Pope Francis called for a Jubilee Year of Mercy, December 8, 2015 through November 20, 2016 with the theme Misericordiae Vultus — Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. In Misericordiae Vultus, our Holy Father writes of mercy as being the very foundation of the church’s life. The very mission of the church, he noted, should be caught up in extending mercy through tender and compassionate love, not only to its own members, but also to all of God’s children. One of the great graces that sprung up in the Year of Mercy in a number of dioceses across the country, including our own, is “Mercy Night.” It is a candlelit evening of eucharistic adoration, prayerful music, healing prayers with the opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. Mercy Night is a call to rest in the heart of God’s mercy and to experience his peace. Mercy Night is open to people of faith from all denominations.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help held the first Mercy Night in our diocese on Dec. 6. More than 500 hundred people participated in some way. There were 16 priests hearing confessions and most of them heard confessions for at least three hours. Four prayer teams prayed over people, asking the Lord for healing, for close to four hours. It was truly an amazing night of God’s mercy flowing through his son Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit to his people. Those who organized the Mercy Night at Cathedral have taken the message of stewardship to heart. The event speaks of both generous hospitality and lively faith. The parish reached out with an invitation to seek Jesus Christ in a very intentional way and to encounter the face of the Father’s mercy.
Father Steve Biegler, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral, sent out postcards to every household — Catholic and non-Catholic — within a two mile radius of the cathedral parish. With an investment of $2,400, that mailing reached 9,728 households.
It is amazing to see this type of invitation and evangelization happening in our diocese. It seems we invite people to a deeper relationship with Christ and his church by making a pulpit announcement, putting a blurb in the bulletin, and then we call it good.
Yet, here is a parish that stood up and stepped out in faith, taking to heart the call to be part of the new evangelization. In 1990, Pope John Paul II wrote in Mission of the Redeemer: “I sense that the moment has come to commit all the Church’s energies to a new evangelization…No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” The Mercy Night at the Cathedral embraced these words of St. John Paul II.
In Through Him, With Him and In Him: A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan, Bishop Gruss writes, “If we are true to our mission statement and living the ‘mission of Jesus Christ, leading to eternal life,’ then we must find ways to reach out to them (individual or groups of people who feel disconnected from the church), we must find ways to reach out to them because we care for their souls.”
One of the goals in the Priority Plan is that each parish or group of parishes will create a reconciliation plan. Perhaps a Mercy Night quarterly in parishes and deaneries would be one way to fulfill this goal of reconciliation.
People have shared many wonderful stories about Mercy Night. Mary Daniel, Cathedral Liturgy director, said, “So far I’ve run into about 10 people, including my doctor, and they all had wonderful things to say about Mercy Night at the cathedral. These are everyday folks in the pew who found it a very peaceful and comforting experience.”
I also visited with Jennifer Mayforth, who grew up Baptist and lives in the neighborhood around the cathedral. She said “I was so appreciative of the invitation, it was fantastic to receive the postcard inviting the whole neighborhood to Mercy Night. I knew there would be quiet and beauty, where I could just sit and be still and feel the Lord’s presence with other Christians. We don’t take enough time in our lives to be quiet with Jesus.”
Bridget Decker, a religion teacher at St. Thomas More High School, Rapid City, shared this reflection: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest’ (Mt 11:28). These words from Matthew’s Gospel come to mind when I reflect upon my recent experiences of prayer ministry in the Diocese of Rapid City. On different occasions, I have prayed with others offering to intercede for them.
“The reality that has struck me most during these prayer opportunities is the amount of suffering present in the world: sickness, loss, death, and disappointment. Yet, despite the pain many people carry, those that approached us made their requests for healing, reconciliation, and strength in great faith. Each individual that came forward suffered in some way and they brought their particular burden to the Lord to find rest.
“Maybe that rest was in the form of physical healing, tears, or laughter, but more often than not, I think people experienced rest in the peace they received as they entrusted their cares to the good Father, believing in faith that he would take care of them according to his will. Being able to stand privy to that dialogue of vulnerability has been a gift and has strengthened my own faith.”
While the Jubilee Year of Mercy is “officially” over, it continues to bear the fruit of many graces such as Mercy Night. If you, or someone you know, had a powerful encounter in the Year of Mercy, I would love to hear the story.
Father Mark McCormick
Director of Stewardship and Vocations
605-716-5214 Ext. 235 or MMcCormick@diorc.org