People throughout the diocese gather in prayer for the faithful departed

Throughout the Octave of All Souls and November, the Month of Remembrance


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CLICK HERE for a gallery of photos from students' procession to Our Lady of the Snows Cemetery.

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CLICK HERE for a gallery of photos from the Candlelight Mass in Columbia. 

CLICK HERE for a gallery of photos from the Rosary Procession to St. Andrew Cemetery. 

A light shone in the darkness in Our Lady of the Snows Cemetery in Mary’s Home throughout the night before Nov. 1, the Solemnity of All Saints.

Children from Our Lady of the Snows School had placed tiny electric candles on each of the headstones and along the circular walkway through the cemetery.

Many of the students have relatives and ancestors buried in the cemetery.

“They’re important!” said fifth-grader Madelyn Doerhoff. “They’re human beings, and every human being is special in their own way.”

Together, the students chanted the Litany of Saints as they processed from the church to the cemetery the morning of Nov. 1 to retrieve the lights.

After completing the litany, they prayed silently together in the walkway, near the burial place for babies and children.

“May they be one with the One Who is eternal life,” Principal Mary Burgess prayed. “May the beauty of their lives shine forevermore, and may our lives always bring honor to their memory.”

Prayer and penance

The following day, Father Roberto Ike, pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Holts Summit, couldn’t get the Blessed Mother off of his mind.

In his homily for the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls Day), he recalled how an angel spoke to the three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, six months before Mary first appeared to them in 1917.

“The angel told them that they are supposed to do penance,” Fr. Ike noted.

The angel had to explain to them the meaning of penance.

“It means that they offer everything that’s going on in their lives to God, and whatever they offer would go toward saving souls!” said Fr. Ike.

The only souls they could help save are souls in purgatory, he noted.

“Just imagine that!” the priest stated. “You and I, through our baptism, can also offer up whatever penances we can in order to save souls.”

He emphasized that Jesus is the intercessor: “We do penance so God will save these souls,” he said.

Fr. Ike said penance amounts to everyday trials and difficulties that come with living.

“The difficulty you’re having paying your bills: that’s penance,” he stated. “The struggle you have raising your children, the agonizing difficulty you’re having worrying about your children: that’s penance.”

The priest encouraged everyone to act upon any inspiration to pray for their friends and loved ones who have died.

“God will not inspire you to pray for someone who is already condemned,” he explained. “If you have the inspiration to pray, to offer something up, that is because God wants you to do that for the salvation of that person.”

After Holy Communion, the parish’s youth choir, directed by Chris and Laura St. Clair, sang a meditation by Jaime Rickert titled, “We Remember Them.”

Fr. Ike then led a Rosary procession by flashlight to the tall illuminated cross in the parish cemetery.

After mediating on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, he led them in praying the Litany of the Blessed Virgin.

Like gold purified

Bishop W. Shawn McKnight and about 25 priests gathered in St. Joseph Church in Westphalia on Nov. 5 to celebrate Mass for the repose of the souls of all the deceased priests of this diocese.

Father Greg Oligschlaeger, pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Monroe City and St. Stephen Parish in Indian Creek, preached the homily.

“A Christian dies in Christ,” he noted. “And those two words, ‘in Christ,’ make all the difference in the world.”

Quoting Scripture, he said all who live in Christ and die in Christ will also rise with Him.

“He offers us His victory over death,” the priest stated.

He commented on all the good work God had done through each priest’s ministry before they died.

“Even though we carry this treasure, this Priesthood, in earthen vessels — our frailty, our humanity, our sinfulness — it is holy,” said Fr. Oligschleger.

“Because as ones who stand in His place at the altar, we share in Our Lord’s own High Priesthood in our ministry of word and sacrament,” he said.

Aware of their own need for prayers, priests are quick to offer them for those who have gone before them.

