Jubilee Year: A missionary heart for others
The Jubilee Year of Mercy, a signpost of Pope Francis’ papacy of outreach and forgiveness, ideally should stretch far beyond the celebratory year if it is to make a real difference in the lives of Catholics and those who may be estranged from the church, said Dominican Father David Caron, vicar for evangelization for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
“This is not about a program that’s going to end at the closing of the Jubilee Year,” said Father Caron, who has worked for the last six months preparing resource kits for parishes, schools and campus ministry centers, along with billboards and yard signs proclaiming a message of “Try • Show • Live God’s Mercy.” “This invitation to mercy ties into something we’ve always believed in but perhaps stopped talking about. This has a huge outward focus.”
Yearlong focus on mercy
Archbishop Gregory Aymond ushered in the Jubilee Year on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, by symbolically blessing and then opening the holy door of St. Louis Cathedral before the 12:05 p.m. Mass. The special Year of Mercy will extend through Nov. 20, 2016.
Father Caron collaborated with other archdiocesan offices over the last several months preparing a “Traveling Mercies” toolbox, which has resources and ideas for parishes, schools and college campus ministry programs to use in their efforts to encourage focused prayer and evangelization during the jubilee.
The primary focus of the toolbox is to help parishes “proclaim to all people the love, compassion, hope and mercy of Jesus Christ,” Father Caron said.
“Parishes, schools, campus ministries and others have an opportunity to take these resources and really run with them by catechizing,” Father Caron said. “We have material on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, with the hope of getting people to do more direct, face-to-face ministry with the poor, as our archdiocesan synod has called for. Then, we hope they will theologically reflect on their ministry – not only what this can do for the poor but, equally important, what is this doing for ‘me’ and how have ‘I’ changed?”
The Traveling Mercies toolbox includes a welcome letter from Archbishop Aymond, who quotes from Pope Francis’ declaration that the holy year was promulgated as a special time for the church “to make more evident its mission to be a witness of mercy.”
All need forgiveness
“We, in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, hope to seize this prayer-filled opportunity to better know Jesus, the heart of mercy, and to introduce him to others,” Archbishop Aymond said. “(The year) asks us to recognize that we all fall short of the glory of God and are in need of God’s mercy.
“With both humility and gratitude, we must extend that same compassion to others through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The result of such reflection on God’s generosity toward us motivates us all to welcome people with real needs through prayer, concrete assistance and accompaniment.”
The toolbox also includes:
➤ A jubilee brochure with a summary explanation of the Jubilee of Mercy;
➤ A holy card with the Jubilee Year prayer;
➤ A list and explanation of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy;
➤ A glossary for key concepts of the jubilee, such as the tradition from the Hebrew scriptures that a jubilee is held every 50 years, during which the land remains fallow, debts and mortgages are forgiven and slaves are set free;
➤ Prayer intercessions for Advent, the Christmas season, Ordinary time, Lent and Easter;
➤ Confession cards that include an examination of conscience and how to make a confession, with a note that the sacrament of reconciliation will be available in all parishes of the archdiocese beginning at 5 p.m. on March 2, 9 and 16, 2016;
➤ A list of available speakers who can be contacted by parishes or schools to make presentations on the theme of God’s mercy;
➤ Sample bulletin inserts;
➤ A list of service and outreach opportunities, along with a process for those completing the service ministry to theologically reflect on their work;
➤ A list of pilgrimage sites in the archdiocese: St. Louis Cathedral, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, the Shrine of the Vietnamese Holy Martyrs, St. Jude Shrine, National Shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, St. Joseph Church and Shrine on the West Bank, St. Joseph Abbey, Divine Mercy Parish and St. Ann Church and Shrine;
➤ An explanation of indulgences;
➤ A list of important Jubilee Year dates in the archdiocese, including a “Mercy Through Movies” series at 6:30 p.m. in the Siena Room of St. Dominic Parish on Jan. 6, Feb. 3 and March 2; the MLK Day of Service on Jan. 18, Abbey Youth Fest on March 12, the Divine Mercy Mass on April 3, and a “Mercy Through Music” Gospel Fest in late September.
Mercy ‘toolbox’ well-received
Father Caron said he has received very positive feedback on the toolbox.
“People love it and say it’s very creative,” he said. “These are resources we want to put into the hands of people who really want to get out there and make this year – but also the rest of their lives – different. It’s got to go beyond this Year of Mercy, so it’s very practical.”
The idea is not only to support and enrich the faith lives of practicing Catholics but also to help parishes and schools go beyond the four walls of their church or school.
“We’ve got to support the people who are going to church, but evangelization is about looking through the lens of the lost,” Father Caron said. “How can we really project the Gospel message to others so that they want to buy into the mission? We move from maintenance to mission by bringing others into it.”
The key for welcoming back people who may be alienated from the church or from any sense of God’s mercy, Father Caron said, is that Catholics understand “we are both purveyors and recipients” of God’s mercy.
“We’re always asking for mercy,” Father Caron said. “At the same time, we’re extending the mercy of God to others. When those two things are not done equally, we’re impoverished. So, we are promoting the sacrament of reconciliation for those who need it. We’re also asking how our communities can be communities of mercy to others, to those who don’t feel included, those who feel they are on the fringes. It’s always both. It’s sin and grace happening at the same time.”
Pope Francis leads the way
Father Caron said Pope Francis has made God’s mercy and forgiveness the hallmark of his papacy.
“Pope Francis models mercy,” he said. “The practical invitation to live the corporal and spiritual works of mercy is something that’s not new, but we’re bringing this from the storehouse – the treasury – of the church and bringing it to the forefront.”
The archdiocese will promote public awareness of the Year of Mercy with electronic billboards, bus stop signs and banners outside churches with the theme, “Try • Show • Live God’s Mercy.” The signs also will point people to information on the archdiocesan website, NOLACatholic.org.
“You never know what may trigger people,” Father Caron said. “‘Try, Show and Live’ indicates we are both recipients and purveyors of mercy, and that happens in families, in marriages and in so many other places. We have to be signs of God’s mercy.”