Waterbury calling Christians to Holy Land this weekend

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They call it part of a revival in Waterbury for a place that’s become a landmark on top of the city. And that landmark is defined by a giant cross that sits on top of a mountain and can be seen all over the city.

Holy Land is a Waterbury attraction that was built in the 1950s. It’s a replica of Jerusalem that used to attract many people who wanted a different religious experience. 

Many of them got it.

“It was a great time back in the day when we would have 20, 30 buses up here, 4 or 500 people on the weekend,” said Holy Land volunteer, Stephen Rice.

 News 8 caught up with Rice as he was volunteering to spread mulch on the Holy Land mountaintop for a special “Mass on the Mountaintop” Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

Organizers are expecting more than 2,000 people.

“I think the mass will be an inspiration,” said Father Jim Sullivan, who came up with the idea to hold a mountaintop mass. “You know, you don’t have to read too far into the Bible before you hear God speaking on top of mountains.”

The special, outdoor Mass is being held for a couple of reasons. One is to pay respects to a Catholic man from Waterbury who left a big mark on the city, the state, the country and the world. The late, Father Michael McGivney is being considered for sainthood. He’s immortalized in Connecticut with a statue in Waterbury and a Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven. Father McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus, one of the largest Catholic charities in the world.

“A true saint in Waterbury,” Father Sullivan said. 

Related: Blessing ceremony held for new Holy Land gate in Waterbury

“He served the poor, he served the needy. He served at a time when so many immigrants were coming to this country and needed help. He was a leader and brought so many people to God.”

Father Sullivan also hopes these Mountaintop Masses help to breathe new life in Holy Land. The attraction shut down in the 80s and not much has been done with it until Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary stepped in and took it over. Now, there are efforts, like this special mass, to resurrect Waterbury’s religious park.

More than a thousand people from all over Connecticut went to the first Mountaintop Mass last year on a rainy day with thunderstorms threatening. The hope is the weather will be better this Sunday and they can double or triple the numbers from last year. 

The mass starts at 3:00 p.m. The gates open at noon. There is no parking at Holy Land, but shuttle buses will be provided to pick up people from the nearby ramp garage at St. Mary’s Hospital, located at 145 South Elm Street. 

Father Sullivan says a miracle has to be performed in order for Father McGivney to attain sainthood. He says an example of a miracle would be if someone who’s sick is healed and there’s no medical explanation. If Father McGivney does attain sainthood, Father Sullivan says Waterbury and Holy Land could become places of pilgrimage. 

“Just like so many of the shrines around the world,”Father Sullivan said. “People come from all over to travel and see and explore the life of a saint.”

For the people travelling to the mass on Sunday, Father Sullivan says dress for the weather because the mass is rain or shine. And you may want to bring a lawn chair and a camera — Holy Land provides breathtaking views of the entire city.

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