Coming together for a grace-filled hour

Written by Donna Ottaviano-Britt

Up arose the powerful chorus of voices singing O Salutaris Hostia and it could make you weep. This was how the first in a series of Holy Hours began. These moments are intentional for those gathered — to pray in community to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance. This is one of the first fruits of the Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in South Jersey held in March.

Father Anthony Manuppella, pastor, helps create a holy time of prayer at Saint Gianna Beretta Molla Parish in Northfield. A series of Holy Hours is among the first fruits of the Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in South Jersey, that was held in Atlantic City in March.

We are gathering together to pray — clergy and laity — to “listen” so we as Missionary Disciples take the right next steps to renew and refresh the church. The Holy Spirit is leading and guiding us to love and to serve so we can ignite the faithful, attract the fallen away and provide an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus to bring people hope.

This is big stuff we are requesting. But Jesus has always said we should ask big, so we are. Come Holy Spirit!

The first in a series of Holy Hours scheduled across the Diocese of Camden was a grace-filled hour with everything to feed and nourish your spirit. These beautiful and holy people came from near and far across the diocese.

Along with the moving hymns led by the music ministry, we prayed a meditative Rosary, and Father Anthony Manuppella, pastor, delivered the Mary/Martha Gospel from the previous Sunday. He followed it up with a powerful message to sit at the Lord’s feet to learn so we may live our baptismal call of missionary discipleship. The Holy Hour closed with Benediction.

It really felt as if we had entered into the Gospel passage from the previous Sunday with Martha and Mary. The parishioners, Convocation leadership and Father Manuppella at Saint Gianna Beretta Molla Parish in Northfield created a holy time of prayer followed by fellowship in the parish hall.

It was a sight to behold as people gathered over cake and coffee to re-connect, share lives and stories and contact information. The parish hall filled with joyful sounds and the graces of the Holy Spirit. It was such a good place to be.

It contained another powerful element that each of us is called to — witness. Pope Saint John Paul II told us this is what people trust more than anything else — a person’s personal testimony and experience.

This is a key component for missionary disciples — we cannot dismiss or ignore it. David Hayes, a Convocation attendee with his wife, Marie, from Saint Gianna, shared his journey to the Catholic faith. His conviction of faith and his love for the Eucharist was a story we were graced to hear.

There are three additional Holy Hours. Everyone is invited to pray and be part of the missionary discipleship movement, to answer the call of baptism and to witness. Extend an invitation to others. Invite those who need to be renewed and those who have left. Include those who might just need this kind of evening to change their horizon.

Join us. Be holy. Be mission.

Wednesday, Aug. 21, 6:30-7:30 p.m., followed by Fellowship, Deanery, Incarnation Parish, 240 Main Street, Mantua 08051

Wednesday, Aug. 28, 6:30-7:30 p.m., followed by Fellowship, Deanery 1, Saint Teresa of Calcutta Parish, Saint John Church, 809 Park Ave., Collingswood 08108

Wednesday, Sept. 11, 6:30-7:30 p.m., followed by Fellowship, Deanery 5, Saint Damien Parish, Saint Francis Cabrini Church, Second and Atlantic avenues, Ocean City 08226

Donna M. Ottaviano-Britt is director of Missionary Discipleship, Diocese of Camden.