'24 Hours' revisited

Last week's Pilot reported on the March 4-5 "24 Hours for the Lord" in Lynn. Here is a glimpse of "24 Hours" in two collaboratives: Acton-Stow and Cranberry Catholic: Middleborough, Rochester and Lakeville.

Father John Sheridan, pastor of the Cranberry Catholic Collaborative said, "The event was a rousing success!" Collaborative pastoral associate Holly Clark began her report by giving thanks for the many priests from around the archdiocese who helped with 24 hour confessions, and to parishioners who stepped up to cover all the hours of adoration, noting that Father Sheridan "absconded with our office coffee maker and put in a coffee station in the sacristy for the 'overnight shift.'"

The 24 Hours began on Friday with Stations of the Cross; in addition to confessions, the 24 hours included Mass, adoration, benediction and children's rosary. Printed materials were available to assist people to prepare for confession, pray at adoration, and reflect on themes of Lent and mercy. Many participants took advantage of these resources.

The Cranberry Collaborative rectory overlooks a lake and Father Sheridan, known for his daily Facebook photo posts of sunrise and sunset on the lake, gathered over 90 of these pictures, combined them with quotes for reflection, and created a repeating slideshow. Holly was setting up video equipment, for the slide show on Friday, well before the opening service, when a woman arrived. She thought that the 24 Hours was a Thursday to Friday event. The woman said that she had left the Catholic Church some time ago and has tried to come back, but needs help doing that. They had a lengthy conversation and Holly plans to follow up with her. Holly definitely saw the hand of the Holy Spirit in this encounter, "I think there are probably a few more stories like that around... the event has probably touched a few lives."

St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Acton and St. Isidore Parish in Stow -- the Apple Valley Catholic Community -- planned an extensive 24 Hours program. Diahne Goodwin, collaborative director of pastoral ministries reports, "We (staff) are still processing it. It was a powerful experience. On one hand it was like a marathon retreat, on the other it was a peaceful journey, one that many did not want to end." Others also felt that the experience was like a retreat. Parochial vicar Father Paul Sughrue called the experience a "spiritual adrenaline shot in the arm" and said that it was "one of the most imaginative parish events that he has ever attended."

Resources on how to go to confession were available and Diahne estimates that over 100 people, all ages, received this sacrament of love and mercy. One woman was thankful for "the encouragement, the review and the 'cheat sheet,' saying that she probably wouldn't have gone to confession without these. Andrea Goodrich, collaborative director of music, was responsible for the Taize prayer service that led into adoration. About 150 people attended, and a combined choir from both parishes provided the music. Andrea said, "All (choir members) involved were eager to contribute, on top of what they are already doing for Triduum."

Diahne saw "different people at different events, a few people at almost all the events."

"I know of many who could not be there Friday night, but intentionally made time at home to be with everyone in prayer. One woman told me she lit a candle to remind her of what was going on and to help her stay prayerful in all that she did at home," Diahne said.

"I personally was in awe at the eagerness and quality of participation. I felt a great reverence and sense of community coming together in spirit and mission. Even in the unscheduled moments between some of the events, there were always people in the church in prayer. I also saw participation beyond those who are enrolled in the faith formation program -- it truly was a whole community event. I think once people crossed the threshold into the church they could not help but immerse themselves into the experiences," she added.

Diahne continued, "I cannot read people's hearts. Did they experience Gods mercy, feel his welcoming embrace, and recognize his presence in gratitude? I can't say. I can say that an army of dedicated people did their best to create an environment that would allow that to happen and left the rest in God's hands. I think only time will tell of its enduring effects."

Not bad for a weekend in March.