“Obviously, those are the three main language groups of the Catholics in New Haven,” Lerner said. “The three of us are working together.”
He noted that the Catholic collective’s “mother church” will be St. Mary’s Church, where the “center base of operations” will be located. The administration, including finances and sacramental records, will eventually be all in the same place, what is currently the rectory and offices of St. Mary’s Church.
Lerner said he anticipates even more people coming to St. Mary’s now to pray at McGivney’s tomb. “I’m getting ready to respond to that already,” he said. The blessed was re-entombed here after the Knights’ centennial in March 1982, making the church a shrine.
The beatification occurred during COVID, in 2020, so at that time, the church was “not receiving a ton of pilgrims, because people weren’t taking major bus trips,” Lerner said. “But since the world began to emerge from COVID, just as people are traveling for vacation, more and more are wanting to make these pilgrimages.”
He also foresees the merger increasing devotion to the “b lessed.”
“It certainly is my hope,” he said. “We want to promote this as much as we can. We’ve been trying to [get] my brother pastors, the priests, deacons, administrators to promote the cult [veneration] of McGivney because we’re one of the very few cities in this country that has the body of a saint in one of our churches — God willing, one day ‘saint,’ hopefully. So we’re getting people to understand we have a ‘blessed’ right here in our city.”
Lerner, who is also the Catholic chaplain at St. Thomas More Chapel at Yale University, which surrounds St. Mary’s, pointed out that the young people “are really into this,” and lots of students are seen at the church.
“New Haven is a small city,” he added, “and we’ve got all these different beautiful churches, but we’ve also got a blessed right here among us who walked these streets. He was a young-adult Catholic in the Archdiocese of Hartford. So over the last couple of weeks leading up to this date [merger], we’ve been sharing a little bit about his life in the bulletins — it’s getting to know our blessed. This is our spiritual father.”
Lerner also sees devotion to McGivney as being a unifying factor for the merger of the parishes. It has been the custom at St. Mary’s, which up to this merger consisted of St. Mary Church and St. Joseph Church, to pray the prayer for the canonization of Blessed Michael McGivney every day or after every Mass.
“Many places may have prayed the St. Michael prayer,” he said, “and we still do it during daily Mass, but at the end of every Mass at St. Mary’s Parish, we pray the prayer for the canonization of Blessed Michael McGivney. So my plan with my brother priests [is to have] everybody start praying that prayer this weekend in the other churches,” he said.
“It’s a step towards now not only to promote the cult of McGivney here in New Haven, but also something we can do together as one parish family. It’s one thing to be one parish family by decree from the archbishop, or on paper. It’s another to really become one unified family. At least one thing we can do is be praying the prayer for the intercession and the canonization of our spiritual father,” Lerner said.
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