The order received an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help from the Pope in 1866
By Josh Tng
The B.C. Catholic
Caption: Father Mark Miller, the Provincial of Canadian Redemptorists (in Mass vestments), prepares to bless a new grotto alongside pastor Father Babu Mathew, CSsR, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Vancouver. Lisa Luft / Special to The B.C. Catholic.
"Make her known to the whole world!" Pope Pius IX proclaimed 150 years ago, as he gave Father Nicholas Mauron, CSsR, Superior General of the Redemptorists, an icon of Mary.
That mission of spreading the Holy Mother's mercy throughout the world is still being fulfilled today by the Redemptorists celebrating the 150th anniversary of the icon's entrustment worldwide.
In a message to the current Superior General, Pope Francis said he hoped the anniversary would "awaken a renewed and authentic devotion to the Holy Virgin, stirring the entire religious family and all who share in its charism to offer an ever more effective evangelical witness."
"Wherever Redemptorists have established parishes, they have taken the icon with them," said Father Mark Miller, CSsR, the Redemptorist provincial superior of Canada. "Even more, wherever they go to preach the Gospel, they take the icon and message of this great Mother of Perpetual Help, who is always ready to serve us with her prayers."
Father Miller visited Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Vancouver for its jubilee celebrations. The Vancouver parish held jubilee novenas and parish missions leading up to a Mass June 26 with more than 300 people participating.
"We have been celebrating this jubilee for a year, so we had a lot of events in the parish to commemorate the 150th year," said pastor Father Babu Mathew, CSsR. "This is the time to honour Mary's accompaniment in our lives, and acknowledge her presence in our journey."
The parish, celebrating its 93rd anniversary, unveiled a new grotto, created and blessed in celebration of the jubilee. Father Mathew noted the idea of the grotto's blessing began when he noticed many individuals praying in front of a statue of Mary.
"The jubilee grotto is a physical landmark to mark this special year," Father Mathew said. "It provides a scared place for the students, families, and parishioners to gather outside the church and spend some time praying to Mary."
During the jubilee Mass, a copy of the icon remained on display. The original icon itself is in the Church of St. Alphonsus in Rome, though the parish's copy is also unique. "The icon that we have in the church is from Rome, so it's very old," mentioned Father Mathew. "There were only around 10 copies made in Rome originally, and this is one of them."
By honouring the icon, Father Mathew noted, Redemptorists celebrate the "greatest gift they were given. The parish has gone through many difficult times in the past, but (Mary's) been supporting us this entire time. I feel really proud of having this opportunity to celebrate the 150th jubilee."
"I'm really proud to be a Redemptorist, and this jubilee helps remind us of the mission the Redemptorists were entrusted: to make Mary known," he said. "I am proud that we have been continuing this mission."
Father Miller emphasized the importance of Mary during his homily for the jubilee Mass. "Mary leads us to her Son, Who brings us the gift of salvation as the Son of God. One of the greatest gifts that comes from our God is the gift of mercy."
"It is a gift that is given to us, for we are all sinners," he continued. "Before Almighty God, we are sinners and in need of God's mercy. But we can't get lost in the notion of being sinners, as we are, even more, the children of God."
Mary's mercy can be correlated with the jubilee Year of Mercy, which will end Nov. 20, Father Miller said. He asked those in attendance to appreciate God's mercy, and renew their sense of noticing it in their lives.
"Over and over again, as we experience God's mercy, we can become more merciful ourselves," said Father Miller. "That is the way the gift of love comes to be in our imperfect world."
"Yes, we fail, and yes, we hurt one another, but mercy triumphs over all of that. Today, when you see our Blessed Mother's icon, let her help you discover great mercy."