April 14, 2017
Youth pray, fast and keep watch leading up to Easter
Story and photos by Carolee McGrath
SPRINGFIELD – Youth from Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church in Westfield and St. Cecilia Church in Wilbraham marked Holy Thursday and Good Friday with prayer and fasting. The two groups participated in the Seven Church Visitation on Holy Thursday, April 13. After attending the 7 p.m. Mass of the Lord’s Supper at their home parishes, the teens set out on a pilgrimage across the Diocese of Springfield, praying before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament at each church they visited.
“There’s no other way I would want to spend my Holy Thursday,” said Lisa Laferriere, the director of youth ministry at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish.
“I think spending Holy Thursday evening in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament is the least we can do after he died on a cross for us,” she said.
The Seven Church Visitation, or Visita Iglesia, dates back to the early church when Christians visited the seven shrines connected with the Lord’s passion. For centuries pilgrims have continued the tradition visiting the seven basilicas in Rome as a form of penance.
Laferriere’s group, called the JP II Crew, took a bus from Westfield and met teens from St. Cecilia Parish at Mary, Mother of Hope Parish in Springfield along the way. Other churches along the routes included: St. Elizabeth Parish and Christ the King Parish in Ludlow; St. Cecilia Parish in Wilbraham; Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, St. Mary Parish and Holy Trinity Parish, all in Westfield; and Holy Cross Parish in Springfield.
“It is so inspiring to me to see so many youth every year that are willing and want to travel around to the churches throughout the diocese. It is beautiful to walk into all the different churches and pray with our fellow Catholics. It reminds us that we are all one Church keeping watch with him,” Laferriere continued.
Both groups were able to participate in Night Prayer at Mary, Mother of Hope Parish before parting ways on their journey which lasted late into the evening.
“It really helps me get into the Easter spirit,” said 16-year-old Erin Harlow, a member of the JP II Crew.
“I feel a lot closer to Jesus because adoration is specific, quiet time just to be close to him. It’s hard to find quiet time with high school and with other activities. With the seven church tour, it forces me to be with Jesus.”
Good Friday brought more prayer and fasting for the teens from Wilbraham, who began their day at a pro-life vigil organized by Catholics for the Unborn. Close to 70 people gathered outside of Planned Parenthood on Main Street in Springfield to pray the Stations of the Cross. Some of those gathered traveled from Greenfield to take part. Youth from Pope Francis High School also participated in the vigil. Springfield Bishop Mitchel T. Rozanski then led the group in praying the rosary.
“I’m grateful for the whole group, to see the age range of the group from the very young to the senior citizens to ask God to give us the grace to overcome the sin of abortion in our city, in our communities and in our country,” said Bishop Rozanski who offered special prayers for everyone touched by abortion.
Catholics for the Unborn has been organizing the Good Friday vigil for more than 25 years.
“We want to save babies and hopefully change people’s minds by our presence,” said Marilyn Stearns, a member of Catholics for the Unborn and St. Mary Parish in Longmeadow.
“Our prayer and presence on Good Friday, the day Jesus died, we hope it will change people’s minds,” Stearns said.
Eighteen-year-old Kateri Lintner has been attending the pro-life vigil with the Wilbraham group for the last three years.
“Even if you take DNA from a two week old fetus, it’s a human being and will become someone who will accomplish great things. Abortion takes away their chance of life,” said Lintner.
The youth from St. Cecilia’s also visited Life Care nursing home on Boston Road in Wilbraham and participated in the parish Stations of the Cross at 3 p.m.