Pentecost pilgrimage draws people from around the archdiocese
Journeying just a few blocks or several hours, the faithful of the archdiocese came together at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha May 15 to celebrate the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy on the Solemn Feast of Pentecost.
The event was part of the archdiocese’s response to Pope Francis’ call for Catholics to make a pilgrimage during the Year of Mercy and pass through specially designated holy doors of cathedrals in their dioceses.
At the cathedral, pilgrims were blessed with holy water and entered through the door of mercy. Archbishop George J. Lucas presided and delivered the homily at two Masses, including a Spanish Mass, and gave the homily at a third Mass. The sacrament of reconciliation also was available outside the cathedral.
"It was a beautiful day, not just because of the magnificence of the Solemn Feast of Pentecost and all that it signifies, but also the simple but powerful symbols that were part of the celebration," said Bill Beckman, director of the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.
"Combining the Year of Mercy with the celebration of Pentecost was rich in symbolism," said Mike Foley, a member of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha. "Also, the concept of pilgrimage with people walking to the church, coming together from all across the archdiocese, was very powerful."
Pilgrims were encouraged to park several blocks away and finish their journey on foot, walking much as early pilgrims did on their way to holy sites.
A group of parishioners from St. Pius X Parish in Omaha walked nearly three miles to the cathedral, and people from Holy Name Parish, also in Omaha, walked more than 1½ miles.
Inside the cathedral, people placed in a bowl grains of incense to be burned as part of an introductory rite.
"People seemed to delight in this simple act," Beckman said, "understanding the sense of their prayers and the prayers of all those they carried with them being joined together and raised aloft."
Deacon Ernie Abbott of St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Omaha, who helped organize his parish’s delegation, said prayer was part of their entire journey.
Traveling as a caravan, parishioners prayed the rosary, and upon arrival, were joined by people from other parishes in praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet on the walk to the cathedral, he said.
During his homily, Archbishop Lucas connected the message of Pentecost with the Year of Mercy. After Jesus ascended to heaven, he said, the apostles were huddled in the upper room. "They felt inadequate to carry out the mission given to them, they were confused and afraid … and they prayed that the gift that Jesus promised would be given to them.
"Once the Holy Spirit filled them, they weren’t confused and afraid anymore. They had an immediate effect on the people staying in Jerusalem, who had come from all over. The apostles gave witness. They proclaimed Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit … and 3,000 believed and were baptized that very first day.
"The Holy Spirit in us wants to have an effect on others for good," the archbishop said. "He wants to use you – your personality, your words, your hands, your strengths, even your limitations and weaknesses, to bring others to Jesus so they can have life in him.
"If we desire to use our time, our energy, our resources to do the works of mercy, mercy will be felt by others … because the power of the Holy Spirit is at work in and through us."
For Jeff and Darla Zurek and their two sons, members of St. Francis Borgia Parish in Blair, the pilgrimage brought this message to life.
"It was a wonderful opportunity for us to experience the spirit living in us, as a family and as a church family," Darla said.
"It’s important for our family to experience the graces the church has to offer to the entire community," Jeff said, "and the pilgrimage gives us the opportunity to receive the indulgences that the Lord provides for us."
The celebration embodied the unity of the universal church, said Beckman, who saw at the Masses what appeared to be many immigrant faces from the nations around the world.
"It really was a magnificent sense of this church as universal and a home for all humanity," he said.