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Guest column collaboratively provided by Fr. Gino, Cathy Hunt and Melissa Peters ~
You could say that Our Lady of Mount Carmel is going to the animals. It has been on FOX, ABC, and NBC News. It has been on the front page of the Bergen Record. OLMC is literally going to the animals because on Saturday, September 26 through Sunday, September 27 approximately 240 people (about 70 families) from OLMC and Academy of Our Lady will be traveling by 5 buses from the parish into Philadelphia and staying at the Philadelphia Zoo. OLMC is partnering with the Philadelphia Zoo and the zoo’s Night Flight Program as part of their pilgrimage to participate in the World Meeting of Families and pray with Pope Francis.
Last September, when Cathy heard that Pope Francis was coming to Philadelphia to celebrate the World Meeting of Families “The Family Fully Alive”, Cathy was so excited to invite our families to participate. Cathy Hunt, one of the committee members, has had the opportunity to participate in World Youth Day several times and those experiences have really made a big impact on her spiritual life. Cathy knew this experience would have such a deep impact on the families’ lives and would strengthen the faith life of the entire family. To get the chance to gather, pray and sing with Catholic families from all over the World and experience the faith and energy of Pope Francis is an experience one will never forget, sure to leave a lasting impression.
 
A pilgrimage is different from a vacation in the idea that a pilgrimage is a prayer trip where the focus is on God. Instead of the focus being on rest and relaxation, the focus is on God and going where God is leading. In Cathy’s experience, anything can happen on a pilgrimage.
 
So you might be asking yourself how OLMC came to the decision of staying at the Zoo. While brainstorming places to stay for the Pilgrimage one of the staff members here at OLMC suggested the Philadelphia Zoo. The staff member had just stayed there with her daughter on a Girl Scout overnight trip. For overnight trips, the zoo houses people in their giant indoor treehouse as well as their Kids Zoo U building. Visitors sleep in sleeping bags and on air mattresses on the floor. The pilgrimage committee loved the idea, called the zoo, and never looked back.
 
Melissa Peters, one of the other committee members, believes that the zoo is perfect for a Pope Francis pilgrimage, since Pope Francis’ name comes from St. Francis the patron saint of animals and ecology. Pope Francis has been speaking a lot recently on our need to be concerned about our environment and animals. The zoo’s Night Flight program will really keep the pilgrim families in spirit with Pope Francis. Melissa and the committee are connecting the two with buttons, t-shirts, and songs. The committee feels that Pope Francis would be proud that OLMC is staying at the zoo and learning how to make the world a better place to live.
 
Praying with the Pope is an unbelievable experience, and Fr. Gino knows that first hand. Fr. Gino, one of the other committee members, was deeply impacted by the visits of Pope Saint John Paul II, when he visited New Jersey in 1995, and Pope Benedict XVI, when he visited Washington, D.C. in 2008. On both occasions Father Gino was able to feel the tremendous impact of being in the presence of the Pope, and from then on, always knew that such moments were truly “once-in-a-lifetime.” There is nothing he wants more than for Pope Francis to notice our pilgrimage group and hopefully kiss one of our children! These encounters are filled with so much grace, that the Holy Spirit will undoubtedly ignite in all those present, a profound zeal for the faith.
 
Staying at the zoo also comes as an added bonus to the entire pilgrimage experience, as the message couldn’t come across any clearer for our young pilgrims - growing deeper in your faith is fun! What more could a child ask for?
The Night Flight program is designed for groups with children to experience the zoo after dark! OLMC will be hiking the zoo at night, meeting zoo keepers, and learning from the experts how they take care of animals in the zoo and across the globe. The night’s activities focus on recycling and empowering people to take action to help save the animals. The activities bring focus to the zoo’s taglines which are: “Taking action in your daily life to save the animals” and “Save Energy to Save Wildlife”.
 
The staff at the zoo has been so accommodating and they are so excited to welcome Pope Francis to their city. In fact, their dream is that Pope Francis might stop by the zoo. Wouldn’t that be awesome?!
 
As of now, OLMC pilgrims will be gathering at the parish at about 7AM on Saturday morning and will begin the day with Mass said by Fr. Ron. Once loaded on the buses, Fr. Ron will be giving a blessing and then off to Philadelphia. There will be 5 staff members leading this pilgrimage, one for each bus: Fr. Kevin and Fr. Gino (our spiritual directors) and Cathy Hunt, Melissa Peters, and Kim Birdsall. OLMC plans to get to the zoo sometime before noon. Once in Philadelphia OLMC’s families will be spending the day Saturday at the World Meeting of Families. There will be a celebration with a parade in the afternoon where Pope Francis is the honored guest. In the evening the pilgrims will return back to the zoo and participate in the zoo’s programs. On Sunday, the families will be participating in the zoo’s morning programs. Then, the group will walk downtown to join with approximately 2 million people for the World Meeting of Families closing mass celebrated by Pope Francis. The mass will be celebrated at the top of the Philadelphia Art Museum stairs (also known as the “Rocky stairs”) and people will fill in on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. OLMC’s group plans to arrive back to Ridgewood on Sunday evening.
 
The parish will be making a financial donation to the zoo in Pope Francis’ name. The project will be: The Footprint Project. This project focuses on climate change and it pays for the planting of trees at the zoo. It is a project with which Pope Francis would be proud to be associated. If any parishioner would like to contribute to this project contact Cathy Hunt at the Religious Education Office or stop by the table at the Block Party.
 
The group from OLMC asks you to keep the families, the ones going on the pilgrimage and families all over the world, in your prayers as the World Meeting of Families “The Family Fully Alive” approaches. Be sure to follow OLMC’s roaring journey on Instagram and Twitter by using the handle @olmcridgewood and the hashtag #olmczoocre
 
God Bless you,
Fr. Gino, Cathy Hunt & Melissa Peters

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Mass Schedule

Weekend Liturgies
Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
Sunday
8:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m.,
11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m.,
3 p.m. (Spanish), 6:30 p.m.
Weekday Liturgies
Monday thru Friday,
6:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m.,
and 12 noon
Saturday, 8:30 a.m. only
Holy Days
Eve: 7:30pm (anticipated)
6:30am, 8:30am, and 12noon 

 

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