Feb 13, 2013

Bishop McDonnell urges Catholics to help others during Lent


Story and photos by Rebecca Drake

SPRINGFIELD – Still stunned by the surprise news of the papal resignation, local Catholics found one religious tradition unchanged today: the reception of ashes to mark the beginning of Lent.

“It’s what we were brought up with; it gets you going with Lent,” said Anne Lynch, a parishioner of St. Michael’s Cathedral Parish, here, after the 12:10 p.m. Ash Wednesday Mass at the cathedral.

Lynch joined dozens of area Catholics who were welcomed to the liturgy by Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell. “We enter immediately into a time of preparation for the passion, death and resurrection of Christ,” the bishop said, before beginning the Mass. “It is a time to look into ourselves to see what we can do to improve our relationships with God and with neighbor.”

“We look into ourselves during Lent and determine what it is we have to do in order that, when Easter comes, we will be closer to Christ,” Bishop McDonnell said during his homily. “It takes a time like Lent for us to determine how we can do better.”

The bishop went on to outline the three areas of focus for Christians during the Lenten season: prayer, sacrifice and action. Regarding the concept of sacrifice, he said, “It is not simply giving up. It is giving ourselves, giving the best we are for the sake of others.”

Bishop McDonnell said that the call for action, for “doing,” requires Christians “to help those who are worse off than ourselves.” He said that while each person may have a different way of helping others, “the requirement to do something is there.”

“Lent ends with the crucifixion – the resurrection follows,” the bishop said as he concluded his homily. “But if we sacrifice now, we are ready then.”

Bishop McDonnell encouraged those present to take advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation during Lent. “May God make this Lent a time when you are truly prepared for the resurrection of Christ,” he said.

Erik Correa, who was a parishioner of the former Holy Family Parish in Springfield and now belongs to the cathedral parish, said he takes the season of Lent seriously as “a time of personal change.”

“I try to make myself a better Catholic … to sacrifice certain things, and to take a new step in life,” said Correa, in an interview with iobserve. He said this year he plans “to not be as critical of others, to be more accepting of others for who they are.”

As for Lynch, she said she will focus during Lent on raising money for Jambo Tanzania, a local organization that coordinates medical missions to Africa.

She said, for her, “Lent brings you back to where you came from. It reminds you of what you have to do to be better.”