“Pope Benedict XVI has a great quote about purgatory being a chance for God to ‘put the pieces back together’ in our broken, disordered lives,’” shared Sister Margaret Mary Mitchel, OSF. “Once someone has died, he or she depends on our prayers to help God in this process.”
Praying for the deceased is why, on All Souls Day, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades joined the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration to celebrate Mass and bless the resting site of the sisters.
The Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration have had a cemetery on the grounds of their Mishawaka convent since the first sister was buried there in 1945. The cemetery, which includes a Stations of the Cross and altar, is now the resting place for 545 deceased sisters.
Sister Rose Agnes Pfautsch shared about the importance of the cemetery — which includes an altar, a large crucifixion scene, and Stations of the Cross — as being a special place of prayer, “a place where Sisters go for fresh air, fellowship, and exercise, and a place where they remember the great legacy on which they stand.”
Bishop Rhoades affirmed this in his homily, saying: “This cemetery is also a holy place because the ground and the graves here have been blessed, and also because this is a place of prayer, where you can pray the rosary or the Stations of the Cross. Here we can practice the spiritual work of mercy of praying for the dead.”
In his homily, Bishop Rhoades spoke of the importance of All Souls Day for all Catholics.
“It expresses something very natural within us – the urge to pray for our departed loved ones. This is a holy responsibility: to pray for the holy souls in purgatory, thus helping them to reach the heavenly kingdom, that they may see God face to face and obtain the joy of the saints in heaven.”
“We pray for the faithful departed because we believe that their life is changed, not ended,” he continued. “Their bodies are in the tombs of this and other cemeteries. The bodies of the dead decay, but their souls have gone to meet God. And, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection, on the last day, God will grant incorruptible life to their bodies by reuniting them with their souls.”
This union with Christ is what Sister Ann Joseph Nelling, OFM, said is the sisters’ desire when they enter religious life, and this is what they desire in praying for their deceased sisters. She stated, “Praying for our deceased sisters draws us all closer to the heavenly marriage banquet. It also keeps alive in our memories the many examples of joy and strength we have received from our deceased sisters, and it urges us to ‘live in a manner worthy of the call we have received’” (Eph. 4:1).
The sisters were overjoyed and honored to have Bishop Rhoades say Mass, said Sister Angela Mellady, OFM. “Each year we hold a service at the cemetery on All Souls Day, and having the bishop provided an added solemnity to the occasion, reminding us of the great reality of the communion of saints – militant, suffering, and triumphant – present at every Mass.”
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