Standing at the ambo, Bishop O'Connell preaches his homily on the significance of the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Mike Ehrmann photos
Standing at the ambo, Bishop O'Connell preaches his homily on the significance of the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Mike Ehrmann photos
Amid the ongoing “outrage, carnage and destruction” occurring in Ukraine from a “war that makes no sense,” Bishop David M. Connell, C.M., and hundreds of those gathered in Trenton’s St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, participated in a global call for peace, uniting their prayers with those of Pope Francis and bishops throughout the world. Another 500 faithful joined in prayer while viewing the livestream of the Mass on youtube.com/trentondiocese.

During the March 25 Mass commemorating the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, Bishop O’Connell led the faithful of the Diocese in a prayer composed by the Vatican consecrating Russia and Ukraine, as well as all of humanity, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Photo Gallery: Mass for consecrating Russia, Ukraine to Immaculate Heart of Mary

Some six hours earlier in Rome, the Holy Father presided over the same consecration during a penitential prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica and a similar consecration was to be held that day at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal and presided over by Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner. The consecration of Russia was part of the message that the Catholic Church believes to have been conveyed by the Blessed Mother to three shepherd children at Fatima in 1917.

The consecration prayer is a plea in which the faithful ask the Blessed Mother to intercede with her Son on their behalf “in this time of trial.”

In the text we pray: “Holy Mother, amid the misery of our sinfulness, amid our struggles and weaknesses, amid the mystery of iniquity that is evil and war, you remind us that God never abandons us, but continues to look upon us with love, ever ready to forgive us and raise us up to new life.

“Therefore, Mother of God and our mother, to your Immaculate Heart we solemnly entrust and consecrate ourselves, the Church and all humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine. Accept this act that we carry out with confidence and love. Grant that war may end and peace spread throughout the world. The ‘fiat’ that arose from your heart opened the doors of history to the Prince of Peace.

“We trust that, through your heart, peace will dawn once more. To you we consecrate the future of the whole human family, the needs and expectations of every people, the anxieties and  hopes of the world.”

In his homily, Bishop O’Connell said, “Today, the Catholic Church throughout the world interrupts the continuing sobriety of the season of Lent to celebrate the solemn feast of the Annunciation of the Lord” when the Angel Gabriel informed the Blessed Mother that she was to become the Mother of God.

“We turn to Mary once more, as we have done so often throughout the history of the Church – and place within her Immaculate Heart, in a profound act of consecration, Russia and Ukraine, as we pray for peace there,” Bishop O’Connell said.

“O Immaculate Heart of Mary, lead us to the heart of your Son; Our Lady Queen of Peace, O Mary Undoer of Knots, pray for us!”

In addition to the Mass celebrated by the Bishop, Masses and prayers of consecration took place in numerous parish churches at the Pope’s and Bishops’ invitation.

Mass-goers became emotional as they reflected on the Mass with Bishop O’Connell and they all agreed that if there’s anyone who could help bring about peace in war-torn Ukraine, it’s the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“This brings me to tears,” said Marlene Lao-Collins, referring to “And let it begin with me,” the last line in the closing hymn, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

“Today is a wonderful opportunity to pray with Catholics from all over the world and throughout our Diocese” and ask for the Blessed Mother’s intercession,” said Lao-Collins, executive director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton. “Today we go to the Blessed Mother and join our prayers and cry out to her.  This is a powerful moment for all of us to be together in the hope of bringing about peace.”

Sister Jacinta Miryam Hanley, a member of the Sister Servants of the Most Sacred Heart, and native of Corpus Christi Parish, Willingboro, spoke of the joy and privilege it was for her to attend the Mass and witness the consecration. It’s her hope, she said, that the consecration will bring about “an era of peace.”