Portolá 250 – St. Maria Goretti Community Strengthens Bonds and Proves that Attitude Determines Altitude
From the moment I received a call from Knights of Columbus Grand Knight Sam Cole that his parish priest Father Sylvester was, safe to say, ‘highly motivated’ to have the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue visit St. Maria Goretti in Elk Grove, CA, we knew we had to block off adequate time to allow their staff to work on what arguably turned out to be one of the most vibrant events of the 38 Portolá 250 stops.
On a three-way call, Father Sylvester requested that we schedule an all-night visit and mentioned he wanted to keep Our Lady awake as long she is willing for his parishioners. We settled on a full schedule from 4:00 PM until Midnight and the Pilgrim Virgin Statue would remain throughout the night. With the spirit of Father Sylvester who is a few months new to the parish and throughout the planning process led by Sam Cole along with support from the parish staff, the attitude all along was first class! I was so inspired by Father Sylvester’s passion along with his insights and experience with Fatima, I asked if he would be so generous with his time as to drive over and lead the Rosary at our visit to the Capitol steps in Sacramento…and to everyone’s great joy, he obliged.
Driving up to the parish, we were greeted with digital signage. Upon our arrival, the staff including but not limited to Patty Suter, Linda Dublin, and Paula Bonifacio formed a hospitality team and gave us pilgrims/the statue travel team a wonderful welcome. Linda made sure we settled into rooms at the rectory, prepared meals for us, and prepared a gift basket for when we hit the road again. Paula created a floral arrangement and arch for Our Lady that likely will result in calls from the Vatican.
The proceedings began when vibrant Knights of Columbus Council and Honor Guard detail processed in with the Pilgrim Virgin Statue, followed by a host of children adorned in white carrying flowers, and then Father Sylvester and fellow clergymen. Once the parishioners and visitors from surrounding areas settled, Father began a Rosary in the 5 languages of Polish, Portuguese, Tagalog, Russian, and Spanish. More and more people continued to arrive throughout the night; fortunately, they had planned for and needed the 200 extra chairs for seating outside the church.
Following the Rosary, Father spoke during his homily of the message of Fatima and how the prophesies she spoke to the children came to pass in front of his eyes. He shared many riveting stories, including the time he lived in Russia when one of the most powerful empires in world history came to a surprisingly peaceful end, when the Soviet Union dissolved into 15 independent states. He recalls as if it were yesterday when President Mikhail Gorbachev addressed his nation saying the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics no longer existed.
Following Mass, Fr. Sylvester led another Rosary in English as parishioners and guests with flashlights in hand processed around the expansive property.
Returning to the parish, Father proceeded with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. Time was allotted afterwards for veneration of the Statue and Relics including relics of St. Francisco and St. Jacinta, the children who witnessed the Fatima apparitions. At 10:30 PM the parish was still full for the Divine Mercy Chaplet led by Maria Elena Davis; the remaining time until Midnight was reserved for quiet time. The next morning, the pilgrims were refreshed and after receiving a blessing from Fr. Sylvester, we were ready to continue on with the 21 Missions in 21 Days journey.
In a follow up chat with Paula, she remarked, “We had strong bonds here before, but this event has strengthened them even further.” It was indeed obvious the sky is no limit for this faith community. From Father Sylvester and the Knights to the staff, youth, and other ministries in the parish, our deepest appreciation for reminding us that teamwork, embracing diversity and attitude determines the altitude!
We’ll definitely be back!
“Always go forward and never turn back.”
~ St. Junípero Serra