New Bedford parish promotes effort to offer prayer,
penance in response to the Crisis in the Church


By Kenneth J. Souza
Anchor Editor
kensouza@anchornews.org

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — A growing group of faithful parishioners from across the Fall River Diocese have joined a grassroots effort to get every parish in the diocese to offer up prayer, penance and sacrifice during this Lenten season in response to the latest Crisis in the Church.

Organized and led by Edwin Aldarondo of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford, the group has now met twice — the latest meeting taking place on Friday, March 1 — and is actively engaged in getting other prayer groups and parish organizations involved.

“We’re hoping everyone can go back to their parish and have something going on — adoration or prayer groups — to sort of incorporate what was already in place so that you won’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Aldarondo said during the latest gathering. 

“But if there is nothing in your parish, then you can probably approach your pastor now about the possibility of organizing a Rosary group or something in which each and every one of those prayer groups we can ask and petition to Our Blessed Lord and Our Lady to correct this big issue, this big problem that we have in the Church.”

The effort began on February 1 — appropriately enough, a First Friday — with a PowerPoint presentation on the latest Crisis in the Church in anticipation of the bishops’ meeting in Rome on February 21-24. It was during that meeting that Aldarondo put a call out for parishes to join in and the follow-up meeting nearly doubled in attendance.

“The way to fight this is not just fighting it verbally,” Aldarondo said. “You can’t just say: ‘Oh, I’m going to walk away from the Church.’ It’s sad to say, but that’s what I’m hearing almost everywhere. We just came from a presentation this past Sunday, and when we asked the first question in the beginning, there was one gentleman who got up and said: ‘You know, I’m this close from just walking away from the Church.’ And I had to say to him: ‘Where to? Where are you going to go? To something worse?’

“And I said, ‘You are in the Church and you have a moral obligation. We all have a moral obligation to try to fix this problem.’ The only way we can fix it is to approach our Blessed Mother, and approach Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and we offer our prayers with a sincere heart, and we offer our fasting and reparation for the damage that’s being done. There is no other way.”

One parish that is already onboard is Holy Family in East Taunton, where Aldarondo and members of the group recently gave a presentation on the initiative.

“I think it is very important all the faithful to come together to pray and fast during this Crisis in the Church,” said Karen Coughlin, director of Faith Formation at Holy Family Parish. “The timing of this presentation is perfect. People are preparing for Lent and now they have something to do for Lent and to continue after Easter. Our Lady wants us to pray the Rosary — she has asked us many times to pray the Rosary. By prayer and fasting, people will feel that they are doing something to make a bad situation better. It will empower them to know they are part of the solution.” 

And Coughlin believes the effort has already begun to bear fruit.

“We did notice this past Friday was a First Friday and we had a larger group than usual at Mass,” she said. “I think it was a result of the presentation. Saturday was the storm, so we only had a small crowd. But if the people who saw the presentation can spread the word about prayer and fasting to the people who were unable to join us, that would increase the prayer pool. I heard people talking about forming small groups in their home, coming together to pray. And, of course we have Adoration Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. in the Adoration Chapel at the parish center.”

Jane Wilcox, who has been active with the Pro-Life movement at St. Bernard Parish in Assonet and the Living the Fatima Message group in the diocese, is eager to get involved with the effort.

“I think with the way the world is going right now and with the Crisis in the Church, the only thing that we really can do is to offer lot of prayer, right?” Wilcox said. “It seems all the people I know that are faithful Catholics, are all a feeling the same thing. It’s easy for people because they become critical. And that’s why some people, I hate to say it, they leave the Church because they get too involved in criticizing it.”

Aldarondo said it’s imperative during this crisis to not be critical or disparaging of our priests and bishops, but to support them.

“We have to support and pray for our priests and our bishops and our cardinals and for our pope, whether we like the individual or not is not the point,” Aldarondo said. “The point is that we have to pray for them and we have to work by their side. We have to collaborate with them in any possible way, but more importantly we have to collaborate with the desires of Our Blessed Mother. And for too long we have been putting that to the side. That’s why we are in the mess that we are today.”

To that end, Father Brendan O’Rourke, I.V.E., parochial vicar of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, offered some words of encouragement.

“It’s wonderful to see so many people here tonight, it’s very encouraging,” Father O’Rourke said. “You know sometimes it’s easy to get disheartened by what’s happening, it really is. But we just have to keep it positive, because each one of us here tonight, we can all do our own. You’d be surprised at how much each one of us can do. And already I’m seeing things happening. I always think about what the Lord said to Peter, ‘You know, Peter, upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’”

Father Matthias Sasko, F.I., the guardian of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate at Our Lady’s Chapel in downtown New Bedford, also praised the promise of prayer and penance in responding to the latest Church crisis.

“It’s really difficult, because you’ve always got to balance the two things,” Father Matthias said. “It’s our bishops, our priests, our Church, our pope. But at the same time even the Holy Father has been inviting us to just open dialogue and question and even offer constructive criticism. If you don’t see them, you have to be blind not to see these problems right in our faces.” 

“The only way we can fix this problem is to approach our Blessed Mother, and approach Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and offer our prayers with a sincere heart, and we offer our fasting and reparation for the damage that’s been done,” Aldarondo said. “There is no other way.”

Those interested in becoming involved with the Prayer, Penance and Sacrifice to offer “reparations” for the Crisis in the Church should contact Edwin Aldaronodo at ealda@comcast.net


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