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Fr. Reynolds talks about recent trip to Vatican City

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 11:48 a.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 12:26 p.m. CST
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Fr. William E. Reynolds, pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Newton, attended a November conference in Vatican City, Italy, dealing with ministry options for people on the move, specifically in the maritime community. His favorite speaker was a man captured by Somali pirates, whose faith never wavered.

The Vatican is a place of great spiritual value. Fr. William E. Reynolds, pastor at Newton’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church, recently went to Vatican City on Nov. 14 for a conference, and said the visit was wonderful.

There was one speaker who made an impact on Reynolds: Capt. Giuseppe Lubrano Lavadera and his 22-man crew, who were captured by a group of 30 Somali pirates. They were held hostage for 316 days and were given inhumane living conditions. Lavadera credits his faith for getting him through the event.

“He spoke about this in terms of how important his faith was to him, to keep him oriented in the right way so that he would not denigrate his crew,” Reynolds said. “He would not devalue any of the crew members. He was concerned always for the crew.”

The captors tried to make Lavadera question his values, but he never did.

“When he, his ship and his crew were released Christmas day 2011, one of his first requests was to call an Italian frigate, which was nearby, and ask that a priest be sent so there could be Mass on his ship,” Reynolds said.

Lavadera thought it would be appropriate to have Mass the day after they were released. He thought that only Catholics would attend, but to his surprise people from all different faiths attended.

“He was a marvelous speaker,” Reynolds said.

The purpose of the conference was to discuss ministry options for people on the move. Many workers who work on ports and ships are not always able to hear the word of their faith.

“This is for people of the maritime community — people who live on, work or recreate on the seas and even waterways,” Reynolds said of the conference.

Another point brought up during the meeting was the Maritime Labor Convention of 2006, which is an international labor agreement for the treatment of seafarers. It provides comprehensive rights and protection at work for the world’s more than 1.2 million seafarers.

“Seafarers are treated fairly unjustly,” Reynolds said. “They need to be treated fairly. They need transportation at a port. If a port is huge and a ship docks, it could require a mariner to walk two to three miles to even get to the aid of the port.”

Mariners not only deal with transport problems but communications issues as well. International calls and Internet use can be hard to come by. These issues were discussed at the conference.

The MLC did ratify the Philippines, but the U.S. has not singed it — a move that upsets Reynolds.

“Congress needs to pass it,” Reynolds said.

While in Vatican City, Reynolds attended a Mass that had three cardinals, about 30 bishops, 100 priests and 200 to 300 lay faithful. All celebrated Mass at the Chair of Peter.

“We had a group of 400 people at conference from 70 different nations,” Reynolds said. “Our conference began on a Monday morning. We had a Mass at the Chair of Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica. That was a pretty big event.”

Later, Reynolds and his group were able to get a private tour of the museums. Following the tour, he was able to tour the Sistine Chapel and ate dinner at the Hall of Statues.

“It was kind of nice having dinner in one of the galleries of the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican museums,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds still gets chills every time he enters the Vatican, and likes the artwork.

“It’s just a great repository of treasures of the world for the world,” Reynolds said. “There is just so much to see. After the first Raphael, the next 30 don’t mean that much for you, but it’s a beautiful place and just what a collection of things for the whole world to be able to treasure and enjoy. To be in the Vatican was a very wonderful opportunity. I’d studied in Rome in the 1980’s for two years. It’s always nice to get back to Rome.”

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