Irish. In fact, most of us have a little Irish in us. And after all, the Irish saved the Faith many years ago….”
“I’m not sure of where I am, Steve. I lost my husband two years ago,” Yvonne finally blurts out, a bit bleary-eyed. “…Honestly, I have kind of given up on God. I feel He let me down. I’m not over it.”
We hug. Yvonne is in tears. And she knows that God has not given up on her, and never will.
“Can we go to Mass here, really? 5:30?”
“Of course. Keep the Faith, Yvonne.”
“It’s all we really have, isn’t it?”
“You Broke Through”
A middle-aged man from India enters the Cathedral with his friend, Dan. Our joy-filled missionary there, who’s taken the long train ride up from the Jersey shore, greets them.
“Welcome to St. Patrick’s,”, she beams. “Would you like a rosary to pray with?”
“Oh, thank you. Red please,” Dan replies.
“So, what brings you to New York?....”
The two friends pause for a chat. Terry eventually brings up the difficult topic of confession. “Holy Week! St. Patrick’s! Could there be a better time?”
Charles’ son is actually studying to be a priest. He’s been after Dan for the last three years to come back to the sacrament of confession. No dice.
But somehow, Dan responds to Terry. After a long back and forth, he joins the line. An hour later, he emerges glowing, finds Terry, and gives her a big hug. And Charles does too.
“I can’t believe you got him to go,” he whispers. “My son is going to be so happy for Dan!
“This is the only place I trust”
Nancy is approached by one of our missionaries. He’s been watching her out of the corner of his eye, in between other conversations. She’s lingering near a side altar.
“Excuse me, miss, would you like a rosary?”
Nancy beams back, “Oh yes! Thank you!”
“How are you doing, Nancy? I feel like there’s something on your mind….”
The flood gates open. Breast cancer. Abusive boyfriend. Uncaring doctors.
“But here, in this place, I feel cared for. I feel loved. It’s the only place I trust.”
“A Chance Meeting”
A member of one of our NJ RC teams from many years ago, since moved away to North Carolina, taps a missionary on the shoulder. It’s Alex! We embrace warmly.
Alex has been trying the last two Saturdays to get to confession at his parish’s Saturday evening confession window just before the Saturday night Mass. He and 10 others had been left in the confession line, unattended, two weeks in a row; priest ran out of time. Now, Alex is on a business trip to Manhattan and decides to head to the Cathedral to see if they have confessions….
The missionary is stationed near the confessional manned at that moment by His Eminence. Alex finally gets his Lenten confession in, in a very special way. Then he picks up a bag of rosaries and joins us for the rest of the long evening, inviting others home.
A chance meeting. Really?
“Fr. Salvo Walks By”
A missionary is struggling in broken Spanish with a young woman from Madrid. Came to visit the Cathedral but hasn’t been to confession in a while, it seems.
“Quieres confessor in Espanol,?” the missionary stumbles. She gets it, but can’t believe he has a priest who could confess her in Spanish.
“Teines un padre que hablas espanol?” she questions.
The missionary knows he has a Spanish-speaking legionary about 150 yards away, but that would be a long walk through the crowds and she seems in a hurry. Just then, Fr. Salvo, the joyful Cathedral pastor, is scurrying by, looking for an open confessional.
“Hablo espanol, senorita!”, he tells her. Off they march.
A long while later, the young woman kneels in a pew near the missionary. She’s had her confession. And she gives the missionary a knowing, thankful glance. She’s home.
April 4, 2023