CHAMPION — Mary, the mother of mercy, continues to draw people to her son, Jesus, Bishop David Ricken told approximately 650 people at the April 28 Mass and rite of blessing for the Mother of Mercy Hall, located at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.
With the shrine’s newest facility now open and able to welcome up to 1,200 people for Mass, conferences and other special events, the shrine staff believes it will be an easier task introducing people to Jesus through Mary.
The hall’s dedication on Divine Mercy Sunday offered a perfect opportunity for Bishop Ricken to elaborate on the Blessed Mother’s role as mother of mercy, as well as on the divine mercy Jesus offers everyone. A framed painting of the Divine Mercy, hanging on the left side of the hall’s sanctuary, and a replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta sculpture, located on the right side of the sanctuary, provided visual images for the assembly.
The Mass began with a procession into the new building, which measures 70 feet wide by 200 feet long, followed by a blessing of the altar, sanctuary and crucifix behind the altar. Bishop Ricken, wearing a Divine Mercy chasuble given to him by his late brother, Mark, then blessed the entire hall with holy water.
In his homily, Bishop Ricken said that St. Faustina Kowalska, the 20th-century Polish nun and mystic, received private revelations from Jesus “asking her to be the courier of his mission of mercy to the world.”
“She did not know the effect that this message would have for the whole world,” said Bishop Ricken. Jesus told St. Faustina that he desired a “feast of mercy” that offered “a refuge and a shelter for all souls and especially for poor sinners.”
“So Jesus has chosen this day and the church has affirmed it to be a special day of grace,” Bishop Ricken said. “We are in a special time when Jesus is calling more and more people to the truth and to love and to commit to following him.”
Pointing to the Divine Mercy image, Bishop Ricken said, “This is a copy of the way St. Faustina described to an artist of her day what Jesus looked like when he appeared to her. That beautiful face with the flowing red, symbolizing the blood of the Jesus, and the white symbolizing the waters of baptism (and) birth to life in Christ in the church.”
He then motioned to the Pieta.
“Over here on your right, we have the beautiful Pieta statue. The Blessed Mother is holding the body of her son Jesus in great sorrow, because she knew that she was holding the very gift of life and the very son of God himself,” he said.
“Her role in the whole history of salvation has been to bear Jesus … and introduce others to him,” said Bishop Ricken. “And especially in the new evangelization, we see how the Blessed Mother is drawing people to her son. Here in this place, where she appeared 160 years ago, she is still reaching out, greeting people from around the world who have been wounded and hurt, greeting people who have fallen away from faith, or greeting those who need a little shot in the arm with regard to the exercise of their faith, to pray for their families, that we may place the wounds of our lives into the merciful wounds of Jesus. She brings us to the very fountain of mercy.”
Bishop Ricken reminded the assembly, as he drew their attention to the Pieta, “How much does she love you? As much as she loves her son,” he said. “And how much does he love you? That much. Out of his merciful love, he died for all people … so that he could bring souls to his Father, as was his Father’s will.”
Following Communion, Don Warden, chief operations officer at the shrine, expressed thanks to all of the donors and workers who made the Mother of Mercy Hall possible.
“Over the past 160 years, there have been numerous building structures erected to carry out the sacred message of faith and catechesis given to Adele (Brise) by Our Lady in 1859,” he said. “As is always the case, the mission of the church and the message of heaven is carried out by many hands and feet and eyes and ears and mouths of the people that make up the mystical body of Christ.”
Groundbreaking for the Mother of Mercy Hall took place on Oct. 24, 2018, and despite the harsh winter, the hall was completed in time for the Divine Mercy Sunday dedication. Warden told The Compass that there were concerns, but it was out of the shrine staff’s hands.
“Of course, there are always the worries. But that’s also been part of this journey,” he said. “That complete abandonment to God’s will and trust in his mother — this is her place — that if she wants something done it’s going to get done … whether we worry about it or not. It’s been a good faith journey.”
The hall’s construction was funded through the Shrine Capital Fund, overseen by the Catholic Foundation, said Warden. “Those funds have been mostly used up, and we’re actually looking for a few more donations to bridge the last piece (of the hall). There are upcoming projects and we need to replenish that capital fund.”
Warden encouraged interested donors to contact the shrine by phone (920) 315-0398, or donate online at shrineofourladyofgoodhelp.com/donations. He also invited people to visit the shrine.
“Our mother is calling all souls to her today,” he said. “This facility was built to accommodate a lot of people, and so as faithful Catholics in this diocese, where our mother chose to go ahead and give the message to Adele, I think we have a special responsibility to call and direct people to her at the shrine. I would ask (Catholics) to encourage all of their family, friends and relatives, in the area and around the world, to visit. This is a refuge.”
After Mass, Bishop Ricken blessed the Divine Mercy image. The day continued with a reception for all in attendance, followed by a talk on Divine Mercy by Drew Mariani of Relevant Radio. The day concluded with a holy hour and recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
Mother Mercy Hall is designed to accommodate more than one pilgrimage group at a time. “It seats up to 1,200 people for Mass or conference gatherings, with the ability to divide the main hall into smaller gatherings,” according to shrine officials. “The hall also has a pilgrimage coordination area, first-aid station and a kitchenette for groups that have meals catered to the shrine.”
VIEW MORE PHOTOS: To view a gallery of photos from the Divine Mercy Sunday dedication, visit our Flickr page.