From St. Faustina to ‘Forgiveness Fridays’: Fathers & Sisters of Mercy Celebrate
What the Jubilee Year Means to Religious Life
COMMITTED TO MERCY. Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy at the door of mercy in the Boston Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Dec. 13, 2015. Luis Mederos; the Fathers of Mercy preach about the mercy of God from their chapel and beyond. Fathers of Mercy; Pope Francis photo via L'Osservatore Romano
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis calls us to “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36) and “to look beyond, to focus on the heart, to see how much generosity everyone is capable of. No one can be excluded from the mercy of God.”
Pope Francis’ call has inspired the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy and the Fathers of Mercy in their celebrations in this special year, most especially because they center their missions on the message of mercy Jesus gave to St. Faustina Kowalska in Poland in the 1930s.
This year is especially significant to the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy because St. Faustina was a perpetually professed member and the spiritual co-foundress of the congregation. The order has a community in Boston and many sisters in Poland and throughout the world.
The Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy are celebrating and honoring the Year of Mercy in numerous ways. Sister M. Elzbieta Siepak of Poland, a professed congregation member and media-relations coordinator, said that on the opening day of the Jubilee Year of Mercy (Dec. 8, 2015), the Divine Mercy image from the Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Krakow-Lagiewniki, Poland, was made available for digital download through the congregation’s official website (Faustyna.pl/zmbm/en/). Sister Elzbieta said the image is for “the non-commercial spreading of the message of God’s mercy, or for the purpose of catechesis, pastoral care, as well as for a variety of banners and posters associated with the jubilee year.”
Sister Elzbieta also said renovations took place at the Shrine of the Divine Mercy, where the image and the tomb of St. Faustina are located. Now completed, she said “a statue of St. Faustina [stands] before the altar of the Merciful Jesus, greeting incoming pilgrims.”
The sisters are aware that not everyone can visit Poland, so they have made available a 24-hour live online stream from the Shrine of the Divine Mercy, allowing the faithful throughout the world to visit the shrine.
In addition, the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy’s publishing house, “Misericordia,” will release new English and French translations of St. Faustina’s diary, which will be entitled In the Footsteps of Sister Faustina’s Revelations in Lagiewniki.
“Sister Faustina had over 290 revelations here at the Krakow shrine,” said Sister Elzbieta. “Pilgrims coming to the shrine want to know what happened in the chapel, at the gate, at the square in front of the convent or in other places, since she spent many years here.”
The Boston community of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy have additional plans this year. They will travel to several states promoting the message of mercy. They will speak at conferences, conduct parish missions and evangelize to many souls: the young, those fallen away from the Church and those who do not yet know “the infinite love of God.” They will also distribute Divine Mercy holy cards and leaflets in downtown Boston and give sandwiches to the homeless.
“Our spiritual co-foundress, St. Faustina, leads us in a special way during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Through her intercession, we pray daily that this year of grace bears abundant and lasting fruit in each heart and throughout the world,” said the Boston community in a statement.
Along with the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, the Fathers of Mercy in Auburn, Ky., are delighted that Pope Francis called for this Year of Mercy.
Father Wade Menezes, the assistant general for the Fathers of Mercy, said the order travels throughout the United States, Canada and Australia, conducting parish missions, retreats and devotions. The order frequently celebrates the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist as part of their apostolate.
“We see firsthand the reality and beauty of conversion, God’s mercy at work,” said Father Menezes, who is also a series host and a regular Mass celebrant on EWTN Global Catholic Network. “Mercy is who God is. It’s love’s second name. God is more interested in our future than in our past. He’s more interested in the kind of person we can yet become than in the kind of person we used to be.”
In celebration of this Year of Mercy, Father Menezes said additional times for Eucharistic adoration and reconciliation are offered at the Fathers of Mercy Generalate, the order’s primary residence in Auburn. Weekly Eucharistic adoration and confessions are from 7 to 9pm on “Mercy Mondays” and from 3 to 5pm on “Forgiveness Fridays.”
The Fathers of Mercy’s superior general, Father David Wilton, said their congregation will host two 15-mile walking pilgrimages from their Chapel of Divine Mercy in Auburn to the Diocesan Marian Shrine of Western Kentucky in Bowling Green.
“Both the Chapel of Divine Mercy and Marian shrine have been designated pilgrimage sites for the jubilee year by our diocesan bishop, Bishop William Medley of Owensboro, Ky.,” said Father Wilton. “Parishioners from both Bowling Green-area parishes are encouraged to take part in the pilgrimages.”
In speaking of mercy, Father Menezes referenced St. John Paul II’s encyclical Dives in Misericordia, which means “Rich in Mercy”:
“Conversion is the most concrete expression of the working of love and of the presence of mercy in the human world. … The Church must profess and proclaim God’s mercy in all its truth, as it has been handed down to us by (divine) revelation.”
Father Menezes believes that this “reality of conversion” is the “heart of the message” of the Year of Mercy. He added, “The Church, as both mother and teacher, fulfills this mandate by proclaiming the mercy of God to all.”
Sister M. Caterina Esselen of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy also believes in this reality of conversion: that souls will “be reconciled with God and find peace of heart.”
“Now that the entire Church is turning to the Divine Mercy, I pray that St. Faustina’s prophesy will soon be fulfilled: ‘The Divine Mercy will triumph over the whole world and will be worshipped by all souls’” (St. Faustina’s diary, 1789).
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