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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Monthly Archives: June 2010

Redemptorists and thousands around the world celebrated the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help June 27.

In 1866, Pope Pius IX gave the miraculous icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help to the Redemptorists and charged them with making her known throughout the world. Since then, her image has traveled far and wide, wherever the Redemptorists served. Hers is one of the most recognizable faces in the world.

We hope you enjoy this sampling of photos from several celebrations surrounding the feast day. Redemptorists preached a novena in Eggleston, Dominica in the West Indies. Redemptorist priests from Haiti traveled to Boston and Brooklyn to preach ahead of the feast of the patroness of their country. And in Ireland, the Redemptorists once again attracted thousands of people to a nine-day solemn novena in Limerick.

Click here to watch a video report on the celebrations at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn, NY. (Video Courtesy of Currents, a news program of NET TV in Brooklyn, NY.)

Photos Courtesy of Stephen Kessinger/Fr. John Hamrogue, C.Ss.R./Elton Letang, C.Ss.R.



On Friday, I had my turn in the caravan, or the motor homes outside the church in the parking lot. During the novena, they make a Redemptorist available nearly all day long to anyone who might want to go to confession (even during Mass) or seek spiritual counseling.

A woman came in and I noticed her grimace. She gave me some of the blank petition papers that are handed out during the novena and a pen. She told me that she suffers from migraines and can’t even write.

"Would you write my petitions?" she asked.

I felt like a psalmist-scribe, putting words around her needs, worries, hopes and prayers.

Friday afternoon, I had the chance to see a little bit of the beautiful, green, Irish countryside. The rector, Father Adrian, took me to the famous Cliffs of Moher and Kilkee in County Clare. It was simply breathtaking…

There was quite a lot of energy around the last day of the novena on Saturday. The national radio had a half-hour program dedicated to the novena and aired clips of several Redemptorists preaching, including myself, as well as lay people commenting on this annual phenomenon of faith.

On Saturday morning, before the special Mass of the Anointing of the Sick at 11:30 a.m., I was preaching at a neighboring church (St. Mary’s) and met a visiting priest from the next diocese over. I was shocked and proud when, during the recitation of the Prayer to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, he knew the words by heart. The Redemptorists have certainly made their mark in Ireland! 

For the 11:30 a.m. session at Mount St. Alphonsus, the elderly and infirm, in wheelchairs, with canes and walkers, filled the church to capacity. People were sitting on the steps of the sanctuary as there was no more room in the pews or in the overflow hall.

Most of the Redemptorists — perhaps as many as 18 — were on hand, and we went into the pews to bless the sick with oil. I found simple smiles and strong faith, looks of gratitude and postures of prayer so moving, I felt blessed myself. No wonder people of all ages are attracted to these nine days.

For example, I followed Orla and Tadhg out of the church one day. The siblings are in their late teens, and won’t miss the novena. Why?

"Out of gratitude," said she. "Out of habit," said he. Their parents had taken them there since they were small, and despite no parents present, the tradition continues.

— Fr. Daniel Francis, C.Ss.R.

More "Irish Impressions":

The novena begins (6/18/10)
Knowing they’re "not alone" (6/19/10)
A day for the young and the young-at-heart (6/21/10)
Hope for the future (6/23/10)
The prayers of the faithful (6/25/10)


Despite the presence over the years of Jesuits, Dominicans, and Franciscans in Limerick, when people speak of "The Fathers" they are only referring to the Redemptorists.

As one of the confreres here says, probably the heart of the novena is the reading of the petitions.  From the prayerful, "For peace in my family," to the cute, "That I mite [sic] pass my spelling exam"; from the sad, "My pregnant sister with cancer," to the sorrowful, "For my beloved wife who died last week"; hundreds like these come in daily (at the entrances to the church and via the Web site), are collected, and prayed for. Some are read aloud.

(The photos here show you a fraction of the petitions and thanksgivings that have been left here this week.)

When Father Pat McGarrity became rector of our college formation house (then in Suffield, CT), I remember he began a public novena in honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. He invited the people, similarly, to write petitions that he would read aloud during the service. It is truly the Prayer of the Faithful.

