A Bridgeville couple has taken to heart the prayer for On Mission for The Church Alive! that begins, “Father of Mercy, as we journey On Mission …”
Lisa and Paul Binotto of Holy Child Parish in Bridgeville are attempting to visit every church in the diocese to pray for their parishioners and priests.
To date, the Binottos have attended Mass or prayed at 142 of the diocese’s 188 parishes, which include 225 churches in six counties covering 3,786 square miles.
They were inspired after walking through the Holy Door at St. Paul Cathedral to begin the Holy Year of Mercy on Dec. 8, 2015, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. They did the same in Philadelphia, Erie and Ohio. In all, they walked through 17 Holy Doors.
“So I said to Paul, let’s keep going and make a pilgrimage to every parish in our own diocese,” Lisa said. “At the beginning, we visited churches near us. Now we often travel quite a distance.”
They’ve journeyed as far north as Ellwood City in Lawrence County, west to Midland, Beaver County, south to Bobtown in Greene County and east to Monroeville in Allegheny County.
They were at St. Monica Parish in Beaver Falls in June 2017 when Father Benjamin Barr celebrated his first Mass as a priest. The next Sunday, they happened to choose St. Agnes Parish in West Mifflin. Turns out that was the day Father Joseph Grosko celebrated his farewell Mass before retiring.
“I was reflecting on all the Masses that Father Grosko had said over the decades and all the sacraments he bestowed,” Lisa said. “Then I thought about Father Barr and the many sacraments he will celebrate in the years ahead.”
Paul is moved by all the senior priests who remain in active ministry.
“They are so devoted to serving God’s people, bringing Christ to them in word and Eucharist,” he said.
Lisa and Paul pray the rosary as they travel to each church, offering their intentions for that particular parish. They read about the parish’s patron saint, learning more about the faith.
“Each time we arrive I just stand outside and look at the church, taking it all in, and thanking God,” Lisa said. “Then we open the door and I look for the tabernacle. It’s like going to church for the first time.”
The Binottos take photos and meet parishioners who are drawn to what Lisa calls their “joyful journey.” A priest blessed them, another jokingly asked if they were doing penance. One parishioner gave them commemorative coasters that displayed an image of their church.
Along the way they’ve dined and danced at two parishes hosting German heritage dinners.
They were touched by the simple faithfulness of a young girl sitting in a front pew who said, “Peace be with you,” to every person who walked past her after receiving the Eucharist. “She says that every week,” her mother confided.
Lisa and Paul don’t have a favorite church. It’s the people and the priests who stand out as much as the places.
“We’ve learned over the last three years how much our faith is alive,” Lisa said. “We feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in these parishes and sense the holiness of the parishioners. They love the Catholic faith.”
She offered words of encouragement at a time of difficulty for many in the church.
“We’re all on a pilgrimage in this world,” Lisa said. “It’s not easy.
“Embrace change. Don’t focus on ‘my church.’ Focus on Jesus, and run to him.”