Snow Couldn't Stop Them

by Andy Leeco

More than a foot of snow in a rare October storm didn't keep pilgrims from attending the first Mercy for Souls Conference on Sunday, Oct. 30, at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass.

Author Susan Tassone, acclaimed for her bestselling books on purgatory, gave two talks, and Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, was the celebrant and homilist as about 40 people braved the elements to prepare for November, the month to remember the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

"I knew it was the first conference and we could be a powerful group to help the souls in purgatory. I wasn't going to let anything keep me from coming here today," Suzanne Fiorillo of Teaneck, N.J., said. "It took me about an hour to get out of my town. You could hear branches breaking. All eight of the trees in my yard had lost limbs. We had no power, but I wasn't going to let those struggles keep me away."

Dianne Sarno and Rosemary Petro were also from New Jersey and weren't sure they were going to make it through the snow.

"We had no electricity, but I had packed earlier and slept in my clothes," Rosemary said. "Dianne couldn't call because the phones were out, but she knocked on my door this morning and we made it here."

"We wanted to come because we have lots of people to pray for," Dianne added.

Mary Nguyen-ta traveled the farthest to come to the conference, flying in from Sacramento, Calif.

"I flew in to Boston and rented a car and drove here this morning," Mary said. "I travel to give thanks to God. I escaped Vietnam on the last day of the war and ever since I've been praying for the Holy Souls."

Dorothy Feder and her nephew, Jay Frazier, also overcame the elements to come to the Day of Remembrance.

"I'm from Belleville, Ill., and my nephew is from Columbus, Ohio. It took a long time to drive in from Boston this morning," Dorothy said. "It was our first time driving in a nor'easter."

"It was worth it," Jay said. "I'm learning a lot. Much more than I anticipated."

Father Dan opened his homily by telling the congregation that he is the spiritual director of the Holy Souls Sodality and that praying for the holy souls is "nearest and dearest to my heart."

"We are the Church Militant and the souls on purgatory are the Church Suffering. You and I can pray for them and relieve their suffering," Fr. Dan explained in his homily. "In building the kingdom of God, we must be mindful of the Church Suffering. It is in the Marians' charism — authentic to our roots which began more than 300 years ago — and it's part of the Lord's infinite plan."

In the first of Susan's talks, she gave an insight into her passion for the Holy Souls. She explained that she was a corporate woman and not nearly so devoted to the Holy Souls until a cab in the streets of Chicago altered her career path. She was hit by the cab — badly injuring her leg — but the down time allowed her to discover a closer connection to God and ultimately revealed her mission to pray for the holy souls.

Susan also answered the question she's asked most: What about St. Gertrude Prayer and the promise that each prayer will release 1,000 souls.

"Why 1,000? My question is why not 2,000 or 3,000?" Susan asked. "What was so significant about 1,000? I did the research, and I found that Gertrude asked how many could be released and Jesus said He wanted all the souls released. He wanted Gertrude to ask for more than she dared. In other words, our Lord is asking us to pray with zeal and fervor, to ask big, and to be bold. Basically the number 1,000 is more than you can count and more than you dare ask for. It is symbolic for an infinite number."

She also answered another frequently asked question: "What is purgatory?"

"Purgatory is not a punishment, it's a purification," Susan said. "It is a mercy from God. It's like going to a wedding dressed in a T-shirt and blue jeans. We know we don't belong there. We are stained by sin. Purgatory is a fiery love that burns away our sins. We are blessed to have purgatory."

In the second talk, she gave tips and ways to help the Holy Souls and to help us both here on earth and when we die.

Susan told the pilgrims about the key ways to help the holy souls: Masses, Gregorian Masses, praying the Rosary, praying the Way of the Cross, and use of the sacramentals such as holy water. "Masses are the most powerful way to help the souls, and our Rosaries are the weapon," Susan said. "We can't always [go to] Masses every day, but we can say the Rosary every day."

But she said these ways can also help us while we are still on earth. "These things can help us, too," she said. "Have Masses said for yourself while you're still alive. Put a Gregorian Mass in your will."

She also suggested that we get our children involved.

"Teach children about the souls in purgatory. Take them to the cemetery, teach them the Eternal Rest Prayer and the St. Gertrude Prayer so they know what to do when you die," Susan said.

She encouraged the pilgrims to "do good, be good, and think good." She said that the more we do for the souls, the more they become intercessors for us. "The souls pray unceasingly for you," she said. "They will never stop praying and interceding for you."

Finally, she reminded those in attendance to take advantage of every indulgence and to offer them to the holy souls. She pointed out that on Divine Mercy Sunday you can obtain graces for yourself and offer the gift of the plenary indulgence for a soul in purgatory.

"I feel sorry for all of those people who couldn't be here due to the weather," Fr. Dan said. "That's OK. In the words of Blessed George Matulaitis-Matulewicz, 'It's better to start slow with a more fervent group than start too big and showy and it all falls apart.' We are going to hope that that's true."

The Marians invite you to join them in their remembrance for the Holy Souls. For more information, visit

Photo above: Father Dan Cambra, MIC, greets Susan Tassone during a special ceremony at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy that focused on why and how we help the Holy Souls in Purgatory.