Two-day Divine Mercy conference at St. Anthony
The tall Divine Mercy poster outside St. Anthony of Padua Church in New Orleans beckons people to discover the meaning of the rays beaming from Jesus’ heart.
A two-day Divine Mercy Conference Feb. 26-27 at St. Anthony of Padua Church, 4640 Canal St., celebrates this mercy of God given to St. Faustina from Jesus “as a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners” (taken from the Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, entry 699).
The conference begins Feb. 26 with confessions at 4 p.m., testimony by local businessman Mike Hammer at 7 p.m., followed by Bag of Donuts guitarist Jerry Christopher Jr. at 7:30 p.m., Mass celebrated by Father Steve Bruno at 8 p.m., and a holy hour with confessions from 9-10 p.m.
On Feb. 27, Karen Stoehr will give witness at 9 a.m., followed by Dominican Father Mariano Véliz’s personal witness at 9:30 a.m. and holy hour with confessions at 10 a.m. Father Véliz will celebrate Mass at 11 a.m., with Christopher Heneghan and Friends providing music.
It was providence that brought Father Véliz and conference organizers together one day when Carol Klotz was wandering the halls of St. Anthony Church’s office.
“She came into my office, and we sat down, and she started talking about a Divine Mercy Mass in February,” Father Véliz said.
Spirit woke within them
“The Holy Spirit started this,” Pat Fisher, event co-organizer, said.
Fisher, a parishioner at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Kenner; Klotz, a St. Benilde parishioner; and Nancy DuBois, a St. Mary Magdalen parishioner, have organized the conference.
A 2015 charismatic conference, which featured a Divine Mercy devotion sponsored by fellow Catholic Margaret Bieser, was their inspiration for this local Divine Mercy event.
Knowing that Pope Francis was declaring a Year of Mercy, they thought, “Why not a two-day conference in New Orleans?” Fisher had previously organized a Divine Mercy Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Kenner in 2006 that spread to other parishes, including St. Anthony of Padua in 2014. To further promote Divine Mercy, all three distribute Divine Mercy prayer cards to police, the homeless or to anyone who needs it.
The trio’s devotion to Divine Mercy actually was sparked about 20 years ago at a Divine Mercy retreat with the late-Jesuit Father Harold Cohen.
“Father Cohen had us all on fire with Divine Mercy,” DuBois said. “He wanted us to go out and let everybody know about God’s Divine Mercy.”
Locally, the Divine Mercy devotion has been celebrated by Archbishop Gregory Aymond with Masses on Divine Mercy Sunday – the Sunday after Easter – at St. Joseph Church on Tulane Avenue.
Conference preaches mercy
Why was this particular weekend chosen?
“It’s a Jubilee year, and the pope has asked us to do many events – anything to draw people in to help them understand what Divine Mercy is. We knew Lent was approaching, and we have to give people the message to go to confession,” Fisher said.
“His blood and water that comes from his heart (as depicted in the Divine Mercy image) is ongoing,” DuBois said. “Confession is a constant renewal of your relationship with God.”
They believe that God’s love is merciful and gave the examples of Mary Magdalen, who was made pure, and Peter, who later became the rock of the church, who denied Christ three times.
“No matter what you have done in your life, God loves you so much that he will wipe away every sin you have and give you his mercy,” Fisher said. “... It gives you hope that nothing you can do can keep you from getting his mercy.”
The women are especially trying to reach young adults, many of whom are not familiar with Divine Mercy graces.
DuBois admits to not frequently going to confession in years past until she fully understood how fulfilling being cleansed of sin can be.
“God wants you to keep coming,” Fisher said. “He loves you that much. Once you receive mercy yourself, you can then apply it to others in purgatory.”
Father Véliz suggested a spiritual work of mercy: praying for the dead. “We receive that mercy in our hearts, and we become a vessel of God to invite others to that mercy, the mercy of God brought to us by Divine Providence. On our journey, we must be a witness to the true mercy of God to reach out to others.”
DuBois said praying the rosary is important since Mary is “Mother of Mercy.” “Love and mercy go together,” she said. “You can’t separate them.”
As a Dominican, Father Véliz said it is nice that the Dominican order’s 800th anniversary coincides with the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“Mary asked St. Dominic to bring (nonbelievers) back to Christ (by preaching and practicing mercy among them),” Father Véliz said. “What greater mercy than bringing people back to Christ?”
The weekend will include a Saturday morning Holy Hour from 5-6 a.m. and a 6:10 a.m. Mass for Mary.
“St. Faustina said there are so many graces attached to the Divine Mercy devotion,” DuBois said. “This is planting that seed.”
Divine Mercy Sunday Special Blessings bestowed when you:
➤ Go to confession, preferably during Lent before Divine Mercy Sunday (the first Sunday after Easter: April 2, 2016).
➤ Receive Holy Communion on Divine Mercy Sunday.
➤ Pray for the pope, venerate the Divine Mercy image.
➤ Do a spiritual or corporal work of mercy; take a pilgrimage during this Jubilee Year of Mercy to the Holy Year Door in Rome or local archdiocese pilgrimage sites: St. Louis Cathedral; National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor Uptown; Shrine of the Vietnamese Holy Martyrs at Mary Queen of Vietnam; St. Jude Shrine at Our Lady of Guadalupe; National Shrine of Blessed Francis Savier Seelos in the Irish Channel; St. Joseph Church in Gretna, St. Joseph Abbey in St. Benedict, La.; Divine Mercy Parish in Kenner; St. Ann Church and Shrine in Metairie.