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Lessons from a pilgrimage of faith, hope, and love

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... one thing can be considered as a common ground between us, namely our faith in Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary.

Two months ago, we, the Haitian Catholic communities of Boston, received an invitation which brought joy into our hearts. The Office for Outreach and Cultural Diversity of the archdiocese planned to organize a pilgrimage on April 2, 2016 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. We happily participated in all the preparatory meetings for this event at the Pastoral Center in Braintree. It was very energizing to hear and share so many diverse ideas.

However, one thing can be considered as a common ground between us, namely our faith in Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary. There was a lot of excitement in the meeting room about the significance that such a gathering would have for our communities. While we were about to complete all the formalities regarding the volunteers, the meteorologists predicted an entirely rainy day, making the planned procession on the streets of Boston an impossibility. Suddenly, a subtle disappointment invaded our souls and drove many of us to the conclusion that maybe this march will not occur with a sufficient amplitude.

We Haitian Catholics have, like the many other Catholic ethnic communities of Boston, a great Marian devotion. The patroness of our native country Haiti is "Our Lady of Perpetual Help." The Virgin Mother has always played a key role in the decisive moments of Haitian history. The most significant one is the healing of 1882, known as "the fever miracle." The Haitian people indeed suffered a deadly fever during that year, and it killed almost one-third of the population. Under the advice of the pastor of the cathedral of Port-au-Prince, the archbishop blessed the country with the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The day after, news came from the southern region of Haiti that a tremendous number of citizens were healed.

In addition to this national miracle, there are thousands of testimonies of healing or other blessings obtained from Christ through the intercession of the Virgin Mother, at both the individual and the family levels. Today, most of the churches in Haiti are dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the most popular titles are: Our Lady of Assumption, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, and of course, Our Lady of Perpetual Help. So, it is no longer necessary to express the importance for the Haitians to be able to live their Marian devotion in the United States of America, the country which gave them the opportunity to fulfill their God-given talents. A procession on the streets of the great city of Boston is definitely a reconnection with a spiritual practice that gives them strength and resilience.

On April 2, there were many dozens of us in front of St. Angela Church in Mattapan waiting for the bus that was going to pick us up and take us to the cathedral. We were mostly adults with a small number of young people and children. We left reciting the joyful mysteries of the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet and arrived right on time for the ceremony. But, something was about to happen. At exactly 2:13 p.m., the rain stopped. Completely. Even the weather was manageable for us, islanders. And we started smiling again. We were almost 3,000 attendants. A sentiment of joy blew in the air. We could feel it into our hearts, and the procession started. We were not alone: the Virgin Mother walked with us. All the continents were represented. The icon of the Divine Mercy led the march. Our communities followed with our icons and statues from our different devotions to the one who told us once: "Do all he will tell you."

After the procession, we entered the cathedral to listen to the message delivered by His Eminence Sean Cardinal O'Malley and to adore the Lord Jesus Christ in a very prayerful Blessed Sacrament adoration. The day was concluded by a concert animated with different choirs of our ethnic communities.

Yet, something was about to happen, and it constituted the motivation for this article. While we took the bus back to our respective communities, the rain started to fall again. Unanimously, the comments were directed toward the presence of the Virgin Mother walking by our sides on this significant day for our communities in Boston.

Faith is what gives existence a new sense. It allows the individual to see life from a perspective of hope and charity. The believer deeply knows he or she is not alone in his or her daily life. For the Boston Haitians, the Virgin Mother will now be "Our Lady who stopped the rain." May through her intercession, the rain of our families divided by complicated immigration regulations, the rain of low wages, the rain of our kids involved in drugs and gangs, be stopped.

FATHER J. GUSTAVE MIRACLE, STL IS PAROCHIAL VICAR OF THE MATTAPAN-DORCHESTER COLLABORATIVE.

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