By JUSTIN R. LESSMAN
Jackson County Pilot
Sister Mary Raphael Paradis can’t count the number of times she has passed through the door of the tiny chapel at the Sacred Heart Mercy Health Care Center in Jackson.
Yet on Sunday, something was different.
By order of the Most Rev. John Quinn, bishop of the diocese of Winona, and in accordance with a decree from Pope Francis dated April 11, the small oak door leading to the care center’s chapel was inaugurated Sunday afternoon as a holy door, worthy of pilgrimage and endowed with the same power of blessing, mercy and indulgence as the holy doors at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Winona and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
‘A floodgate of mercy’
Dating back to the mid-1400s, the tradition of the holy door is one of repentance and conversion, holding that those with a clear intention who pass through a doorway holding such designation are eligible for a special blessing known as a plenary indulgence. In accordance with the pope’s recently declared Jubilee Year of Mercy, anyone who passes through a holy door from now until the Feast of Christ the King next November will experience “the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope.”
The pope unsealed the holy door of St. Peter’s Basilica to much fanfare on Dec. 8, the first time the door had been opened since Pope John Paul II — now St. John Paul II — did so in 2000.
Paradis, administrator of the Sacred Heart Mercy Health Care Clinic in Jackson, was in Rome in 2000 and recalls the crowds of pilgrims who congregated to pass through the holy door. When she found out the door of the little chapel in Jackson would become as the door of the grand basilica, she and her fellow sisters at the clinic reacted with honor and humility.
“It’s a beautiful thing for us because we’re just a tiny little chapel,” she said. “Our little door is not the cathedral door or a basilica door, but it is a holy door nonetheless. What a great privilege for us.”
The care center’s chapel door was inaugurated as a holy door Sunday, along with eight others throughout the diocese — seven at churches dedicated to the Sacred Heart and the other at Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel at Assisi Heights in Rochester. The association with the Sacred Heart is due to the focus of that devotion on the loving mercy of God, expressed in Jesus, Paradis said.
“So that the faithful may also reap the spiritual benefit of passing through a holy door, other churches and chapels are also designated,” she said. “Our diocese is so large; it’s difficult for people to get to the cathedral for a pilgrimage.”
Paradis said she and the sisters expect a steady stream of pilgrims at their door over the next 11 months.
“We’ve already heard of groups of people planning to come,” she said.
The door is open to all, Paradis said, regardless of denomination or faith background. And everyone’s experience with a holy door is a little different.
“It’s about conversion and enlivening our faith,” she said. “It’s a floodgate of mercy and a reminder that as we’ve received mercy from God, we need to extend mercy to our brothers and sisters.”
For Catholics, when paired with a clear intention to ask for grace from God for oneself or for a deceased loved one, participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation within three to four weeks, prayer for the intentions of the pope and carrying out a spiritual or corporal work of mercy personally, the holy door can act as a means of receiving grace, Paradis said.
“Maybe there is something in your life you want to change, or a sorrow or burden,” she said. “Perhaps you want to turn your life around or grow in your faith and prayer life. Passing through this door can be the portal to that change.”
‘A beautiful parity’
As the Rev. James Seitz, pastor of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Jackson, blessed the door of the Sacred Heart Mercy Health Care Center chapel Sunday afternoon, then entered and prepared the space for a holy hour of adoration, Paradis couldn’t help but think back to the year 2000 and the holy door in Rome.
“Our little door will only be a holy door for a limited amount of time,” she said. “But all the while, it will still be a functional door. I think that’s a beautiful parity — a door of function doubling, for a time, as a door of spiritual conversion. It’s beautifully appropriate.”
Following Seitz’s blessing, Paradis and the sisters filed into their tiny chapel as they’ve done so many times before.
But this time, something was different.