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Photo: Francis Bourdon

Father Dante Aguero, MIC, of Argentina, leads the procession of leaders of the Association of Marian Helpers at the closing of an international meeting in Lithuania.

Carrying Christ to the World

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Francis Bourdon stands beside the Association of Marian Helpers' cross that now joins tens of thousands of others at the famous Hill of Crosses in Lithuania.

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Zygmunt "Ziggy" Chodzko-Zajko (right), a lay missionary of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception in the Philippines, looks on as the Marian's cross is put into place.

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Association of Marian Helpers leaders came from around the world for the annual conference.

During the annual international meeting of the Association of Marian Helpers, participants from around the world not only talked the talk but walked the walk, carrying a life-size wooden cross to the famous Hill of Crosses in northern Lithuania.

The procession marked a perfect conclusion for Association leaders who are charged with helping to bring Christ's message of redemption to the world through the charism of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.

"We put the crucifix in the ground right around 3 o'clock, the hour of great mercy, when we recall Jesus' death on the cross. It was a profound experience," said Francis Bourdon, executive director of the Association of Marian Helpers in the United States — one of 10 Associations worldwide.

In addition to fostering spiritual growth for Association leaders, the 14th annual conference in April provided opportunities to brainstorm and share initiatives on ways to evangelize and strengthen the bonds between the laity and the priests and brothers of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception. World wide some 500,000 members strong, the Association of Marian Helpers is the spiritual benefit society that prayerfully and financially supports the Marian Congregation's charism of spreading devotion the The Divine Mercy and Mary Immaculate, praying for the deceased, and serving in parishes where the need is greatest.

The Association in the United States is located with its Spiritual home, the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, in Stockbridge, Mass.

Mr. Bourdon traveled to the conference with Br. Andrew Maczynski, MIC, general promoter of the Association of Marian Helpers, and Maciej Talar, manager of the International Department in Stockbridge. The 14th annual conference was in Marijampole, Lithiuania, location of the tomb of Blessed George Matulaitis-Matulewicz (1871-1927), the renovator of the Marians who was beatified 25 years ago this June.

As always, the first day of the three-day conference was dedicated to growing the attendees in the spiritual aspects of the Marian charism and how it can be presented in the daily works of the Association outreach. The subsequent days of the conference focused on best ways to organize, promote and administer large conferences; how to use social networking as a promotional tool; ways to increase Association membership and retain existing membership; and presentations on the works of each Association.

The United States-based Association of Marian Helpers has traditionally borne the heaviest load in terms of supporting the Marians' worldwide missions and apostolates. But Mr. Bourdon notes that with the collapse of the Soviet Union, coupled with the canonization of St. Faustina, once nascent Associations have developed strong partnerships with the laity and now engage in the kinds of large-scale evangelization efforts the Marians in the United States have long been engaged in. That includes printing and distributing religious materials, holding conferences, and developing a strong Internet presence among other efforts specifically suited to the culture of the individual country.

"It was a great conference," says Mr. Bourdon. "We all learn from each other, and we all leave feeling unified in our mission to bring Jesus Christ to a world so desperately in need of His mercy."

At the conclusion of the conference, the Very Rev. Vytautas Brilius, provincial superior of the Marians' Lithuanian province, surprised the 29 attendees with the trip to the Hill of Crosses. A beautiful and remarkable sign of faith, love and endurance, the Hill of Crosses contains tens of thousands of crucifixes, rosaries and other religious articles placed there by pilgrims from around the world. The Marians' nearly eight-feet-tall wooden crucifix includes a plaque dedicating the cross to the conference and its attendees.

Learn more about the Association of Marian Helpers and how you can become a member.

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Bea - May 11, 2012

That hill of crosses is an interesting spiritual place. Mysterious and mystical. Seen videos of it accompanied by music. Powerful!