By Sor Marichui Bringas CCVI
Dear Sisters, this is the tenth month of my ministry at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, located in Belleville, Illinois, close to St. Louis MO, across the Mississippi River. I am grateful for the opportunity to be in this diocese considered rural and mission land and I would like to share with you, broadly speaking, what I experience here.
I build community with Sister Mary John Baricevic, SSND, she is a teacher of Mathematics and Programming, she also supports her sisters when they have difficulties using the computer. We share daily prayers, take turns cooking and keeping the house clean. We are part of the ecclesial community of the Saint Lucas Parish.
Most of my time is dedicated to serving Hispanic people in the area, attending to their needs and seeking creative ways to implement resources for spiritual development and formation of ecclesial community in the Shrine. On Wednesdays, I volunteer for a few hours at St. Elizabeth’s Daycare, where we care for people with disabilities.
The community that gathers for Sunday Mass in the Shrine is growing, the joy experienced in sharing the faith is unique. It has been very helpful to share the readings with the children in a separate space, to talk to them at their level, with examples and games, it makes it an educational and enjoyable time, then we integrate after the homily to continue the Eucharist with their families.
The strong liturgical times have been spaces where we identify as an Hispanic community to celebrate our faith and traditions. The very famous “quinceañeras” celebrations in this area are opportunities for evangelization. We also have a vocational Holy Hour once a month and a Healing Mass.
We are beginning to receive pilgrimages; from my experience, these are people who offer us their faith in a very special way, since they literally “walk” in search of sacred sites.
Thank God the Sanctuary has a group of volunteer-leaders, who generously give their time in the many activities. I recognize that I am passing through and that the most important thing will be that they have a good training-formation, in addition to the continuous study and development of every disciple of the Lord Jesus.
In coordination with the School of Theology of the Oblates in San Antonio, TX we will begin next August 2023 the Certification in Pastoral Care, for volunteers, a course that takes two years. For now I have meetings with the group of 18 people to integrate. I have shared Bible classes and jointly reviewed the registration and writing process for their autobiographies.
We have started, with 15 students of all ages, a guitar workshop, to strengthen the choirs of parishes near the Shrine and the Shrine’s choir itself. We will also have a spiritual retreat in Spanish for men and another for women, the Shrine has had retreats in English for years.
I continue serving people in their spiritual growth, knowing that it is a Gift, challenge and Blessing.
This coming June, God willing, I will be accompanying one of the groups of the summer workshops offered bythe Faith and Life Institute in Chicago. Communication always plays an important role in all spaces, that is why maintaining the database, emails and Facebook page is paramount. I invite you to visit and like the “National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows” page.
Thanks for reading, blessings. United in prayer.