Newly engaged couple among local Holy Doors’ final pilgrims

| November 21, 2016 | 0 Comments
From left, Jonathan Thompson and Julia Waletzko are all smiles as they exit the Holy Door at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis Nov. 20 at the conclusion of a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Bernard Hebda to end the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The two got engaged earlier that day and are planning a wedding at the Basilica for July 2017. They met earlier this year at the Basilica on Valentine’s Day. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

From left, Jonathan Thompson and Julia Waletzko are all smiles as they exit the Holy Door at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis Nov. 20 at the conclusion of a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Bernard Hebda to end the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The two got engaged earlier that day and are planning a wedding at the Basilica for July 2017. They met earlier this year at the Basilica on Valentine’s Day. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Hundreds filled the front steps of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis Nov. 20 following Mass to witness the closing of the church’s Holy Doors, marking the end of the jubilee Year of Mercy.

Among them were Jonathan Thompson and Julia Waletzko, who had held hands and grinned as they passed through the doors a final time. The pair, who met at the Basilica at a Bible study on Valentine’s Day, had gotten engaged just hours earlier.

“The closing of the Holy Doors was a big draw,” Thompson said of the couple’s decision to attend the closing Mass. “It was such a peaceful experience.”

Archbishop Bernard Hebda presided at the 6:30 p.m. Mass and then invited the congregation to process out of the Holy Doors before he ceremoniously closed them. With the Cathedral of St. Paul and St. Maron in Minneapolis, the Basilica was one of three local churches with designated Holy Doors for the jubilee year.

Last year, Pope Francis called for a jubilee Year of Mercy to begin in December 2015 to highlight God’s mercy for all people. Dioceses throughout the world hosted activities focused on the works of mercy, increased time available for confessions and opened designated holy doors for pilgrims. In past jubilee years, Holy Doors only opened at Rome’s four major basilicas, but this year Pope Francis extended the opportunity to all dioceses.

Pilgrims from around the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis came to the Basilica Nov. 20 to pass through the Holy Doors one last time. Those who went through the doors could receive a plenary indulgence, a complete remission of temporal punishment due to sin.

There are “just so many graces and blessings that we get that everybody should be taking advantage of, for sure,” said Beth Brown, a parishioner of St. Bernard in St. Paul who led a group of women to the Basilica for the closing Mass.

Others brought their families, some for the first time.

“I wanted to make sure that they had the experience of processing through the [Holy] Door but also seeing ceremonially what they do with [the] archbishop here for actually closing the doors,” said Maria Mellen, a parishioner of St. Hubert in Chanhassen.

Mellen and her husband, Jay, brought their three children to go through the Holy Doors for the first time as a family. They had observed the holy year through their parish; Maria and Jay joined a small group, and the children attended a class about the works of mercy. They also made an effort to practice mercy in their home.

For Thompson and Waletzko, the jubilee year will forever be part of their love story. Thompson purposely tied his proposal to its final day. Earlier this year, he and his bride-to-be passed through holy doors thousands of miles apart, but they concluded the year walking through holy doors together.

A parishioner of Maternity of Mary in St. Paul, Thompson went through the Basilica’s Holy Doors for the first time on Valentine’s Day and had been praying for clarity in God’s plan for his life. That night he met Waletzko, a Basilica parishioner, who had recently returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where she had gone through Holy Doors at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. She, too, had been praying about what God wanted for her life, she said.

“It’s just amazing what happened in the last year, not even, 10 months since I went through those other Holy Doors,” Waletzko said.

In his homily, Archbishop Hebda emphasized that mercy must continue beyond the jubilee. He tied it to the feast of Christ the King, which the Church celebrated that day and which also marks the end of the Church’s liturgical year.

“As a people, we have been celebrating throughout this Year of Mercy that our God is a God of mercy and that Jesus, God made flesh, is the very face of mercy,” Archbishop Hebda said.

He also spoke of the Holy Doors’ significance as they welcomed many pilgrims during the jubilee year. But, he said, their closing doesn’t mean the faithful no longer have a holy door to pass through.

The Basilica’s patroness, Mary, is also called “the Door of Heaven,” he noted.

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