by Father Carmine Cucinelli, O.F.M, Cap.
From Philadelphia, after flying across the entire US, we landed in Seattle. Mrs. Daisy Neves, the benefactor who financed the mission for the dissemination of the Holy Face in America, greeted us at the airport and brought us to Bellevue, where she wanted us to begin, in her hometown, in her own parish.The church is modern, named after St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, the founder of the Religious of the Sacred Heart, and rises up on the top of a hill.
The structure is mostly made of wood with some parts in concrete, with a single nave which has a large crucifix behind the main altar. To the left is the place for the musicians complete with drums, organ, brass, flutes, guitars etc. and the place for the choir with several microphones on stands. It must be really exciting to participate at the Mass on Sunday. After preparing an adjacent room for the talk on the Holy Face, we celebrated the Holy Mass. The pastor presided and I preached the homily in Italian which Don Danilo translated into english.
A giant poster of the Holy Face was placed in front of the altar. Something notable: the faithful are given the possibility to receive Holy Communion under both species. The priest distributed communion with the Host while a lay person held the chalice a little distance away so that the faithful who wished could partake. At the end the pastor thanked all for the excellent program and asked both Don Danilo and me to speak. Then in a reception hall the presentation on the Holy Face began. Everyone was very attentive as Don Danilo spoke in English and translated for me. Afterwards, refreshments were served, Filipino style, a buffet filled with all kinds of food including dessert.
Second City: San Francisco (California)
We arrived by plane and landed in the early afternoon. Raymond Frost came to pick us up and brought us to our hotel. I wish to point out that Raymond edits a blog in english based in San Francisco which is entirely dedicated to the Holy Face of Manoppello, very up to date, with news, photos and videos.www.holyfaceofmanoppello.blogspot.com
The first stop was the nearby city of East Palo Alto, in the church of St. Francis of Assisi. Here we celebrated Mass presided by the the pastor, who said some parts in English and others in Spanish. Among those present at the Mass was Mrs. Augustine Pham, the lady who following her visit to Manoppello helped make it possible for me to come to San Francisco. After Mass, the presentation was given in Spanish with Don Danilo also speaking in English. It is a very unique parish community made up of faithful from a number of ethnic groups speaking Spanish for the most part, but of English speaking groups as well, so that the liturgies are very unique.
The next morning at the church of St. Ignatius of Loyola. At 10am the presentation was given in English. The sacristans set up in the sanctuary a large screen with the projection from behind. Amazingly, the response to the presentation was beyond expectations. There were numerous questions raised by those present seeking clarification. We saw the tremendous desire to learn more about this topic.
The main sacristan, Raymond Frost, who organized the event including the publicity with flyers and internet and newspaper postings, was very satisfied with the participation of those present. At Noon we celebrated Holy Mass with the assistant pastor presiding. In the afternoon Augustine took us for a tour of the city, bringing us over the famous Golden Gate Bridge and then for a visit to the very modern style Cathedral. Then she took us to the airport for our flight to Las Vegas.
Third city: Las Vegas (Nevada).
The flight from San Francisco to Las Vegas was very short, only an hour and twenty minutes. Awaiting us there were Ms. Daisy, Joanne, Tita and other friends with a welcome sign showing the Holy Face. In the afternoon they were all there at Rancho Destino, in the parish of Don Nadin Abou Said, dedicated to St. Charbel. The Mass was celebrated in Italian, I presided and gave the homily. Italians were, in reality, very few, most were Filipinos and other ethnic groups. From time to time it was translated into English. The choirs performed songs in Italian which were taught to them by a talented lady. The Mass was celebrated in a large multi-purpose hall, used for liturgy as well as other events: receptions, banquets and such.
After the Mass I gave a chasuble with the image of the Holy Face to Don Nadin, who wore it until the last moment of the day. A presentation followed with projections of the images of the Holy Face, video, and comments in english. At the end the community offered a buffet supper to all.
What is Las Vegas like at night? So many lights of diverse colors. Along a main road were built hotel-casinos, each with a theme: vintage Roman Empire with large buildings Roman columns, statues etc, London with its famous bridge, Pirates with ships, Paris with the Eiffel tower, the world of fairies, Venice with Piazza San Marco, the bridge of Rialto. An unending line of shops selling the latest fashion clothing, jewelry, leather goods and every other kind of luxury.
But what is most impressive are the slot machines, hundreds and hundreds in every structure. The center of all the attractions is located in the Bellagio. Lights, flowers, gardens. The beautiful performance of the hotel's fountain on the lagoon named "Como" with jets that shoot spectacular bursts of water into the air to the sound of music.
North of the city there is the parish of Our Lady of Las Vegas, which is very well attended.The church was full of people of all ages. Some volunteers showed those who arrived late to the remaining empty seats. Very organized. A mixed choir of about 25 members, to the right of the sanctuary with a piano in the back, three violins and a viola, with a dozen microphones. The assistant pastor presided over the celebration and we concelebrated.
The sacristan Adna Martinez, who organized the gathering at the parish served as lector for the readings and prayers of the faithful. Some of the songs performed were in english but the majority were in the language of the Philippines (Tagalog). To allow everyone to follow the songs the words were projected on two screens up high to the right and left of the altar.
It worked very well. Everyone was very attentive. At the end of the presentation there were many questions. Afterwards many of the faithful approached to have a picture taken close to the Holy Face but above all, to receive the blessing of the priest.
This city, which has a bad reputation in the world to be the "Sin City", of corruption and vice, however, has nevertheless many devout and religious people trying to live a Christian life according to the plan of God.