Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Tristaters to witness Rome beatification of Father Chaminade

By Richelle Thompson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The legacy of Father William Joseph Chaminade lives in the halls of Moeller High School, in the pews of St. Francis DeSales, on the campus of the University of Dayton and in the hearts of thousands of who have been educated or blessed by the work of the Catholic Marianists.

        More than 120 local priests, brothers, teachers, students and other followers will travel next week to Rome to honor that legacy and witness the beatification of Father Chaminade.

        “It's very gratifying,” says Brother Donald Boccardi, director of spiritual renewal for the Cincinnati province. “It's the church's seal of approval on his life and ministry, which is really part of our life and ministry. We think he is a great man, and this helps him to be known throughout the church, not just for small groups of people.”

        Persecuted and imprisoned during the French Revolution, Father Chaminade founded in the early 1800s the Marianists, a society dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Its mission was to revive religion after the Revolution and to spread the faith. Followers established the first ministry in the United States in 1849 at Holy Trinity parish school in Over-the-Rhine.

        Beatification is the final phase before canonization or sainthood and requires proof of one miracle. The Vatican approved last year a miracle attributed to Father Chaminade. An Argentine woman with a walnut-sized tumor on her thyroid glands prayed for his intercession. The tumor disappeared within two weeks and has not returned.

        Abhijit Mehta, 16, of Montgomery, prays daily about his pilgrimage to the Vatican, his first trip to the holy city. The Moeller High School junior read over the summer a biography of Father Chaminade and talked with teachers about the meaning of a pilgrimage.

        “I'm a very religious person,” Abhijit says. “Traveling to Rome on a pilgrimage during a Jubilee Year ... It's a very big thing for me.”

        It will be a whirlwind trip for the Moeller group of 38 students, teachers, parents and priests. They arrive in Rome Sept. 1 and return five days later. Highlights include a prayer vigil with an expected 5,000 to 6,000 Marianist pilgrims from around the world, and the beatification Mass with Pope John Paul II on St. Peter's Square.

        The group also will have an audience with the pope in an auditorium that seats 12,000. Ten people from each of the five American provinces will be selected to greet the pope.

        Brother Ron Luksic, Moeller's assistant principal, frequently takes students on international trips and has celebrated Mass with the pope on St. Peter's Square.

        But during those crowded Masses, the pope “is a white dot in the window,” says Brother Ron, 51. In the auditorium, “we're just hoping the pope will come close enough so we can see him.”

        Locally, the Marianists founded Moeller and Purcell high schools and the University of Dayton. There are 1,600 Marianist priests worldwide, about 500 sisters and 10,000 lay members.

        In addition to Father Chaminade, Pope Pius IX, Pope John XXIII, Archbishop Tommaso Reggio and Dom Columba Marmion will be beatified.


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