Apr 2, 2013

Thousands of pilgrims expected to celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday at Stockbridge shrine



(Iobserve file photos)

Staff report

STOCKBRIDGE — Approximately 20,000 people are expected to attend the annual Divine Mercy Sunday Weekend festivities on April 6-7 at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, the home of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.

The annual event is hosted by the Marian Fathers, who are well-known for their promotion of The Divine Mercy Message and Devotion since 1941.

An international broadcast of the Marian Fathers’ celebration will air on the EWTN Global Catholic Network beginning at 12 p.m. eastern time with a one-hour program preceding the celebration. Featured guests are Leonardo and Patti Defilippis, Marian Father Donald Calloway and Mark Fanders. The program will be followed by a solemn Mass at 1 p.m. and conclude with the singing of the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 p.m., recognized as the hour that Jesus died on the cross.

The Defilippis founded Saint Luke Productions in 1980, and since then have been renewing and evangelizing through theater and media. Together they have built a repertoire of live theatrical and video productions that have won numerous awards and have been seen by millions throughout the world. In 2004, their feature film “Thérèse” was released, ran in theaters across North America for more than a year and was a grassroots hit. In 2009, “Vianney,” a one-man show on the patron of priests, toured the U.S. for the Year for Priests. Radio audiences will recognize Leonardo from his widely broadcast “Benedictus Moments,” short daily reflections of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Father Calloway, a convert to Catholicism, is a member of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. Before his conversion to Catholicism, he was a high school dropout who had been kicked out of a foreign country, institutionalized twice, and thrown in jail multiple times. After his radical conversion he earned a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy and theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and sacred theology degrees from the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., the International Marian Research Institute in Dayton, Ohio. His bestselling book, No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy, was released in 2010.

His latest book, Under the Mantle: Marian Thoughts from a 21st Century Priest, was released March 1. Father Calloway serves as vicar-provincial and vocation director for the Mother of Mercy Province of the Marian Fathers and lives at the Marian House in Steubenville, Ohio.

Fanders felt a spiritual calling to join the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in early 2012 as an associate lay member — called vir aggregatus. Mark lives, prays, and works in community with the Marian priests and brothers on Eden Hill in Stockbridge. A native of Florida, he completed an architectural college degree and served more than 25 years as a director for one of the largest architectural firms in Florida, assisting national healthcare, educational, governmental, and religious clients. 

Fanders also served on the board of directors of FIAT (a national Catholic spiritual life program); served as a member of a Catholic ministry retreat team at St. Leo Benedictine Abbey; assisted both the Sisters of St. Clare of Florida, and Grace Ministries (a Catholic evangelism organization serving central Africa). He also has developed several Catholic websites with over half a million visitors.

Throughout the weekend, the 350-acre Divine Mercy Shrine grounds are transformed into a small city providing a rich, spiritual experience to pilgrims visiting from throughout the world. Translators providing assistance in Spanish, Polish, Italian, French and Tagalog are among the more than 600 volunteers on site throughout the weekend to assist with a myriad of responsibilities, ranging from overseeing parking to receiving prayer intentions and staffing the outdoor shrines and the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. 

Of particular interest at this year’s Divine Mercy Sunday celebration is the international debut on the EWTN telecast of a new initiative by the Marian Fathers to place Divine Mercy images in every home and parish during the Year of Faith. Divine Mercy Art provides museum-quality, gallery-wrapped and framed canvas images at a fraction of the cost usually associated with quality canvas art. The unique program will offer a 10 x 18 reproduction of the famous Vilnius image for less than $20. The history of the historic painting, and the inspiration that led to creating Divine Mercy Art, will be explained during the program.

All are welcome to attend Divine Mercy Sunday Weekend. Admission is free for individuals; however, bus groups must register with the Shrine Pilgrimage Office: The event also provides an opportunity for ministry groups, confirmation candidates, and high school religious education classes, to observe and share in the devotion of thousands of pilgrims.