A pilgrimage of holy preparation

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Teenagers from Dracut parish take part in centuries-old Seven Church buildings Visitation custom










Norah Smith, 14, left, and her sister Julia Smith, 16, of Pelham, N.H., participate in Visitation of the Seven Churches on Holy Thursday. This was the


Norah Smith, 14, left, and her sister Julia Smith, 16, of Pelham, N.H., take part in Visitation of the Seven Church buildings on Holy Thursday. This was the primary cease, at St. Patrick’s in Lawrence.
SUN/Julia Malakie

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DRACUT — The three youngsters waited patiently underneath the darkish sky exterior St. Francis Parish on Holy Thursday. It was shortly earlier than 9 p.m. and the Mass of the Lord’s Supper had simply ended. Most parishioners had been nonetheless inside, deep in quiet prayer and adoration.

Julia Smith, 16, her sister Norah, 14, and Mike Cook dinner, 16, had different plans. They had been becoming a member of a gaggle of adults in Seven Church buildings Visitation, a centuries-old Roman Catholic custom throughout which parishioners on Holy Thursday go to completely different church buildings to wish.

This was a primary for the Smith sisters from Pelham, N.H. Cook dinner, of Dracut, has partaken within the custom main as much as Easter Sunday.

“I am anticipating one thing actually religious. Even at present at Mass, I normally attempt to concentrate as a lot as I can, however I felt like I paid rather more consideration at present for some motive,” Norah Smith stated. “I really feel like it should be actually religious and the Holy Spirit goes to the touch me indirectly or one other.”

Jessica Keefe, the church’s admin & parish communications coordinator, took nice care in mapping out the route of church buildings they had been destined to. The primary was St. Patrick’s Church in Lawrence, then St. Lucy and St. Monica Parishes in Methuen. The next three had been in Lowell: St. Patrick’s, St. Joseph the Employee Shrine, and St. Michael Parish. The seventh and ultimate church was their very own — St. Francis Parish.

The historical past of this pilgrimage follow dates again to St.

Philip Neri of Rome, in keeping with the Rev. Sean Maher, pastor of St. Francis Parish in Dracut. With the closings of native church buildings, sustaining the custom has grow to be tough, he stated. The individuals should make it to every church throughout the interval of adoration.

“For younger individuals it includes each inside disposition but additionally there’s just a little little bit of motion in motion, which retains individuals ,” Maher stated. “There is a sense of accomplishment on the finish of it, that you have gone to the seven church buildings, you’ve got accomplished your mission.”

The intergenerational group of a couple of dozen break up into three vehicles, one in every of which was pushed by Emily Noel, volunteer coordinator of service ministry. The Smiths climbed into Noel’s electrical blue Ford Fusion and on they went to St. Patrick’s Church in Lawrence. In the course of the experience, Julia learn a Bible passage, the primary of seven that correspond with the stops Catholics imagine Jesus Christ made on his method to Calvary, the place he was crucified.

Noel and the sisters met the others within the parking zone of St. Patrick’s and collectively they walked in. Congregants, largely Latino, checked out them curiously from the picket pews earlier than turning their gazes again to the entrance of the dim church. There have been lit candles on the altar. Cook dinner sat within the seventh row, Julia and Norah Smith within the ninth. Norah Smith clasped her arms in entrance of her mouth and closed her eyes.

After a couple of minutes of prayer, they bought up and left. They needed to transfer shortly in the event that they had been to succeed in all seven church buildings earlier than adoration ended.

By the point they arrived at each St. Lucy and St. Monica Parishes in Methuen, it was too late to go in as a result of parishioners there had begun what’s generally known as Night time Prayer. The pastor recites verses and congregants reply again. They crowded within the tiny foyer of St. Monica Parish, a couple of peering on the nave by the small home windows of a door.

Noel continued driving by gentle drizzle to the remaining church buildings. On their rides in between, Cook dinner shared what felt like an countless stream of jokes.

“Do you know the moon has a restaurant on it? Nice meals, no ambiance,” he deadpanned.

Cook dinner additionally identified that the shovel was a groundbreaking invention.

Chuckles stuffed the automobile.

“You’ve got like perfected the dad joke,” Noel stated with an amused grin.

At St. Patrick Parish in Lowell, they prayed for a couple of minutes. A number of nuns had been among the many worshippers.

With six church buildings down, the group traveled again to Dracut. Exterior St. Francis Parish, the three teenagers mirrored on their night time. They agreed it helped put together them for Easter Sunday.

Norah Smith stated she achieved her aim of praying about one thing completely different at every parish. Julia Smith thought in regards to the passages they took turns studying throughout their time spent in Noel’s automobile. Cook dinner stated he prayed about each present and previous occasions.

“To undergo all of the completely different church buildings made me actually chill out and notice that it is Holy Week, and I ought to be reflecting on Jesus,” Norah Smith stated. “Easter is coming.”

Observe Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.

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