A continuous stream of people entered the sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace Parish in Palm Bay to pray during the celebration of 24 Hours for the Lord, a special initiative held at the request of Pope Francis at parishes around the world March 4-5 to allow people to encounter the mercy of God during the Jubilee of Mercy. This universal event was truly a universal celebration at Our Lady of Grace Parish.
(Picture: Father Mark Wajda of St. Paul in Leesburg leads parishoners in prayer).
“It’s a diverse parish,” said Father Emmanuel Akalue, pastor of Our Lady of Grace, originally from Nigeria, “and so we celebrated the 24 Hours for the Lord with many different devotions. Our parishioners are from every part of the world and we love the Spirit here.”
The celebration opened with Mass at 9 a.m. followed by 24 hour exposition of the Blessed Sacrament . At least ten people prayed hourly until the concluding Mass the next morning. In addition to the celebration of Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, a multicultural rosary was prayed with all 20 decades said in “each one’s native tongue” simultaneously; the Divine Mercy Chaplet was recited and sung; the Stations of the Cross were prayed in English, and Spanish as well as the St. Pope John Paul II Scriptural Stations. The Sacrament of Reconciliation was available frequently throughout the 24 hour period.
“Adoration is a moment to stay with God,” shared Sandra Rincon from Mexico. “It’s a moment to remember how much he loves us and all of our brothers and sisters. How precious is our life that he gave his life for us? How can we contribute for what he paid for us? My only answer is we can spread his love and compassion to our brothers and sisters. It is so beautiful.”
Our Lady of Grace joined many other parishes in the Diocese of Orlando that participated in 24 Hours of the Lord either by opening their doors for the whole 24 hour period or by offering extended hours for the community to encounter God’s mercy and love through the celebration of Mass, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Eucharistic Adoration, and personal prayer.
“So many people, including young people, are returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; through this experience they are rediscovering a path back to the Lord, living a moment of intense prayer and finding meaning in their lives,” wrote Pope Francis in Misericordiae Vultus. “Let us place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the center once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands.”
Osborne McCarter has had many opportunities to both receive and give the mercy of God throughout his life. Born in Trinidad, his family moved to Queens, N.Y. in 1968 at the height of the race riots. His parents taught him to pray and to treat others with respect even if they didn’t respect him. His Catholic faith has remained strong through military service and law enforcement work as he has reached out and offered help to those who need it most. Since 2008, he has delighted in the diversity of the Our Lady of Grace community.
“What amazes me is the inclusiveness I find here,” McCarter said. “The 24 Hours is something the Pope wanted and I said, ‘let me see what I can do to help.’ So I came early Friday morning. Father Emmanuel asked me to lead the Divine Mercy chaplet. Standing at the podium, assisting with the devotion, I felt really good… It wasn’t pre-planned. It just happened and it meant so much to me.”