Fr. Yozefu – Balikuddembe Ssemakula comes from Uganda, but he is serving as a priest in the United States. He has been a priest for 21 years and lately he arrived to Medjugorje for his third visit. The first two times when he came here was together with other pilgrims in a group, but he felt that he needed to come alone, to pray here more on his own. He said that Medjugorje always gives him additional strength:
In the last year there were 1 802 800 Holy Communions distributed, and there were 37 498 priests concelebrating at the Holy Masses.
There were 65 baptisms of children (39 girls and 26 boys).
There were 55 persons who died (23 female and 32 male);
Married were 30 couples.
There were 55 children who received the sacrament of the Holy Communion (34 girls and 21 boys);
There were 79 young people who received the sacrament of the Holy Confirmation (32 girls and 47 boys).
Apart from the parishioners, there were thousands of pilgrims that came to Medjugorje for celebration of New Year from all over the world and we registered organised groups from Poland, Ukraine, France, Korea, the United States, Ireland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Romania, Austria, Spain, Lebanon, Italy and Germany. Many young pilgrims arrived also from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Fr. Ivan Landeka celebrated Holy Mass of Thanksgiving on Wednesday, December 31 at 6 p.m. with 60 priests concelebrating. It was gratitude for all goodness that dear Lord gave to this parish through the Queen of Peace. Fr. Josip Marija Katalinic led the prayer of Rosary. After Holy Mass, the members of Cenacolo community held performance of nativity scene outside the church of St. James. The prayer vigil began at 10 p.m. and Fr. Stanko Cosic led that prayer. The parish priest, Fr. Marinko Sakota, celebrated the midnight Holy Mass that was broadcasted live on radio and internet, while thousands of people gathered all around the church, outside altar and hall at the back of the church to praise and joyfully celebrate God. (photos)
Parish priest of Medjugorje, Fr. Marinko Sakota, celebrated the Midnight Holy Mass in the packed church of St. James on New Year’s Eve. Here, we bring a part of his homily:
“Dear brothers and sisters, we believe that new is possible, that new Heaven and new Earth are possible, as John wrote in the Book of Revelation. We wonder how does that happen, can this, new 2015 year be different for us, better or more beautiful? We usually tend to think that that will occur once the outer appearance is changed, when the others around us change, those in our family or those who are far from us, or once the politics is changed or the economical situation. That is all what we wish, but that is not enough. Perhaps we think that when we have a new car, or a new home, when we become someone in the terms of today’s society, which is what is most valuable nowadays... But, Our Lady is teaching us to something different here. She says: ‘Pray, dear children, and have more trust in me because I am here to help you and to lead you on the new way of your lives. I invite you to start changing your life and to decide for conversion, not just with words, but with your lives.’ The message is clear. I do not need anything new, I need to become new.
Number of Holy Communions: 63 700
Number of priests that concelebrated at Holy Masses: 1395 (45 per day)
In the previous 2014 there have been 1 802 800 Holy Communions given in the church, and total of 37 498 priests that concelebrated at Holy Masses.
Many pilgrims, mostly young, arrived to Medjugorje for the prayer vigil and celebration of the New 2015th year. The prayer programme on the New Year’s Eve on Wednesday, December 31, begins with Rosary at 5 p.m. The evening Holy Mass of thanksgiving for the previous year will be at 6 p.m. and after the evening Holy Mass, community Cenacolo will have the live nativity scene performance outside the church. The prayer vigil before the Blessed Sacrament begins at 10 p.m., and the solemn Holy Mass will be at 11.30 p.m. The whole programme will be also broadcasted in the Hall of St. John Paul II, while radio Medjugorje will broadcast the whole event on the radio as well.
On Saturday, December 27, in the Hall of St. John Paul II, Christmas concert was held with the following performers: Tedi Spalato, Ivan Mikulić, TS „Vranac“, Jelena Kordić, a capella group Luka, the Main choir of the Queen of Peace, Children’s choir Doves of Peace, Franciscan Youth choir Međugorje and Frama band, Stephen Yeseta, TS „Misercordia“, Monija Jarak, Jure Miloš and actor Robert Pehar. Fr. Marinko Šakota, the parish priest, gave a welcome speech and congratulate Christmas to all. During the concert, there was a slide show on video wall presenting the traditional Christmas scenes from this region, and the concert ended with one famous song „Narodi nam se Kralj nebeski“. The audience was thrilled after all these wonderful performances. (photos)
On Wednesday, December 24, we are celebrating Christmas Eve, when at 6 a.m. the final early Holy Mass was celebrated. The Rosary on Apparition Hill and Novena there was also completed yesterday, while the evening prayer programme begins with Rosary at 5 p.m. Confessions will be held from 4.00-5.30 p.m. as all of the priests need to be ready for the evening Holy Mass when they will all concelebrate. The performance of the live nativity scene will be held after the evening Holy Mass. The Christmas Prayer Vigil begins at 10 p.m. until 11.20. The Midnight Holy Mass begins at 11.30 p.m.
