The Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis officially ends Nov. 20. But some Long Island parishioners and church leaders, speaking of the deeply moving spiritual experiences it has brought them, hope to continue the observation in some way.
Closing ceremonies at the “holy doors” designated at four churches in the Diocese of Rockville Centre will take place next week. Francis, in opening the Year of Mercy last December, called on dioceses throughout the world to establish the holy doors through which the faithful could walk as they made local pilgrimages and sought God’s mercy.
Each of the four locations — St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Lloyd Harbor, the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island in Manorville and The Basilica Parish of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Southampton — have had a designated day of the week throughout the jubilee year for people to attend special services that included Mass, prayers, confession and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
“It’s been very gratifying. I’ve been able to reconnect with God in a more personal way,” said Michael Anderson, a parishioner at the Southampton church.
Anderson, 58, has spent every Thursday afternoon there, serving as an “anchor of mercy” from 3 to 4 p.m. to welcome visitors for Year of Mercy services. He wants to keep doing it.
“I would like to see the door remain open for various times, so people still have the chance to step into church and to be soulful and to be prayerful,” he said. “I think it would be really helpful for all of us.”
The Rev. Michael Vetrano, the church’s pastor, said he is holding a meeting this week with parishioners to see how they can keep some Year of Mercy activities going.
“I think it was inspiring,” Vetrano said. “People found it to be a very engaging way to look at the Christian life and to think of the priority of mercy and the generosity of spirit that Francis brought to it.”
He added: “My folks loved having the holy door right there in the church. They were very proud of that.”
Bishop William Murphy, spiritual leader of the diocese, plans to celebrate a noon Mass at the Southampton basilica on Nov. 10 to close out the Year of Mercy there.
Diane Karcher, 66, of Massapequa, said she visited the seminary in Lloyd Neck one day recently with a group of 15 women from St. Elizabeth of Hungary parish in Melville.
“I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to come here and do this,” she said. “Only God knows when we will have another holy year. It may not be in my lifetime.”
Karcher, who also traveled to holy doors in New Jersey and Florida, said she hopes Year of Mercy activities continue, perhaps with Pope Francis setting another year of observation for the faithful. She visited holy doors in Florida and New Jersey, too.
The pontiff declared the jubilee year as a way to focus attention on mercy and forgiveness as essential parts of the Catholic faith, said the Rev. Mark Morozowich, dean of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
“This is something that I think Pope Francis very wisely brought forth into the consciousness not just of the Catholics but to the world about this quality of God as being merciful,” Morozowich said. “In our world we are so much in need of understanding mercy, of being merciful and treating one another with mercy.”
Msgr. Richard Henning, rector of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, said Year of Mercy activities there attracted both devout Catholics and some people who had not been in church for 20 years.
“I think that’s ultimately what the purpose was,” he said. “To reach out to people that might not feel welcome or that might feel afraid to come to church if it’s been a long time.”
‘Holy door’ closing ceremonies
Closing ceremonies at the four “holy doors” designated by the Diocese of Rockville Centre during the Jubilee Year of Mercy will be held next week.
Nov. 9: Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, Lloyd Harbor
Nov. 10: Basilica Parish of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Southampton
Nov. 12: St. Agnes Cathedral, Rockville Centre
Nov. 12: Shrine of Our Lady of the Island, Manorville