Cathedral rector: Massive turnout for rosary procession a sign of hope

| October 27, 2017 | 0 Comments

Father John Ubel never anticipated the sight he saw Oct. 13 when he emerged from the confessional at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul.

Thousands of people were crowded in the Cathedral praying before the 5:15 p.m. Mass or waiting in line for confessions with eight other priests offering the sacrament. That included a couple of priests who, noting the long lines, had set up chairs in side chapels to hear confessions, since the Cathedral has only six confessionals.

Father Ubel, Cathedral rector, had arranged for only two priests to hear confessions before the Mass and annual Candlelight Rosary Procession that evening. “In 28 years as a priest, and even in my memory before that, I have never seen so many people visit the Cathedral for a Mass or prayer service,” Father Ubel said in his Sunday homily Oct. 15. “I was completely floored.”

Droves of people going to confession began a spiritually packed evening at the Cathedral and the nearby State Capitol for the Candlelight Rosary Procession, which about 4,000 people attended this year. The event marked the 100th anniversary of the final Marian apparition at Fatima, with Archbishop Bernard Hebda reconsecrating the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to the Immaculate Heart of Mary that night.

Archbishop Hebda offered the consecration prayers both at Mass and in the procession’s closing prayers, ensuring that people who attended either part of the event had the opportunity to make personal consecrations. Repeating the prayer flows naturally from the need to consecrate oneself to Mary each day, he told The Catholic Spirit.

Consecration is about “entrusting ourselves to Our Lady and hoping that as we do that, it would be with real confidence,” he said. “She’s going to take us to Jesus to help us to see more clearly the path that we should be walking in the complex times of 2017.”

Reconsecrating the archdiocese on the apparition anniversary also ties into a request of Our Lady of Fatima, or Our Lady of the Rosary, who had asked the pope to consecrate Russia and the world to her Immaculate Heart.

“The message of Fatima powerfully speaks to us today,” Father Ubel said in the homily. “It is not merely an historical event, but a sign of Mary’s love.”

He considers it one of the most significant apparitions in recent Church history, with messages encouraging prayer and conversion.

Devotion to Mary under the title Our Lady of Fatima and her message has grown among the faithful over the past century. In the archdiocese, that’s included annual rosary processions in May and October organized by the Family Rosary Processions Association.

Father Ubel said this year’s event was different. He sees it as a moment of healing and unity amid the clergy sex abuse scandal and the archdiocese’s related bankruptcy proceedings. The rosary procession and reconsecration provided an opportunity for people to pull together, told The Catholic Spirit.

“We want to rejoice in our faith; we need to celebrate, and that is precisely what we did,” Father Ubel said in his homily. “We neither deny nor gloss over the serious issues that caused this situation, but we believe that God is calling us to move forward in faith, and that is precisely what happened.”

At the Oct. 13 Mass, Archbishop Hebda commented on the significant turnout. “Isn’t it great to be Catholic,” he said to resounding applause.

People again filled the Cathedral to standing room only for closing prayers after the procession returned from the State Capitol. The procession stretched the length of John Ireland Boulevard between the State Capitol and the Cathedral as people sang a hymn and prayed the rosary.

Joe Kueppers, chancellor for civil affairs for the archdiocese and a longtime volunteer organizer for Family Rosary Processions, said there were still people coming from the Capitol as people were entering the Cathedral. It was the biggest October rosary procession he has seen, he said.

Amy Cummings, a parishioner of All Saints in Lakeville who attended, said she was “just surprised and delighted” about the turnout. “I think it was just blessings and graces coming down upon people to come out.”

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