Local conference marks opening of Pauline Year

WALTHAM -- St. Paul, who is often referred to as the Apostle to the Gentiles, is perhaps the greatest evangelizer the Church has ever known.

To celebrate the 2,000th anniversary of the saint’s birth and to encourage evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI has declared June 29, 2008 to June 29, 2009 the Year of St. Paul and offered a plenary indulgence to anyone who visits the tomb of the saint during the year or anyone who attends a public event honoring the saint during the opening or closing of the Pauline Year.

For local faithful wishing to receive the plenary indulgence, an archdiocesan-wide, bilingual, Catholic family conference will be held Sunday, June 29 at St. Mary Parish in Waltham.

Evangelization often begins in the home and thus it is important to provide families with opportunities to celebrate their faith together and learn to be greater witnesses of their faith, explained archdiocesan conference organizer Father Michael Harrington, assistant director of the Office of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Boston.

Father Harrington’s devotion to St. Paul and the declaration by the pope spurred the conference, he said, so that local Catholics could honor St. Paul and obtain the plenary indulgence.

“The family evermore needs to build up a culture of life, witnessing to the values and life of Christ and I think that a family conference teaches us to be who God created us to be,” said Father Harrington.

“The conference brings families and individuals together to celebrate faith and to grow in the love of Christ, joining with other families who share that same desire to deepen their faith, learn more about it and celebrate it,” he added.

But the conference isn’t just for families, said Father Harrington. It is for single adults as well as teens and children.

“We shaped the programs so that they would benefit any person who comes to the conference,” said Father Harrington. “We wanted it to be informative and spiritual and to communicate adoration, faith and evangelization.”

Cardinal Seán O’Malley, whose birthday is also June 29, will celebrate Mass at the conference, which runs from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. There will also be veneration of a relic of St. Paul, an exhibition on early Christian evangelization, speakers on faith and evangelization, an introduction to adoration for children, a teen program on being witnesses of the Gospel, Christian music performances and a family dinner.

The conference is sponsored by the School of Nazareth, which is a family group started by Father Harrington, the Holy Family Institute of the Pauline Family and St. Mary Parish. The cost for the day’s events, which includes dinner, is a donation of $10 for individuals and $20 for families.

The conference will also provide the opportunity for attendees to receive the plenary indulgence if they adhere to the conditions outlined by the Vatican. Local Christians who cannot visit the Papal Basilica of St. Paul in Rome can still obtain the indulgence by making a sincere confession, receiving Holy Communion, praying for the intentions of the pope and by participating in a public religious event in honor of St. Paul during the opening and closing of the Pauline Year. The sick and homebound can obtain the indulgence if they are completely unattached to sin and intend to observe the three requirements of confession, Communion and prayer as soon as they can. The indulgence may be obtained for oneself or for the deceased.

“In order that the prayers pronounced on these holy visits may lead and draw the souls of the faithful to a more intense veneration of the memory of St. Paul, the following conditions are laid down: the faithful, apart from pronouncing their own prayers before the altar of the Blessed Sacrament ... must go to the altar of the Confession and pray the ‘Our Father’ and the ‘Creed,’ adding pious invocations in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul; and such acts of devotion must remain closely linked to the memory of the Prince of the Apostles St. Peter,” stated the decree issued May 10.

Making his declaration of the Pauline Year, Pope Benedict XVI said that St. Paul’s evangelization did not have barriers and instead sought to unite all people.

During the Pauline Year, especially, we should strive to do the same in a spirit of ecumenism, said the pope.

“The Apostle of the Gentiles, who dedicated himself to the spreading of the good news to all peoples, spent himself for the unity and harmony of all Christians,” the pope said. “May he guide us and protect us in this bimillenary celebration, helping us to advance in the humble and sincere search for the full unity of all the members of the mystical body of Christ.”

For more information on the conference or to register call 617-435-5018 or visit www.schoolofnazareth.org.