Cenacolo community has been preparing and performing live nativity scenery for the last couple of years in Medjugorje for all the parishioners and pilgrims who are coming here. Scenery is made of stable, inn, citizens of Betlehem, cattle, real costumes and amateur actors who are in the role of the Holy Family, as well as three kings from the East and shepherds. Live nativity scene performance will be held on Christmas Eve and on December 28, Feast of Holy Innocents. Along with the usual prayer programme, there will be Holy Mass at 3 p.m. for parents and their children, and live nativity scene will follow immediately afterwards.
Parish of Medjugorje is preparing for the Feast of Christmas with the early Holy Masses held at 6 a.m., and Novena on Apparition Hill began on Monday, December 15, with the Rosary at 2 p.m. Early Holy Masses are broadcasted live on radio Mir Medjugorje. The members of Cenacolo community have been preparing the scenery outside the church of St. James for the last few weeks, so all could be set and ready for two performances that will be held in Christmas season. What is new this year is that the main choir of the parish will be singing during those performances. The Franciscan Youth led by their spiritual guide, Fr. Stanko Cosic, prepared this year praiseworthy Advent humanitarian action by selling Ade nt decorations and Christmas cards in the church yard. All of the money from sale will be used for those who are in need, so their Christmas would be as blessed and joyful as possible. The members of the Franciscan Youth have made early Holy Masses more special and beautiful with their singing and reading.
Two pilgrims, Luis Garcia and Marina, from Spain came to Medjugorje by bicycles. This is their first time to Medjugorje. Luis said: “We are on pilgrimage from Spain to Jerusalem. God wanted us to visit Medjugorje. We were always in the hands of God and Blessed Virgin Mary who protected us all the way. She wanted us to be here. I heard of Our Lady of Medjugorje thanks to one pilgrim who knew Medjugorje and that inflamed fire in my heart. She wanted me to visit all of the Marian shrines in Europe. Out of all of shrines that I visited, this is the most beautiful place and made the deepest impression on me. I am proud to be here and I will be back”, said Luis that Marina on the road of St. James. “That was God’s plan because for two years I asked from God to show me person that I could do this project with. It is a great blessing that we are here. I feel relieved from the burden I carried.”
On Monday, December 15, 2014, Novena to the Birth of Christ will begin in Medjugorje. Every day throughout the nine days there will be Rosary on Apparition Hill at 2 p.m. That is why next Friday we will not pray the usual Way of the Cross on Cross Mountain, instead there will be Rosary on Apparition Hill. The evening prayer programme is according to the ordinary schedule, Rosary at 5 p.m. and Holy Mass at 6 .m., followed by the regular programme. Throughout Advent, except on Sundays, early Holy Masses are celebrated at 6 a.m. celebrated by Medjugorje Franciscans. There is the opportunity for confessions every morning at 5.30 before Holy Mass and during the evening prayer programme. All parishioners are invited to prepare through these events for the celebration of the birth of Christ.
As a part of preparation for celebration of St. James Feast, patron saint of Medjugorje, there was the scientific symposium held on Fr. Stanko Vasilj. On Friday, December 12, 2014, after the evening Holy Mass, there was the Collection of works on Fr. Stanko Vasilj that was introduced mainly with the works presented during that symposium that at the same time contains all his written works. Fr. Stanko’s music heritage was introduced, his notes that were gathered in the Collection of Selected Poems, Hymns and Holy Masses. Fr. Stanko was very recognisable personality in the second half of the 20th century in the Province of Herzegovinian Franciscans, as well as in the Herzegovinian Church.
The first National Spiritual Renewal of Bosnia and Herzegovina YouFra was held from December 5-7, 2014 in Medjugorje, with the theme: “Freely you have received, freely give” Mt 10:8. The main goal of the spiritual renewal was the preparation for Christmas, but also bonding two fraternities of Herzegovina and Bosnia. Around 100 young people gathered for this event from all over the country. The programme began with registration and gathering in the Hall of St. John Paul II, and they all joined the evening prayer programme for the Rosary and Holy Mass in the parish church of St. James. During this period of three-day spiritual gathering, the Franciscan Youth had chance to participate in the evening prayer programme and they also visited Apparition Hill and Cross Mountain. Many of them said that the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was the most beautiful part of this spiritual renewal that ended with the Holy Mass for all of the participants.
The seminar for altar boys from Herzegovinian parishes where Franciscan priests are serving was held in Medjugorje from December 5-7, 2014, with the theme: Come, follow me, and there were thirty two altar boys from sixteen parishes. The seminar began with the Rosary and the evening Holy Mass in the parish church that was celebrated by Fr. Stanko Mabic, Promoter of the Spiritual Vocations. The conductor of the seminar was Fr. Perica Ostojic, Deacon serving in Mostar parish and the themes were various, from vocation of the altar boy to the spiritual vocation. Saturday was filled with various fun games, song, group work, prayer and social time. The event was concluded with the Holy Mass celebrated at 11 a.m. by Fr. Stanko Mabic and the lunch that followed after Holy Mass. The altar boys returned to their homes filled with joy because the experiences they gained at this seminar.