Priest brings ‘Holy Door’ brick back to Iowa parish

To be put on display at Holy Family in New Hampton

By Dan Russo

Witness Editor

NEW HAMPTON — Father Brian Dellaert attended the opening of the Year of Mercy in Rome, and he recently brought an item back to Iowa that commemorates this special time in church history. The priest was able to obtain a brick once used to seal the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica. It will be a constant reminder for his parish of God’s mercy, its connection to the worldwide church and to the pope.

“It was a privilege to see the pope open the door, pass through it and invite the faithful to experience more deeply the mercy of God,” said Father Dellaert, now pastor of the Good Shepherd Cluster, which includes parishes in New Hampton, Ionia and North Washington.

Father Dellaert was studying canon law in Rome when Pope Francis opened the Holy Door on Dec. 8, 2015, to begin the extraordinary jubilee year. He made it to the Year of Mercy commencement Mass.

“It was crowded,” recalled Father Dellaert. “I was almost late for Mass. It was after the Paris (terrorist attack) so the security was definitely tight.”

There are Holy Doors at all four major basilicas in Rome, including St. Peter’s. They are normally opened only every 25 years for “ordinary” jubilee years. Popes can declare “extraordinary” jubilees, during which the doors are also open. The last ordinary jubilee occurred in 2000-2001.

Passing through the Holy Doors for pilgrims symbolizes the reception of God’s mercy following repentance from sins; and that God’s mercy stretches out to all human beings.

“There was an influx of people coming to Rome (during the Year of Mercy),” said Father Dellaert. “There was a jubilee for scouts, for circus performers for religious and priests … so many people came as a group and went through the door together. I saw their exuberance at seeing Rome for the first time. It revived in me the sense of joy of taking a spiritual journey.”

In between these jubilee years, the Holy Doors are sealed with bricks on the inside. (The closed doors remain visible on the outside). Before returning to Iowa from Rome this summer, Father Dellaert requested one of the bricks used to seal the door in St. Peter’s from 2001-2015. It is marked with a papal symbol and the date the door was sealed.

A display is now being built for the brick and it will eventually be visible to all who visit Holy Family Parish in New Hampton. Father Dellaert hopes the brick will remind people of God’s mercy and inspire them to continue spreading the works of mercy throughout the world.

“I think with the door for the Year of Mercy, it re-enforced for people how much God wants to bless us with his mercy,” said the priest.