On the day when Catholics throughout the world were reminded of their call by Pope Francis to respond in Jesus’ name to welcome the stranger, the immigrant, the refugee, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., noted three elements a person is required to have when responding to the call of God in their own lives – faith, trust and openness.
That was the message Bishop O’Connell brought to the people of St. Hedwig Parish, Trenton, during the Mass he celebrated for World Day of Migrants and Refugees Jan. 14.
Preaching before a congregation that filled the church – a parish that serves as the spiritual home to native Poles and Polish-American Catholics – Bishop O’Connell spoke of how God’s call “always brings with it a purpose, a mission.”
Reflecting on the day’s First Reading, which recounted how God called Samuel, and then how God the Father had a mission for his Son, Jesus, “so, too, Jesus has a mission for all of us whom he calls to follow him. He calls us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to comfort the sick, to visit the prisoner, to welcome the stranger,” the Bishop said.
Bishop O’Connell acknowledged that the climate and culture of the present day makes it challenging for one to respond to God’s call.
“Politics, anger, social pressure and emotion can disguise the Lord’s call ‘to welcome the stranger,” he said. “To welcome, to protect, to promote, to integrate immigrants – these are the ways Pope Francis reminds us to fulfil the Lord’s call.”
The Mass was concelebrated by Father Jacek Labinski, pastor of St. Hedwig Parish, and Father Michael Wallack, priest-secretary to the Bishop, with Deacon Thomas Watkins assisting. A special highlight of the Mass was the group of young parishioners who were dressed in native Polish attire, presenting a bouquet of flowers to the Bishop as a gift from the parish community.
Photos of Bishop O'Connell's visit to St. Hedwig Church.