During each session, a sample of the many petitions and prayers of thanksgiving are read. After those readings, those attending are invited to pray two prayers printed in their novena booklets. Feel free to join us:

Mother of Perpetual Help,
with the greatest confidence
we come before your holy picture
to be inspired by the example of your life.
We think of you at that moment when,
full of faith and trust,
you accepted God’s call
to be the mother of his Son.
Help us, your children,
to accept with joy our own calling in life.
When you learned that your cousin
Elizabeth was in need
you immediately went to serve her
and offer your help.
Help us, like you,
to be concerned for others.
We think of you, Mother,
at the foot of the cross.
Your heart must have bled
to see your Son in agony.
But your joy was great
when he rose from the dead,
victorious over the powers of evil.
Mother of Sorrows,
help us through the trials and
disappointments of life.
Help us not to lose heart.
May we share with you and your Son
the joy of having courageously faced up
to all the challenges of life.

O Mother of Perpetual Help,
with grateful hearts we join you
in thanking God
for all the wonderful things
he has done for us,
especially for giving us,
Jesus, your Son, as our Redeemer.
O God, our Creator,
we thank you for the gift of life
and all the gifts of nature:
our senses and faculties,
our talents and abilities.
We thank you for creating us
in your image and likeness
and for giving us this earth
to use and develop,
to respect and cherish.
Despite our failures,
you continue to show your love for us today
by increasing the life of your Spirit in us
at the Eucharistic table.
Finally, we thank you, loving Father,
for giving us Mary,
the Mother of your Son,
to be our Mother of Perpetual Help.
We are grateful for all the favours
we have received through her
We pray that those past favours may inspire us
to greater confidence in your loving mercy
and to seek the aid
of our Mother of Perpetual Help.

— Fr. Daniel Francis, C.Ss.R.

More "Irish Impressions":

The novena begins (6/18/10)
Knowing they’re "not alone" (6/19/10)
A day for the young and the young-at-heart (6/21/10)
Hope for the future (6/23/10)


Father Robert Hopwood died Thursday morning at the St. John Neumann Residence at Stella Maris in Timonium, MD. He was 84.

Father Hopwood was born August 25, 1925, in Oil City, PA. He professed vows as a Redemptorist August 2, 1947, and was ordained to the priesthood June 22, 1952. He spent the majority of his life as a Redemptorist serving in the missions in Paraguay.

Viewing will be held at 10 a.m. July 3 in the chapel at Stella Maris in Timonium, MD. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m.

Another viewing will be held at 5 p.m. July 5 at St. Gregory’s Church, 136 West Main St., North East, PA, followed by a wake service at 7 p.m. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. July 6 at St. Gregory’s. Burial will follow.

Please join us in praying for the repose of the soul of Fr. Hopwood, and for the comfort of his family, Redemptorist confreres, and friends.


Click here to read a remembrance from Fr. Humberto Villalba, C.Ss.R.


Redemptorist Father Robert Hopwood, who energetically ministered to the people of Paraguay for a half century, died June 25 at St. John Neumann Residence at Stella Maris in Timonium, MD. He was 84 years old and had Alzheimer’s Disease.

Father Hopwood was born Aug. 25, 1925, in Oil City, PA, and was one of 11 children born to Arthur and Eldene Schoonover Hopwood. He grew up in St. Stephen Parish and, after completing grammar school, was accepted to study with the Redemptorists at St. Mary’s Seminary in North East, PA.

He made his novitiate year at Ilchester, MD, and professed his first vows in 1947. He then went on to continue his studies for the priesthood at Mount St. Alphonsus Seminary in Esopus, NY, making his final profession of vows in 1950 and being ordained to the priesthood on June 22, 1952.

On his golden jubilee, Father Hopwood recalled the notice he received for his first missionary assignment: “You will leave New York City on the Rio Jachal Ship of the Argentine State Line on March 8, arriving in Buenos Aires where you will transfer to a tramp steamer to sail north on the Paraná River to Asunción, Paraguay. From there you will leave for Ponta Porá, of the Mato Grosso State of Brasil, and from there west to Bella Vista, Paraguay, your first mission.” The journey, he recalled, took five weeks.

Another veteran missionary, Father Andrew Carr, said: “In those days, we got no formal training in the languages; if you wanted to study Spanish or Portuguese as a hobby, you could.” In Paraguay, the confreres were confronted with two official languages, Spanish and Guarani. “There were men more fluent, but he got very adequate in Guarani during his long trips in Bella Vista,” Father Carr said. The foundation there encompassed 120 miles by 90 miles, with little pockets of people spread throughout the area.

“He had a great zeal to serve the poor in the Paraguayan hinterlands and made frequent apostolic trips on horseback,” Father Carr added. “We didn’t get any training for that either!”

Father Humberto Villalba of Paraguay said that the people’s affectionate nickname for Father Hopwood was “Robertito.” He noted that the villages where his confrere would minister had no more than 20 houses each; there was no drinking water, no electricity, no street. Father Villalba added that Father Hopwood would return to his Redemptorist community after 30 or 40 days, only to bathe, wash his clothes, and prepare to set out for his next round of visits.

