St. Mary holds revival

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 17, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; A five-day program to renew and enliven the Christian faith will begin at St. Mary Basilica Sunday and continue through Friday, 6:30 p.m. each day.

&8220;It&8217;s the same concept as a revival,&8221; said the Rev. David O&8217;Connor, pastor of St. Mary and Assumption Catholic Church, where similar 11 a.m. services will be held Monday through Thursday.

The overall theme is &8220;Fire Up Our Spirit,&8221; with each evening service devoted to a topic, a related Christian symbol and a specific goal.

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The Rev. John Kuehner and the Rev. Jose Arturo Uribe, Redemptorist priests from Chicago, will lead the services.

&8220;Except for one regular Mass, the programs will be Scripture-based prayer services,&8221; O&8217;Connor said.

Sunday, the symbol is the Bible. The topic is &8220;God&8217;s plan of salvation and our response.&8221; The goal is to deepen awareness of God&8217;s love for his people.

Monday, the crucifix is the symbol. The topic is &8220;Who is Jesus for us?&8221; And the goal is to grow in faith in Jesus.

Tuesday&8217;s symbol is the Easter candle. The topic is &8220;Sin, reconciliation and healing.&8221; And the goal is to experience God&8217;s healing power.

Wednesday, bread is the symbol. &8220;Jesus as nourishment for the journey of faith&8221; is the topic. The goal is &8220;to enrich our celebration of the Eucharist and to be Eucharist,&8221; O&8217;Connor said.

For Thursday&8217;s service, the altar is the symbol. The topic is &8220;Our mission to share in the work of Jesus and the church.&8221; The goal is to renew commitment to proclaim the Good News.

O&8217;Connor said the two priests who will lead the services will help the congregations become engaged with each symbol.

&8220;For instance, on Monday, each person will be given a small memento cross to take with them. On Tuesday, each will get a small candle to light from the big one. On Wednesday each will get a small loaf of bread to take home.&8221;

Thursday will be Mass. &8220;There will be preaching, challenging people to live out what they&8217;re professing and giving them an opportunity to take communion,&8221; O&8217;Connor said. &8220;Our hope is that the service will draw people into it.&8221;

The services are open to all Christians, he said. &8220;A person from any congregation could take something from these services. These men leading the services do this full time. They&8217;re attuned to cross-denominational congregations,&8221; he said.

Wherever a person may be in his faith journey, the services will apply, he said.

&8220;Within a congregation, you have people whose faith is very much alive. We want to nourish that faith and give them new insight and opportunity for growth.

&8220;Another segment is more passive and not regular church goers, maybe because of their busy lives or some other reason. They&8217;re not so fired up. Maybe this will give them a new beginning helped along by preachers who are not of the local scene.

&8220;Others in the congregation may become inactive because they are not very connected. It can happen for various experiences,&8221; O&8217;Connor said.

&8220;Perhaps grief or divorce and remarriage makes them think the church wouldn&8217;t want them anymore,&8221; he said. &8220;Or maybe they are bothered about the recent crises in our church. We say to them we&8217;re doing the best we can to present the Gospel teaching, and we invite them to take a second look at us.&8221;

All Christians are seekers of the truth, he said. &8220;And no one has a monopoly on the truth.&8221;

St. Mary will provide transportation for anyone who needs it. Call the basilica office, 601-445-5616 for assistance.

In addition, a children&8217;s program for ages 3 through elementary school will follow the same themes each evening at St. Mary. &8220;And there will be babysitting for children below that age,&8221; O&8217;Connor said.

&8220;We&8217;ve canceled all programs and meetings at the school or parish during the week to give everyone an opportunity to attend.&8221;

School athletic events, because they are scheduled in advance, will go on as planned.

In addition to the services at St. Mary and Assumption, the visiting priests will lead a service at Cathedral School at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday for grades 7 to 12.