“We pray that their souls may be with God,” he told the congregation. “And when we die, we beg of YOUR prayers for us, confident that the love of Jesus Christ, Who gave us the gift of Priesthood, is stronger than death.”

Referring to the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, he noted that God gave everyone an eternal soul that is gold within.

“But the sin of this world, our temptations and sins, can sometimes tarnish that gold,” he said.

Yet, God wants His people to be with Him.

“So through our sacrifices, through our willingness to seek forgiveness and penance, He melts away all those impurities so that we might be with Him in eternal glory,” the priest said.

He emphasized that contrary to earthly wisdom, death is not “the last period after the last sentence of the last chapter of our human story.”

“The story is not birth, life and death but rather life, death and resurrection!” he said. “Death does not have the last word. Life does! And that’s life eternal.”

Priests are called to offer themselves up in service every day — not just at Mass but as a pastor and shepherd and father to God’s people.

“And when we stumble and fall, we can seek Christ’s forgiveness, we can continue to get up and follow Him,” the priest said.

He called on everyone to continue praying throughout this month for deceased priests and for all the faithful departed, “that they may receive that eternal reward and be with God in the promise of everlasting life.”

At the end of Mass, Father Christopher Cordes and Father John Schmitz read the names of all the deceased priests of the diocese, in order of their deaths.

“Receive their souls, O holy ones,” the St. Joseph School Choir sang. “Present them now to God Most High.”

“Not just for us”

University of Missouri student Ben Roth addressed fellow pilgrims from of St. Thomas More Newman Center Parish the night of All Souls Day.

They were gathered in historical Sacred Heart Church, located near the University of Missouri Campus, for Mass by candlelight.

“This Mass is not for us,” he asserted. “It is for our loved ones who have gone on, beyond the veil, who anxiously await the eternal joy of our King.”

That evening at Mass, heaven would touch earth, he said.

“You all know someone who is no longer with their family here on earth,” he said. “You know someone who needs prayers. This Mass if for them.”

Father Daniel Merz, pastor of St. Thomas More Newman Center Parish in Columbia, presided at the Mass.

“We gather in communion with those who have gone before us but who are not separated from us,” he said. “They are tied to us by a bond that is stronger than death.”

“They are in need of our prayers,” he stated.

He noted that Jesus said the eternal fire of hell is intended only for the devil and his angels.

“That fire was never intended for us!” Fr. Merz proclaimed. “We are intended for glory! Heaven is God’s desire and will for us.”

Fr. Merz then spoke of the need for purification — in this life and often in the next.

“In our first reading from Wisdom, we hear that as gold in the furnace, God proved them. He purified them. He refined them.”

That refinement in the fire of God’s love should be happening right now, in this life.

“That’s what our striving for excellence is all about,” said Fr. Merz. “Striving for God, striving not just for good but for the best!”

People strive, and God purifies.

“That’s our whole understanding of purgatory,” he said, “that I strive for heaven, but heaven is only for what is perfect.”

So it makes sense that when the body, which is affected by sin, dies, the soul was impacted by that and needs to be purified.

“That’s why we’re gathered here this evening, to add our voices of prayer sand supplications for those in purgatory, who are being purified, who are longing, straining, stretching for heaven,” said Fr. Merz.

“And let us also be inspired by the vision of the souls in purgatory straining to be saints,” he said. “Let us long and strain for heaven as well!”

“Sacred ground”

The principal urged her students in the Mary’s Home cemetery to speak softly and walk gently.

“We’re on sacred ground,” she told them.

School assistant Paula (Bax) Evers is a lifelong Mary’s Home parishioner and graduate of Our Lady of the Snows School.

“I love this tradition,” she said of the lights and procession. “I have lots of family at rest here.”

She noted that a cemetery can seem frightening to a child.

“But it’s not a scary place,” she said. “It’s more of a special place, and they should feel comfortable coming here.

“It’s a blessed cemetery, with lots of our loved ones here,” she said.