Photos and Text by Fr. Eugene Tremblay, OMI
On Sunday, September 8th, the day our tradition pays homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary on her birthday, the Shrine of St. Joseph the Worker in Lowell, Massachusetts installed and dedicated a wall of remembrance and prayer for area First Responders – this memorial is under the maternal gaze of the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of the United States, whose portrait is incorporated into the wall of remembrance. Fittingly, the dedication took place within a few days of our 18th national commemoration of the 9/11 terror attacks and our remembrance of the heroism of the First Responders on that tragic day.
Representatives from city government as well as from the various agencies charged with first responding to situations of tragedy in our area were present for the dedication ceremony which was incorporated into the Shrine’s 10:00 o’clock Sunday Mass. Fr. Terry O’Connell, OMI, the Director of the Shrine, presided at the Mass and conducted the ceremony of dedication. Hopefully, an annual commemoration can center around this wall of remembrance and prayer as we invoke God’s blessing on those who without fanfare regularly carry-out Corporal Works of Mercy in our midst and in our name.
The center-city Shrine of St. Joseph the Worker, in addition to its daily signature sacramental ministries, continues to develop outreaches into the larger community: a youth apostolate, adult faith education programming, hosting a variety of self-help initiatives aimed at improving the situations of folks in the grip of addictions or at the mercy of domestic violence; most recently, we launched a timely effort to assist those caught in the web of human trafficking. Donations to our on-site Food Pantry continue to help provision our local Catholic Charities soup kitchen and contributions to our St. Anthony Fund likewise help to fund assistance to the poor in our midst.
A Thanksgiving dinner for the homebound and Christmas “Giving Tree” for the benefit of needy children are regular features of the holidays here and are generously supported by Shrine congregants. And so, while the Spiritual Works of Mercy are at the core of our sacramental ministry here, it’s no less true that an array of Corporal Works of Mercy also emanate from this historic Oblate ministry site.