Year of Mercy brings pilgrims to rural Central Texas

By Catholic Spirit Staff

When Holy Trinity Parish in Corn Hill was selected as one of the Austin Diocese’s Holy Door pilgrimage sites for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Father Stephen Nesrsta welcomed the opportunity. Little did he know, so many would come. 
Upon arriving at the twin-spired church situated south of Jarrell, pilgrims are welcomed by the Year of Mercy banners, one in English and one in Czech, the language of the original parishioners. The exterior of the door is also draped in a yellow cloth, signifying its Holy Door designation.  
“We chose a yellow draping because it is the color of the Vatican,” said Father Nesrsta. “The banners represent and remind us daily that this is the Year of Mercy and that the Lord’s mercy is available to all.” 
Father Nesrsta blessed the Door of Mercy on Dec. 13, 2015. Since then, hundreds of pilgrims from across the diocese have traveled to Corn Hill as individuals and in groups.  
In April, seventh graders from Holy Family Catholic School in Austin made a pilgrimage to the church, walking the last three miles on a county road from Walburg to Corn Hill. The students carried banners, sang and had periods of silence along the journey. Once they ate and rested, the students attended Mass celebrated by Father Angelo Bertini.  
Other groups have come to pray by carloads and busses from Fayetteville/Ellinger, Harker Heights, Round Rock, West and Rockdale, to name a few. For many, it is their first visit to the 103-year-old church. 
“Such a beautiful and holy church for us all,” wrote one pilgrim in the church’s visitor book.
By making a pilgrimage, the faithful can gain an indulgence. An indulgence is partial or plenary in as far as it frees one from the temporal punishment due to sin either partly or totally. The faithful can gain partial or plenary indulgences for themselves, or apply them for the dead by way of intercessory prayer. 
Conditions for the indulgence include the normal requirements set by the church for all plenary indulgences, that is, that the person truly repents of their sins, goes to confession, receives the Eucharist, makes a profession of faith, prays for the pope and his intentions, and performs a Corporal or Spiritual Work of Mercy.
The Jubilee Year of Mercy has placed renewed emphasis on the sacrament of reconciliation at the parish.
“It has been a blessing to see more of the faithful taking advantage of this sacrament,” Father Nesrsta said. “It is by the grace of God’s abundant mercy that we are freed from our sins.”
In honor of this Year of Mercy, Father Nesrsta holds a monthly Holy Hour, which includes Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. The next Holy Hour is Nov. 20 beginning at 3 p.m.
In addition, the parish’s Men’s Prayer Group is leading parishioners in a monthly book study focusing on “The Holy Year of Mercy,” a faith-sharing guide with reflections by Pope Francis. 
Father Nesrsta has also encouraged his parish to practice the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, especially in this jubilee year. 
“We should allow this year to come alive in our lives,” Father Nesrsta said. “I encourage my parishioners to focus on these acts of mercy and do something to put them into practice in their lives.” 
Holy Trinity Parish is open for visitors daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, contact the parish office at (512) 863-3020 or visit www.holytrinityofcornhill.org. 
There are four additional pilgrimage sites in the Austin Diocese: St. Mary Cathedral in Austin, Sacred Heart Parish in Waco, St. Joseph in Mason and St. Mary Catholic Center in College Station. The Jubilee Year of Mercy will close on Nov. 20, 2016; each of the parishes with Holy Doors for the Year of Mercy will offer closing Masses. More information is available at www.austindiocese.org/yearofmercy.
For one pilgrim’s experience in Corn Hill, see Page 18.