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Photo: Dan Valenti

From right: Veterans Sgt. Bob Digan, Marine Corps (ret.), the Coast Guard's Matt Kelly, and Army Sgt. Alfonso Mercado (partially obscured to the left of Kelly) attend special Veterans' Day Mass on Sunday, Nov. 11, at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy.

National Shrine Honors Veterans

Special Novena Mass Recognizes Military Service, Sacrifice

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The Marians of the Immaculate Conception honored members of the U.S. Armed Forces, particularly those who paid the ultimate sacrifice of their lives, in a special novena Mass celebrated on Veterans' Day, Sunday, Nov. 11, at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass.

A military color guard performed the honors of carrying the flags of the Vatican, the country, and the state to the front of the altar. Representing their military branches with a bearing as crisp as the fall day, the color guard included Marine Corps Sgt. Bob Digan (ret.), Army Sgt. Alfonso Mercado, and the Coast Guard's Matt Kelly.

Father Victor Incardona, MIC, assistant pilgrimage director of the Shrine, celebrated Mass assisted by Fr. Dan Papineau, pastor of St. Mary's Church in Lee, Mass. Father Dan, a former rector of the National Shrine, served as a Specialist 5th Class in the Army and saw service in the Vietnam conflict.

In his homily, Fr. Victor praised veterans for their loyalty, sacrifice, and honorable service. He said that such service makes freedom possible. Pointing out how easy it is to take the sacrifices of soldiers for granted, Fr. Victor reminded worshippers, "Let us never forget the price these brave men and women paid and never cease in honoring their service, especially those who laid down their lives for their country. We pray for their souls, that they may rest in peace."

Echoing the words of Jesus, Father Dan said in an interview after Mass that there "is no greater gift than to lay down one's life for another, as so many brave people did for their country. Coming here to experience this day is such a wonderful thing. We honor God by honoring the gift of [the veterans'] presence, whether they are physically here with us today or not."

The Mass drew a crowd of about 180 to the National Shrine. Following Mass, Fr. Victor led worshippers in the singing of the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy. Benediction, Adoration, the blessing of religious articles, and the opportunity to venerate a first-class relic of St. Faustina followed.

The entire 2007 confirmation class of St. Mary's Parish took part in the Veterans' Day event. Father Dan said it was important for the children to witness and participate in the day's celebration. "Young people today don't get a chance to experience a group Rosary [the Rosary for Life preceded the Mass] or Exposition as much as in years past. We wanted to give them this exposure, especially in such a sacred place, where the liturgy is celebrated with a beautiful sense of reverence and solemnity. We also wanted to impress upon them the significance of this national day of remembrance."

The St. Mary's class will be confirmed on Sunday, Dec. 2, at St. Mary's Church on Main Street. The Most Rev. Timothy McDonnell, Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, will celebrate.

This year marked the first time that the National Shrine offered a special Veterans' Day Mass. Earlier this year, Memorial Day services were held.

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