Written by: Denise Serafini on Sunday, February 14, 2016
Our first meeting was with the newly ordained Deacon Jose Fernando. It is genuinely a small world. It seems Deacon Fernando had just arrived at the proto-cathedral from being at the Seminary of St. Thomas in Connecticut. He is in Illinois to work on developing a program for the deaf community. What are the chances?
We had the great pleasure to meet Rev. Msgr. Kenneth C. Steffen, a truly amazing man, that officiated the service with added arrangements to enhance the program. We began with organizing the procession into the church. I was initially confused by the sheer number of people he had waiting back there to participate. He explained that he selected individuals to bring the relics down the aisle but with added escorts that represented various principles. So for example, we had an entire family, mother, father and 13 children process in representing the value of family with one member designated to carry the relic. Another was Deacon Fernando and Deacon Adam Zawadzki (both dominicans) representing vocations and the priesthood. Another was the members of the Knights of Columbus Color Guard representing service. The underlying messaging that was added to the processional was remarkable.
Monsignor Steffen began the service wearing an incredible cope that was as regal as it was simple, starting with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament which remained with us through the meditative portion of the program. With each meditation there is a prayer that is usually read by the priest. Well Monsignor Steffen chanted each of the prayer segments adding to the solemnity of the readings on Christ’s Passion.
When the meditative portion of the program concluded, we had Benediction and then proceeded with veneration. During that time Monsignor Steffen announced that he would be in the confessional. There was a significant line that formed up almost immediately.
Veneration was particularly touching with these people. I think more than anything it was the general feeling that pervaded the church. It was total silence, reverence and solemnity.
We completed the veneration portion of the program and realized we needed to start packing up to reach our event in O’Fallon on time. However, Monsignor Steffen was still in the confessional with people waiting. We asked Deacon Adam if he could interrupt the process for just a few minutes to allow the Monsignor to venerate before we left. Well, as soon as the next person emerged from the confessional the deacon stepped in to get his attention. Monsignor Steffen came forward and took his time to be with the relics. Very touching.
He made every aspect of God’s Mercy come to life in this event. We were truly blessed to be a part of a service with the pastor of this church. I can’t thank him enough for inviting us.