Cumberland celebrates Pope Francis’ message of mercy

By Greg Larry

Special to the Review

CUMBERLAND – Pope Francis’ proclamation of an extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy was welcomed at Our Lady of the Mountains Parish Dec. 13, when celebrants and worshippers entered the Shrine of Ss. Peter and St. Paul through its newly-blessed Holy Door for a special Mass in observance of the jubilee.

“I think the (Holy) Year of Mercy is a great idea. I hope it catches on with everybody,” said Steve Parsons, a Ss. Peter and Paul parishioner from Cumberland. “Violence is easy to turn to, but mercy takes heart.”

Pope Francis began the Holy Year of Mercy Dec. 8, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Those who enter its Holy Door can obtain grace and pardon.

Ss. Peter and Paul is one of eight pilgrimage sites designated by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, worship spaces where the Holy Door rite was observed Dec. 13. Capuchin Franciscan Fathers Gregory Chervenak and John Paul Kuzma led the afternoon of worship at Ss. Peter and Paul.

The 3 p.m. event began at Shrine Hall. The celebrants led a procession to the Holy Door at the side of the church. After the Holy Door was blessed by Father Chervenak, all entered through it for the special Mass.

Bill Blake was pleased the event could be held at St. Peter and Paul.

“What we are having here is a really good thing,” said Blake, a parishioner. “There are only eight churches (in the archdiocese) that have the Holy Door. We are fortunate to have one in Allegany County.”

Coming just 15 years after the jubilee of the third Christian millennium, Father Chervenak thinks the time is right for another Holy Year.

“The Holy Father met with a chief rabbi and an imam,” Father Chervernak said. “They are saying this is all of our backgrounds; both Muslim and Jewish and Catholicism and Christianity has mercy as one of the main attributes of God.

“And so the idea is we allow ourselves to be enfolded by God’s mercy; then we are challenged to go out and give that mercy.Christ said blessed are the merciful because they shall receive mercy but blessed are those who receive mercy for they must be merciful.”

Julia Kidwell, of LaVale, expressed similar support for Pope Francis.

“He is wonderful, his views are down to earth,” she said. “With the situation in the world and even within our own country, I think people need to come back to Christ. True mercy comes from him and flows through all of us. Even in my own life, it is hard sometimes to forgive and forget things. But I’m hoping with this year of mercy to turn that around.”

Father Chervenak said that during the Holy Year of Mercy, a women’s holy hour of adoration will be added on the first Sunday of the month at the shrine, in addition to the men’s holy hour it recently began on the second Sunday.

Mercy, he said, is a virtue that can enrich the lives of everyone.

“So the idea is when we leave the door we must carry the mercy of God with us so everything from being patient in traffic,” Father Chervenak said, “not judging other people, giving people the benefit of the doubt, not trying to get revenge, getting rid of grudges, they are practical ways to bring peace to our world.

“If we can’t bring peace to our world, how we can bring peace to the Middle East or anywhere?”

Click here for more Holy Year of Mercy stories.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.