Holy Door Challenge reaps timeless Holy Year benefitsBy: Linda Leicht Salem MO
When Beverly Roos planned to take her 10-year-old granddaughter on the Holy Door Pilgrimage throughout southern Missouri, they thought it would be a fun outing. It turned out to be a journey of prayer for a new life in the family.
When Teresa Matthews agreed to go on the pilgrimage with her mother, Gail, of Holy Trinity Parish, Springfield, she thought it would be a way to strengthen family bonds. It turned out to be a pathway for Teresa back to the faith.
For James and Robbie Gillet, a trip that was planned as a father-son excursion became a husband-wife journey that was “precious” time to refresh their relationship and invigorate their deep faith. The Gillets are members of Holy Trinity Parish, Marshfield.
For Glenn and Peggy Eckl, of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Springfield, it combined their love of weekend road trips with a spiritual journey.
Holy Door Challenge
The seven Holy Doors in the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau are spread from Joplin to Cape Girardeau, in cathedrals and small country churches. Each location provides a unique experience, and each pilgrim comes away with an equally unique blessing.
Pope Francis declared the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy on Dec. 8, 2015 until Nov. 20, 2016.
“We’re all sinners and in need of mercy,” he said, calling on Catholics worldwide to discover, embrace, and be bearers of forgiveness and mercy.
For these four families God has shown what forgiveness and mercy looks like in their own lives and the lives of others as they drive through the Ozarks countryside and embark on this spiritual and physical pilgrimage.
Beverly Roos and little Bailey Howard started their pilgrimage on May 25, combining a trip from their hometown of Salem to Springfield for a funeral.
Their first Holy Door was in St. Agnes Cathedral.
“When we got there, we were the first ones to walk through the Holy Door,” Roos said. “It was brand new to them, too. I thought that was exciting.”
On their way home, Roos and Bailey stopped at West Plains, checking two places off the list on their diocesan Holy Door “passports.” And, of course, they visited their home parish, Sacred Heart, Salem. The next month, they traveled east, visiting Immaculate Conception Church, New Madrid; St. George Mission Church in Van Buren; and St. Mary of the Annunciation Cathedral in Cape Girardeau—all in one day. Their last stop was the brand new St. Mary Church, in Joplin.
“I put 1,500 miles or more on my car,” Roos said.
But it wasn’t the miles on her car, or the beauty of the cathedrals, or the pastoral settings of the small churches that made her choke up when she told the story. It is the news that her daughter, who had adopted Bailey and her sister, Kayla, is expecting a baby on Nov. 1.
Stephanie Howard loves children, her mother says. She is a fourth-grade teacher who was told she could never have children of her own, so she and her husband adopted their two girls. When she got the news that she was pregnant, it was a double-edged sword. At nearly 40, the pregnancy is high risk.
“It was kind of emotional for me,” Roos said. So, when the news about the Holy Door Challenge was announced in the diocese, she knew she had to do it.
“I just prayed to Jesus,” she said, choking back tears.
While on pilgrimage, praying the Jubilee Prayer of Pope Francis and contemplating the Acts of Mercy gave Roos the assurance that God would also give her mercy and forgiveness. Everything worked out on the Grandma-Granddaughter travels, and everything has worked out, too, for Roos daughter and her soon-to-be-born grandson, Silas Daniel Steven Howard. The pregnancy has been healthy and the baby seems fine—a blessing Roos will never take for granted.
Back to Church
Teresa Matthews describes herself as a “lapsed Catholic” who, at age 28, seldom went to Mass and had even forgotten how to say some of the prayers. But when her mother, Gail, suggested they make the Holy Door Pilgrimage, she was intrigued. “And, of course, I wanted to spend time with my mother,” she said.
Each church they visited nudged Matthews closer to her faith. The ladies at Sacred Heart Parish, Salem, who gave them a tour and told them about their parish history, touched both women. Then, Matthews saw a picture of a monk who lived at Assumption Abbey in nearby Ava who had been in her youth group as a teen. It all seemed providential.
Matthews’ favorite church was St. George Mission, Van Buren, with its lockbox and secret combination to the Holy Door and the beautiful stained glass window of St. George and the Dragon.
A lover of history, the stories Matthews heard about the history of the churches in Poplar Bluff and New Madrid resonated.
Then, Matthews and her mother went to Mass in the tiny, 126-year-old Immaculate Conception Church at New Madrid. She stumbled over the prayerful words of the “Our Father,” but her spirit was moved.
Today, with her Holy Door Passport completely stamped, Matthews has gotten into the habit of praying the Our Father or a Hail Mary, then thanking God for the day each night before going to bed. She has also become a member of O’Reilly Catholic Student Center on the campus of Missouri State University where she is a student, and she is going to events at Holy Trinity Parish, Springfield.
