For Catholics across the Philadelphia region and the world, the season of Lent is a time to reflect and prepare our hearts for the celebration of Easter.
To aid in that reflection, this year five parishes near Ridley Township in Delaware County offered faithful the opportunity to participate in an annual Lenten series each Tuesday during Lent at rotating parishes. This year, each reflection night featured a deacon as the keynote speaker. Most were transitional deacons preparing for the priesthood.
This Lenten series had taken place for many years and went on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic. Father John Hand, Pastor of St. Gabriel Parish in Norwood, helped bring the series back in 2022.
The evenings consisted of prayer in word and song, a scripture reading, intercessions, and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Each was followed by a social for continued faith and fellowship.
“We have had big crowds,” said Father Hand. “Some people go every week. There’s a handful of followers.”
St. Gabriel Parish has relationships with the deacons and seminarians of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood. Two of them visit the parish on Thursdays when all of the seminarians take a break from classes and visit the community. Others have assisted St. Gabriel as assigned.
The various ways in which his parishioners have gotten to know the deacons and seminarians helped Father Hand in deciding to ask them if they would be the guest speakers for neighboring parishes participating in the Lenten series this year.
While Father Hand asked members of this year’s ordination class if they would offer reflections to local parishes he did not give them a particular topic. He left that entirely up to them.
Jim Walsh, a permanent deacon at neighboring parish St. Eugene in Primos, agreed with Father Hand’s approach pointing to that fact that, “Everyone has a different take on things, a different insight.”
After the first two weeks of reflection at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Morton and St. Madeline in Ridley Park with Rev. Mr. John Okpara preaching twice, the series picked up on March 14 at St. Rose of Lima in Eddystone with Rev. Mr. Kenneth Omeke
Omeke, a transitional deacon from Nigeria and a parishioner of St. Margaret in Narberth, will be ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on Saturday, May 20.
During his reflection, Omeke, focused on the importance of going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the penitential season of Lent. He particularly focused on the words of absolution in confession.
“God reconciled the world to himself,” he said. “There’s power in absolution. God grants pardon and peace. He is a merciful God.”
The Lenten series continued on Tuesday, March 21 at St. Gabriel with Rev. Mr. Anthony Albanese as the guest speaker.
Deacon Walsh will give the final talk of the series March 28 at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Milmont Park concluding the 2023 Lenten series
He is not quite sure what he will say yet but noted he was influenced by the words of Omeke as well as Okpara who referenced the Samaritan woman at the well during his talk
“These small gatherings are great ways to build a sense of community,” said Deacon Walsh.
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