November 25, 2016

Priests, parishioners reflect on closing Holy Year of Mercy liturgy

By John Shaughnessy

VATICAN CITY—Father Andrew Syberg’s face glows as he shares how he felt concelebrating the Nov. 20 Mass that ended the Holy Year of Mercy with Pope Francis, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin and hundreds of priests from around the world.

“It was pretty overwhelming,” said Father Syberg, associate pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus, about the outdoor Mass in St. Peter’s Square that drew tens of thousands of people. “I’m sitting here in St. Peter’s, and there’s the pope, Cardinal Tobin, my brother priests and all these people celebrating mercy.”

Even more importantly, Father Syberg said, that celebration of mercy should lead people back to the source of all mercy.

“Even though there was the closing of the Holy Door of Mercy, the one thing we should be sure of is that God’s mercy is sufficient, it endures, and the calling of the Year of Mercy is something the world needed. Hopefully, it can springboard us into the future.”

Sunday’s Mass at St. Peter’s also had an emotional impact on Kimmie Hamilton, who came to Rome with her father and three of her adult siblings to witness Cardinal Tobin become one of the 17 new cardinals installed by Pope Francis on Nov. 19.

“Walking through the Holy Door at St. Peter’s on Saturday was such an incredible experience, knowing all the graces you receive, knowing you can help other people,” said Hamilton, a member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Carmel, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese.

“It’s such a gift to come here with my dad and some of my siblings. Coming here as a family, especially knowing how important our Catholic faith is to our mom and dad and our family, is so special. The Catholic faith is based on so many traditions, and that’s one of the foundations of our family.”

Hamilton made this trip to Rome—her first—with her father, Jerry Semler, and three of her six siblings: Michael Semler of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Indianapolis, Dori Dodson of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, and Jeffrey Semler of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

“To see the Holy Doors close, it was very moving,” said Jerry Semler, a member of St. Pius X Parish.

Semler wished that his wife of 56 years, Rosie, could have also made the trip, but a health issue didn’t make that possible. And their three other children had previous commitments. Still, it’s been a weekend to remember, especially considering that it included seeing his close friend, Cardinal Tobin, become a cardinal.

“We’ve just had a great relationship with Cardinal Tobin,” he said. “And to be here with four of our kids has been quite an experience for me.”

Father Jerry Byrd also seemed emotionally overwhelmed when he talked about the weekend’s events.

“I feel lucky to be here,” said Father Byrd, pastor of the parishes of St. Ann and St. Joseph, both in Jennings County, and St. Mary in North Vernon. “I feel real proud of Cardinal Tobin—and honored to be part of the archdiocese—and to be a priest he inspired.

“To witness his elevation as a cardinal and to concelebrate Mass with Pope Francis, it’s all been very neat.” †

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