“I’m glad Mom talked me into this,” Matthews said. “I was kind of scared. I had been away so long, I felt like I shouldn’t be there. But, after the first prayer, I felt more calm, less stressed. I felt like someone was saying, ‘Welcome back.’ Then, I became more enthusiastic and more into the pilgrimage. My fears were gone.”
Love made visible
For James and Robbie Gillet, the Holy Doors Pilgrimage was more than a way to renew their faith: It was an opportunity to find the Acts of Mercy in action everywhere they went.
The Gillets live in Fair Grove and attend Holy Trinity, Marshfield, but they are originally from Omaha, NE, where there are a lot more Catholics. When he moved to the Ozarks with his job, James said it felt like God was sending them to be “missionaries” here.
They love the traditions and the majesty of the Roman Catholic Church. So, equipped with their 1962 Missal and its “tremendous treasury of prayers,” the Gillets drove through the countryside on each of the four legs of their pilgrimage.
Meditating on the spiritual and corporal acts of mercy, the couple discovered these acts all around them.
“We saw the corporal acts of mercy in action wherever we visited,” said Robbie. In Salem, they saw a soup kitchen. In New Madrid, they saw the deacon dressed in overalls and a big brimmed hat working on the roof. In Joplin, they met a couple who told them about rebuilding their church after the 2011 tornado blew it away.
“We saw so many faithful Catholics putting the spiritual and corporal works of mercy into action,” James said. “Little brilliant points of holiness and mercy everywhere we went. It was marvelous to see Catholicism in action in all these tiny hamlets.”
Road trips are a weekend tradition for Glenn and Peggy Eckl of Springfield. So, the Holy Door Pilgrimage was a perfect fit.
“This gave us a destination, something fun to do when we got there,” Peggy said, “In saying the prayers, taking pictures of the churches, we got to get closer to God.”
They not only visited each Holy Door parish, they scheduled their visits to coincide with Mass.
“It certainly gave us a feel for the family of that particular parish,” Glenn said.
This was not the first time the Eckls had been to the churches. About five years ago, they visited every church in the diocese, took photos of them, and even noted the GPS coordinates for diocesan use. But, they didn’t go inside, so this was a “real treat.” So much so, that the couple has set a new goal: to attend Mass in every parish and mission in the diocese.
Forgive and be forgiven
The desire of Pope Francis in this Year of Mercy is that each one of us would experience God’s mercy. The Holy Door Pilgrimage promises a forgiveness and welcome from the Father in the spirit of love and mercy. For each of these pilgrims, the Face of the Father was made visible indeed in unique ways, and each felt His welcome and love.
During the Jubilee Year of Mercy, each Catholic is encouraged to reflect on the Acts of Mercy and resolve to put them into practice.
The corporal works of mercy are: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, harbor the harborless, visit the sick, ransom the captive, and bury the dead.
The spiritual works of mercy are: to instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the afflicted, and to pray for the living and the dead.
“You are the face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy,” the Jubilee Prayer of Pope Francis reads. “Let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.”
So far, 16 people in the diocese have completed the Holy Door Challenge.
The seven Holy Doors in the
Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau
• St. Agnes Cathedral—Springfield
• St. Mary of the Annunciation Cathedral—Cape Girardeau
• St. Mary Church—Joplin
• Immaculate Conception Church—New Madrid
• Sacred Heart Church—Salem
• St. George Mission—Van Buren
• St. Mary Church—West Plains
Pilgrims who pass through a Holy Door of Mercy with the proper intention and disposition, and fulfill the conditions ordinarily attached to a plenary indulgence [cf. canon 992], can obtain a Jubilee Indulgence once a day for either themselves or for the souls of the faithful departed.
The Holy Father has stated that, in order to receive this Jubilee Indulgence, this passage through a Holy Door must be linked with saying the Profession of Faith, praying for the Holy Father and his intentions, and going to a celebration of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. With regards to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, the Holy Father further instructed, “Each time that one faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence.”
Please note that those who, due to illness or other legitimate reason, are unable to leave their place of residence may nonetheless obtain the Jubilee Indulgence by uniting themselves in spirit with the faithful and offering their prayers and suffering in accord with the objectives of the Year of Mercy. Similarly, those who are incarcerated “may obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the prisons.”
Holy Door Pilgrim Challenge
Visit each of the Holy Door sites in the diocese before the end of the Jubilee Year (Nov. 26, 2016). Stamp your passport at each location. Mail completed passport to address on the passport. You will receive a special gift from the diocese and a certificate and letter from The Most Rev. Edward M. Rice.
For more information or Year of Mercy Resources, visit www.dioscg.org.