In 1958, Father Hopwood was transferred to Pedro Juan Caballero in Ponta Porá, Brazil. He served for two years, beginning in 1960, at Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro in Asunción, Paraguay. Later that year he returned to Pedro Juan Caballero; in 1962, Father Hopwood was assigned again to Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro. His new assignment in 1967 was to the same city, Asunción, but to a different parish, Santisimo Redentor.

His later assignments followed the same pattern: Bella Vista, in 1970; Pedro Juan Caballero, in 1971; Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro, in 1972. Also in 1972, he was named chaplain of the English-speaking Catholics in Paraguay, a ministry he continued for more than 30 years. The National Conference of Paraguayan Bishops chose Father Hopwood as their National Secretary for Ecumenism in 1983.

One project that Father Hopwood undertook, both among the campositos and the city-dwellers, was marketing the work of local artisans. Father James Gilmour, who served in Asunción for ten years overlapping Father Hopwood’s time there, recalled how his confrere worked to set up American markets where the handmade items could be sold at a price fair to the artisans. Among the products were fine laces and embroideries.

At the age of 65, Father Hopwood was relieved of parish work to take charge of Charity Hospital Capellanes del Chaco of the Redemptorist Fathers. Father Ronald Bonneau, another missionary to Paraguay, said that Father Hopwood “did great work there and it became known particularly for the maternity care it offered to the poor.” A lot of contributions to support this work came from English-speaking Catholics he met, mostly from the American embassy staff.

In Asunción, there were tennis courts available, to the delight of the highly energetic and athletic missionary.

“Hoppy was a wonderful tennis player,” Father Gilmour said. “He also was a sun-worshiper and he kept himself in very good health.”

Father Bonneau described his friend as being “like the Energizer Bunny,” who always volunteered to celebrate the first Mass of the day. Father Carr noted that the Redemptorists “were very strict with ourselves about taking a day off each week.” He added that the people were pleased with the priests taking a day off because they would be all the easier to approach for the rest of the week.

Father Blas Caceres, a native of Paraguay who serves now at St. Mary’s Church in Annapolis, said that in 1978 the Vice Province of Asunción offered one of their priests to serve the Spanish-speaking communities in the Province of Baltimore and, in return, Baltimore offered to take responsibility for what was then a small chapel named for St. Vincent de Paul.

Father Caceres later was chosen to come to the United States and Father Hopwood was chosen to serve as pastor of the chapel, which later was renamed Divino Espíritu. According to Father Caceres, his family belongs to this village chapel and quickly came to love “the smiling priest, very kind, who was always visiting families in their homes and bringing a family spirit to the church. The people were amazed at this wonderful priest they had received.”

More and more people began to come to the church regularly and to take part in parish activities, especially the Legion of Mary, Father Caceres said. He drew young people to the parish by encouraging sports, even offering tennis lessons to those interested in learning.

Like Jesus using parables, Father Hopwood used stories in his preaching. “The community adored his story-telling and he was a very good spiritual teacher for that community,” Father Caceres said.

While Father Hopwood never ran out of energy for serving the people, nor was his love for the Paraguayans ever diminished, he was persuaded by his Redemptorist superiors and a niece, Debbie Hopwood, with whom he was especially close because she had spent some years in Paraguay nursing the sick, to return to the United States.

With the onset and advance of dementia, the missionary who had served so many others for more than 50 years was brought home to the United States, to be served among his confreres who form the Redemptorist community at the St. John Neumann Residence at Stella Maris.

Father Hopwood is predeceased by brothers Eugene, William and Arthur, and a sister, Rita York. He is survived by brothers Paul and James in California, John in Indiana, Richard in Erie, PA, and Donald in Warren, PA, also a sister, Marihelen Egan in Franklin, PA; as well as numerous nieces and nephews.


Rev. Robert Hopwood, C.Ss.R.

  • Born: August 25, 1925
  • Professed: August 2, 1947
  • Ordained: June 22, 1952
  • Died: June 24, 2010



July 3
10 a.m.
Main Chapel, Stella Maris, Timonium, MD

July 5
5 p.m.
Followed by wake service at 7 p.m.
St. Gregory’s Church
136 West Main St., North East, PA

Funeral Mass
July 3
11 a.m.
Main Chapel, Stella Maris, Timonium, MD

July 5
11 a.m.
St. Gregory’s Church, North East, PA

Redemptorist section in North East, PA cemetery