Commemorative ceremonies in honor of St. Josemaría

Strasbourg: Exposition “Discover a Saint”

In the church of Saint Pierre-le-jeune catholique, in Strasbourg, the Friends of Josemaría Escrivá association organized an exposition with posters about the life and message of the Founder of Opus Dei. During the three days of the exposition, from January 9 to 11, visitors could also view various documentary films about St. Josemaría and Opus Dei. For the preparation of the event, the local Catholic clergy were contacted, as well as Lutheran ministers (near the Catholic Church that hosted the exposition there is a Lutheran Church with a similar name). A warm welcome was extended by both groups.

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Southernmost city in the world

Ushuaia (Argentina), the world’s closest city to the South Pole, has dedicated a street to St. Josemaría. The capital of the large province of Tierra de Fuego, Ushuaia is on the shores of the Beagle Channel and has some 45,000 inhabitants. There are now almost a dozen Argentinean communities that include St. Josemaría among their street names.

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In Burgos, Spain, the Exposition Hall of the Consulado del Mar held an exposition from January 9 to 18 entitled Saint Josemaría Escrivá: his time in Burgos.

The exposition, a follow-up to the ceremonies that in 2008 commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Founder of Opus Dei’s stay in this Castillian city, was organized by the Arlanza Association and coordinated by Maria Jésus Coma. It included explanatory panels, items from that era, and other documents and objects of interest.

In the opening ceremony, which was attended by Archbishop Francisco Gil Hellin of Burgos, the historian Constantino Anchel, from the St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer Center of Documents and Studies (Pamplona), summarized the most important events of St. Josemaría’s life during the “Burgos epoch.” It was in Burgos, for example, that he finished writing The Way. The exhibition included some copies of the first edition of this book, the most famous of St. Josemaría’s works, among them one dedicated by the author in 1941 to the monks of the Burgos monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos, where three years earlier he had made a retreat. It was also during this epoch that St. Josemaría began work on his doctoral thesis on the quasi-episcopal jurisdiction of the Abbess of the convent of Las Huelgas, which was later published as a book.

St. Josemaría lived in Burgos from January 8, 1938 until March 27, 1939, a period that encompassed the final fifteen months of the Spanish civil war (1936 to 1939). He had spent the first fifteen months of the war as a clandestine priest in Madrid, and escaped from the zone of religious persecution by hiking across the Pyrenees at the end of 1937.

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Sardinia: a plaza dedicated to St. Josemaría

Accepting the petition of some of its citizens, the municipal council of Nuoro, capital of the province covering the eastern part of the island of Sardinia, decided in November 2008 to dedicate a plaza to St. Josemaría Escrivá.

The dedication ceremony took place on March 28, with the presence of Bishop Pietro Meloni of Nuoro and Ivo Carboni, the deputy mayor. The ceremony was quite colorful owing to the participation of a number of boys and girls dressed in the traditional costumes of the city.

Other Italian cities that have included St. Josemaría in their local geographical names are Arese (in the province of Milan) and Santa Maria Capua Vetere (Caserta), which dedicated a street to him. In Minturna (Latina), the Parco San Josemaría Escrivá, an attractive park on the side of a promontory overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, was officially inaugurated, with a public ceremony enlivened by the municipal band. The religious ceremony was officiated by Cardinal Julian Herranz.

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A parish in Madrid

The parish of St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer was erected by the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, on June 5, 2007. The first lines of the decree erecting the new parish reads as follows: “To provide better pastoral attention to the district of Valdemarín, separated by National Highway 6 from the rest of the parish of the Assumption of Our Lady of Aravaca, and to accommodate the rapid urban growth of the area, it was deemed advisable to create a new and separate parish.” And the decree continues: “Having seen the favorable reports of the local pastor and archpriest, as well as that of the illustrious Episcopal Vicar, and having heard the views of the Priests’ Council (c. 515, & 2º), which in their meeting on March 29 and 30 voted in favor of this step, I hereby decree the creation of the parish of St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, in Madrid.”

In October of that year, the Cardinal named as pastor and assistant pastor Frs. Juan Enrique Miralbell and Raimundo Romero, priests of the Prelature of Opus Dei.

The parish was inaugurated on February 17, 2008, with a concelebrated Eucharist presided over by the Episcopal Vicar of the area, Msgr. José Luis Huéscar Cañizal, in which the two priests of the parish took part as well as the Archpriest of Aravaca-Pozuelo and the former pastor of the parish of the Assumption.

On May 17, 2009, a temporary church of prefabricated construction was inaugurated. This put an end to the initial itinerant stage in which the parish had to make use of whatever facilities were available. The acts of worship, for example, were celebrated in the chapels of two homes for the elderly; catechism classes for children took place in a day-care center, etc. The religious communities within the parish boundaries also offered their assistance with great generosity during these first months.

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St. Josemaría in the Basilica of Luján

The Basilica of Luján, about 45 miles from Buenos Aires, is the most popular center of Marian devotion in Argentina. On June 12, 1974, St. Josemaría Escrivá went there to pray to our Lady.

On Friday, June 12, 2009, the 35th anniversary of that visit by the Founder of Opus Dei to Our Lady of Luján, a statue of St. Josemaría was placed on a side altar of the Basilica. The statue, sculpted in Carrara marble, is the work of Orio Dal Porto, an artist from Italy. It shows the saint with open arms and his palms facing upward; he is dressed in priestly vestments and has a slight smile.

Archbishop Austín Radrizzani, who presided over the ceremony, recalled the Founder of Opus Dei’s visit to Argentina: “At the moment of his departure, on June 26, 1974—exactly one year before he went to heaven—filled with gratitude to God and our Lady, he said good-bye to thousands of persons who listened to him with great emotion, saying: “I long to stay with you. And when I leave I will remain at the feet of Our Lady of Lujan; there I leave my heart.” Today, on blessing the statue of St. Josemaría that is now alongside our Mother, those words of love are somehow fulfilled: he came, he left, and he returned to stay. Thus we can count on his intercession, united to the omnipotent supplication of Our Lady of Lujan, every time that we come to see her. And we can ask them to help us and our families, and all the pilgrims who come to the Shrine, to be happy here on earth by sanctifying our daily life and serving others—especially the most needy—and to reach heaven.”

The choir of the Colegio Buen Consejo, a school run by faithful and cooperators of the Prelature in a low income district of Buenos Aires, accompanied the ceremony with their singing.

Romana, No. 48, January-June 2009, p. 120-123.