Click here to read the full text of Cardinal Rigali’s homily

By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

PHILADELPHIA – Approximately 300 catechists and DREs were honored Jan. 25 at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. They were doubly blessed at the Mass which celebrated the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. Not only did they receive an award from the hands of Cardinal Justin Rigali, but in honor of the feast they were given the opportunity receive a papal blessing with a plenary indulgence, which of course is a reward in heaven.

“Two thousand years ago, Paul was a vessel chosen to share with others the treasure that God had given him,” Cardinal Rigali said in his homily to the honorees and their guests. “His goal was to know Christ and the power of His Resurrection.

“Today you too, dear friends, are vessels God has chosen to bring the knowledge and truth of Christ to others so that they will come to accept salvation in Him. Your role as catechists is a response to the words that Jesus spoke in today’s Gospel, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.'”

The catechists and DREs were recognized for years of service – five, 10, 15, 20 and 30 or more.

Anne Chilleni and Roe DeFerdinand of St. Mary Magdalen Parish, Media, are a mother-daughter team, and have both taught children catechism for 15 years.

“I love my Church and my religion and I like to spread the word of God,” Chilleni said. “I teach 15 girls who are residents of spanine Providence Village.”

“I do it because I love it. Catechesis is a feature of our Church and you have to keep spreading the word,” her daughter said. “St. Paul is all about conversion. Because he converted, look at how many hearts he converted.”

Michael Brill, a catechist with five years service at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Doylestown, also sees the Apostle to the Gentiles as a role model. “His conversion is the most powerful thing for me. It is something I try to live my life by,” he said.

Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Barbara Jude has been a DRE “for 17 or 18 years” and is in her second year at SS. Simon and Jude, West Chester.

“It’s bringing Christ closer to the people and brings the people closer to Christ,” she said. “We are blessed on this day, the fFeast of the Conversion of St. Paul, it couldn’t be a better day.”

Father John J. Ames, Deputy Secretary for Catechetical Formation, expressed his gratitude to Cardinal Rigali for honoring catechists on this special day, and also his staff at the Office for Catechetical Formation for putting the event together. “We thank God for all the great work these catechists do. They are behind the scenes and you don’t see them much,” he said.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.

Parish pilgrimage sites during the Year of St. Paul

While the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul has been designated as an official site where pilgrims may gain the papal indulgence during this year dedicated to the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of St. Paul (June 29, 2008-June 29, 2009), so too have two other churches in the Archdiocese: St. Paul, South Philadelphia, and St. Paul, Norristown. Conditions for the indulgence include sacramental Confession, Eucharistic Communion and prayers for the Holy Father’s intentions.

Four or five busloads of pilgrims have already visited St. Paul in Philadelphia, founded in 1843 and the oldest church dedicated to St. Paul in the Archdiocese. Father Gerald P. Carey, pastor of the parish, celebrated a sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form, in Latin, Sunday, Jan. 25. Parishioners as well as visitors to the pilgrimage church received an indulgence during this jubilee year.

The prayer to St. Paul is recited at all of the weekend Masses, according to Father Carey. Other devotions throughout the year, including Forty Hours and the parish mission, will have a Pauline stress and there may be a musical concert in honor of the parish patron. Finally, on June 21, as the Pauline year is ending, the parish celebration will close with a scheduled visit by Cardinal Justin Rigali.

At St. Paul Parish, Norristown, Mass for the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul was celebrated Sunday, Jan. 25, by the pastor, Father Harry E. McCreedy, followed by the start of the Forty Hours devotion. It was led by Father Richard K. McFadden, faculty member at Archbishop Ryan High School in Philadelphia and a native son of St. Paul Parish.

Coming up, the parish will hold an all-day conference on St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians on March 7 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Biblical scholar Thomas Smith will lead the presentation in the parish hall. Call the parish rectory at 610-279-6725 for more details.

St. Paul Parish hosts an ongoing study of the writings of the apostle throughout the jubilee year. On the third Sunday of each month, Sister Joan Scary, R.S.M., leads the discussion over coffee and pastries following the 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass, from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.