Pastor’s Desk ~ April 14, 2024

Dear Fellow Parishioners,

I would like to address a few matters regarding Catholic devotions in general, and the devotional life of our parish.

Over the past week, I was contacted by a very nice couple, new to the parish, who expressed an interest in establishing First Saturday devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. It would begin at 7:00 a.m., before the 8:00 a.m. First Saturday Mass, and then finish after Mass with some final prayers. I told this couple that I would think about it, and invite feedback from the wider community before I made a final decision. Please feel free to provide me with your feedback at my email address (, by letter, or by phone message given to the office staff.

The history and architectural design of our beautiful church is intended to foster a rich, but orderly devotional life. The large statues at the front of the church, which you see behind the communion rail and by the confessionals, were carefully selected for the specific needs of our parish when our church was built: St. Joseph, St. Vincent de Paul (of course!), The Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lady of Lourdes/Immaculate Conception, St. Therese of Lisieux. The latter four of these saints commanded widespread popular devotion on the part of the faithful. Our church was designed and built hot on the heels of WWI, and there was a strong note of mercy in each of these devotions.

A basic principle of effective church design is that images and symbols should occur once and not be repeated in the main body of the church. One Cross, one image of Jesus, one Mary, one Joseph, etc. Repeating or overusing symbols and images is to dilute their effect. It is a wise guideline which, by and large, had been observed in the construction of our church. A major source of the beauty of our church is its perfect proportions and balance. Nothing important was left out, nothing is overdone.

Two statues in the back corners of the church (by the triple main doors) represent two of the main cultures represented in parish when the church was built: St. Isabella (Elizabeth) of Portugal, and St. Rita Cascia, who lived in the 1300s and was canonized in 1900, not all that long before our church was planned and built.

In my view, there are three apparitions, images and devotions to Our Blessed Mother that have achieved permanent international status: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, and Our Lady of Fatima. The only one of these three not permanently represented in our church is Our Lady of Fatima, for the simple reason that this apparition had not been authenticated at the time our church was built.

The primary image of the Blessed Mother in our church is that of Our Lady of Lourdes, on the left side of the sanctuary as you look forward to the main sanctuary. In recent years, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has been added to that quadrant of the church, to accommodate and welcome an image uniquely powerful in Hispanic devotional life.

Finally, there is a basic and sensible guideline to any devotional preference or practice: “All may, none must.” They may be of help to some, but are not obligations for all. One can be a perfectly fine Catholic in good standing and never pray a Rosary, do a novena, or walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. When asked about his own spiritual practices, Pope Benedict XVI said that “every believer is free to choose for himself or herself from the infinite spiritual treasury of the Church.” That’s a wise guideline for today, as well.

Blessings, Fr. Bill Donahue

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