Province Ministries Observe Lent

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NEW YORK — Parishes and ministries throughout the Province began their Lenten journey last week with the usual extended schedule of Masses, traditional Stations of the Cross, confession, and communal penance services.

Ash Wednesday was busy at many churches, including St. Francis of Assisi Church in Midtown, shown in photo, where  parishioners and visitors came to attend Mass and have their foreheads marked with ashes. For the first time, those coming to the Breadline on West 31st Street were able to receive ashes in addition to the standard sandwiches and coffee.

Lent will take on innovative new expressions at several parishes. Here is a sampling of some of the ways people can observe Lent at Holy Name ministries from Boston to Florida.

New England
St. Anthony Shrine in Boston is launching “The Pieta Ministry, A Spiritual Retreat for Parents Who Have Lost a Child.” The March 28 to 29 program is a spiritual retreat for grieving parents.

Coming together around the Beatitudes’ text, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” the Pieta Ministry provides a loving and warm place where grieving parents can find comfort, rest and peace — at least for a time, according to the brochure.

The retreat includes dinner, opening prayer and welcome, group/individual sessions, reflection time, memorial Masses, and accomodations at a hotel in downtown Boston. The cost for couples is $300; $230 for singles. Information is available through Diane Monaghan at  617-542-6440 ext. 116 and

St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church in Hartford asked parishioners to bring in last year’s dried palms, which were blessed by fire and turned into ashes for distribution on Ash Wednesday.

Throughout Lent, the church will be open from 4:30 to 7 p.m. for quiet meditative reflection. “Lunch & Spiritual Talk” will take place on Tuesdays following the 12:05 Mass.

Parishioners are also reminded daily of their Lenten journey through rice packets that are distributed on the first Sunday of Lent. Containing a one-serving portion of rice that an adult in Haiti might have to eat every two to three days, the packet is a constant reminder of others in need. “St. Patrick-St. Anthony has a sister parish in Haiti, and the rice packet helps to identify with the reality of our sisters and brothers there,” according to Michael Jones, OFM, who originated the idea.

“Gaelic and Garlic,” a pasta feast and basket bazaar fundraiser, takes place March 14. Entertainment will be provided by Irish step-dancers. The fundraiser benefits local agencies and the Ladies Guild Scholarship Fund.

New York
In Western New York, St. Bonaventure Parish, Allegany, N.Y., is partnering with two other churches, St. John’s and St. Mary of the Angels, both in Olean, N.Y., for the Paschal Triduum.

“Our celebration of the Paschal Triduum is the most important thing we do as Catholic Christians,” said pastorRichard Husted, OFM.  “Our entire faith is based upon these three days and the wonderful mysteries that are unveiled for us as we celebrate. This year, the three parishes are gathering together so that, together, we might remember the events that bind us. These events in the life of Jesus are the story of our salvation.”

During the Triduum, the three churches will gather at 9 a.m. for prayer. On Holy Thursday, parishioners meet at St. John’s to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 6 p.m. At the end of the service, representatives from the three parishes will take the Eucharist to their individual churches for adoration from 8 to 10 p.m. On Good Friday, the three churches join with other Christian churches throughout the area for the ecumenical procession with the cross. At 6 p.m., churches meet at St. Bonaventure Church for the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion. At 8 p.m., at each of the three churches, there will be Stations of the Cross.

At noon on Holy Saturday, the three churches will have a traditional blessing of Easter food. The Easter Vigil takes place at 8 p.m. at St. Mary of the Angels for the highlight of the whole liturgical year.

“On this night, we are called to reject sin and renew our faith in God. The story of our salvation is a powerful reminder that our roots are deep and our faith is bonded in the dying and rising of Jesus,” said Richard. “On Easter Sunday, like the women who went to the tomb early in the morning, we will gather at Lincoln Park in Olean at 7 a.m. for Sunrise Mass.”

St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City offers a “Lenten Day of Prayer” on March 14, led by Kevin Tortorelli, OFM.  The day includes morning prayer, guided reflection and communal penance service, followed by an opportunity for confession.

Other Lenten events include “The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming,” Mondays from March 2 to April 6, noon, given by Sr. Margaret Holden, FSP. The event focuses on the book by the same name by Henri Nouwen. A Mass of the anointing of the sick is scheduled for  11 a.m. on March 21.

New Jersey
St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes, N.J., is offering a “Welcome Home to Healing” reconciliation throughout Lent. Catholics throughout the Diocese of Paterson, especially those who have been away from the Church, are invited to re-experience God’s healing love and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Communal Reconciliation Services take place March 10, March 21, 11:30 a.m., and March 26, 7:30 p.m. The church is also open for confession every Monday in March from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

At various Masses from March 7 to Marcy 11, Fr. Richard Sparks, CSP, offers the homily on “Being Catholic in an Imperfect Church and World: What Really Matters.”

In the South
St. Francis Church in Triangle, Va., will have Neighborhood Faith Sharing Groups meeting weekly during Lent. The groups will reflect on Sunday Scriptures. “Since the parish is geographically dispersed,” said pastor Charles Miller, OFM, “we thought this was a good way to allow people to participate without driving long distances and get to know the parishioners that live nearby.”

The church youth group presents a dramatic Stations of the Cross before Holy Week, and the combined choirs do a musical meditation on the stations on Good Friday.

St. Francis of Assisi, Raleigh, N.C., focuses on fasting this Lent to end world hunger. In addition, the community is collecting food for local food pantries by bringing in food each Sunday in Lent. It hosted a “Hunger No More” conference on Feb. 27 to 28.

While the church offers several Lenten programs, one is particularly interesting. “Leaning on God This Lent” is a retreat for seniors led by Sr. Adria Connors of Wellsprings of Wisdom.

A men’s ministry series continues March 19, with the topic “Sin and Grace,” with David McBriar, OFM, giving a talk.

Immaculate Conception in Durham, N.C., offers a Young Adult Lenten Reflection on “The Franciscan Imagination,” throughout March and April, 7:30 p.m. Steven Patti, OFM, discusses how to learn from the human experience of St. Francis, and the relevance he has today. Lent, he said, is a time for drawing close to God. A meal follows the reflection.

The church also reminds parishioners on its Web site of the many ways to pray, fast and give almsgiving during Lent. “Take seriously the obligation of sacrificing, of giving up something in Lent so God’s life can grow in you.”

Sacred Heart Church, Tampa, devotes a large page of its Web site to Lenten educational resources. It provides links to Pope Benedict’s Lenten message, along with ideas for fasting and abstinence, FAQs about Lent, an explanation of the Triduum, and the historical development of Lent. “More than you probably want to know,” the Web site says.

— Wendy Healy is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to HNP Today.