Catholics respond to 'SatanCon' with prayer, education, and community

BOSTON -- Eucharistic processions. Extra opportunities for confession. Around-the-clock adoration. Praise music concerts. Lectures about the occult.

These were among the many activities undertaken by Catholic communities around the archdiocese over the weekend of April 28-30, at the same time SatanCon, billed as the largest gathering of the Satanists in history, took place at Boston Marriott Copley Place. Leading up to the event, the archdiocese encouraged local shrines, parishes, and monasteries to increase their opportunities for prayer and the sacraments during this time.

At Our Lady of Lourdes Church of the Tri-Parishes of Brockton, pastor Father Matt Westcott gave a talk on April 28 about "The Dangers of the Occult: What we do and do not believe." Roughly 30 people attended, and many expressed their appreciation of his simple and uplifting delivery.

He used a whiteboard to sketch out concepts, such as the range of measures that can be taken before attempting an exorcism. He also explained the difference between demons and ghosts, and recommended books on faith.

Afterward, the parish staff gave out rosaries, St. Benedict medals, and bottles of holy water.

"Hopefully, they got out of it that while acknowledging the reality of Satan and his demons, the Christian doesn't need to be afraid of them. They're powerless when we stand with Christ, and we trust in his sacraments, and we have recourse to his Church," Father Westcott told The Pilot following his talk.

His biggest piece of advice is to avoid the occult altogether: "Do not participate in it, and if you ever have, confess it."

He also pointed out that while there were hundreds of people attending SatanCon, tens of thousands came to Mass on Easter Sunday in the archdiocese.

Bridget Whyte, director of the Tri-Parishes' faith formation office, was also optimistic.

"No matter what's going on in Boston, there are good things happening in the archdiocese," she said.

This was evident at many other churches and shrines throughout the weekend.

At St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine in the Back Bay, the Oblates of the Virgin Mary held a eucharistic procession after the 11 a.m. Mass on April 29.

Among the participants were Jared and Jhordanne Trowt, who attend a weekly Bible study at the shrine. Jared Trowt helped carry the canopy over the Blessed Sacrament.

"I was happy, in some small way, to bring Jesus to the city of Boston," he said afterwards.

In Wakefield, the Lazarus Center for Healing Shrine held 56 hours of perpetual adoration. From Friday through Sunday, a total of about 350 people came to pray, with about 20 to 25 present at any given time during the day, and about a dozen in the overnight hours, Additionally, Father Thomas Reilly delivered a talk on spiritual warfare twice over the course of the weekend.

"People found it very informative, and they learned a lot about the world of the occult," pastoral associate Rose Tramontozzi said.

Another weekend-long event took place in Boston's North End, where Luisamaria Hernandez, Schola Eburuoh, and Fernando Limbo III organized a celebration they named JoyFest.

Hernandez, a singer who works with St. Joseph's Home for Artisans, had the idea for JoyFest several months earlier when she first heard about SatanCon. She said that they wanted to recapture some of the feeling of Easter.

"We wanted to have joy, love, and community be at the center of it," she said, speaking with The Pilot on May 1.

The most important thing, they believed, was to recognize that it was spiritual warfare and the best thing they could do was pray -- for their community and for conversion.

"It wasn't so much a response as it was an opportunity for us to come together, and if somebody who was at the convention or hadn't known Christ got to encounter him in this way and through this program, then thanks be to God," Hernandez said.

On April 28, they held a midday Mass at St. Leonard Church, followed by a eucharistic procession to Sacred Heart Church, where they then held around-the-clock adoration. They also held two concerts, with Marian classical music on April 28 and praise music by St. Mary's Brookline Band on April 29.

While some volunteers were present throughout the weekend, some of the most moving moments took place as people walking by the church stopped to spend a few minutes before the Blessed Sacrament.

"It was really impactful to see how, even in those small moments, God can do so much and that there were so many people who were able to encounter him through that," Hernandez said.

JoyFest also turned out to be an intergenerational experience, drawing both young and old. Even people from communities outside of the North End came. Some of those familiar with the Liturgy of the Hours taught those who did not know how to pray them.

On April 30, they had another procession from Sacred Heart Church to St. Leonard's for Mass and then went on to St. Joseph Church in the West End, where they continued adoration. The organizers estimated that approximately 200 people participated in JoyFest overall.

Hernandez said they hope that JoyFest will continue each year and that such celebrations of God's love and mercy will happen "all the time."

"We need not wait for our enemy to say something for us to be willing to sacrifice our time and to give to the Lord, because he gives to us every day, every moment, every hour. The least we can do is spend some time with him," she said.