Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Holy Family Retreat

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seminarian day 1358 webFather Jeffrey Gubbiotti, vocation director for the Archdiocese of Hartford, talks to seminarians at a day of reflection March 23 at St. Thomas Becket Parish in Cheshire. (Photo by Shelley Wolf)

CHESHIRE – The 22 seminarians discerning the call to the priesthood are a diverse group of men, yet all have one thing in common: They all say they have been continually surprised by God’s mercy during this Jubilee Year of Mercy.

20160223T1050 0292 CNS ENGLAND MERCY BUS 800People walk by the Mercy Bus in Burnley, England, Feb. 20. The double-decker bus is used for priests to hear the confessions of people who have stopped going to church. (CNS photo/Simon Caldwell)

BURNLEY, England (CNS) – A diocese in England is using a double-decker bus as a venue for priests to hear the confessions of people who have stopped going to church.

ashes20160210T1257 0104 CNS MISSIONARIES 800Pope Francis gives ashes to a woman as he celebrates Ash Wednesday Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 10. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis marked the beginning of the church's Lenten journey by sending off several hundred religious and diocesan priests on their own special path as "missionaries of mercy" in local parishes.

pope mexico 20160208T0955 0079 CNS VIDEO 800Volunteers near the U.S. border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, rehearse security movements near a billboard with an image of Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said his reasons for going to Mexico are "easy and simple."

pio20160204T1041 1916 CNS PADRE PIO MERCY 800An altar server touches the crystal coffin containing the exhumed body of St. Padre Pio at a Catholic church in Rome Feb. 3.(CNS photo/Yara Nardi, Reuters)

ROME (CNS) -- Thousands of people waited hours outside a Rome church to glimpse the mortal remains of St. Padre Pio and St. Leopold Mandic, two Capuchins popular as miracle workers and known particularly for the long hours they would spend hearing confessions.

popesave20160203T0927 1853 CNS POPE AUDIENCE JUSTICE 800Pope Francis poses with U.N. troops from Argentina during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Feb. 3. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God doesn't want to condemn anyone; he wants to save every person in the entire world, Pope Francis said.

MercyQuest Lent cover web 2Cover of Mercy Quest book

HARTFORD – Parishes in the Archdiocese of Hartford are busy organizing Lenten mercy groups, small gatherings of parishioners who will meet for reflection, conversation and prayer around the gift of God’s mercy and the call to mission.

For four weeks during Lent, which begins with Ash Wednesday on Feb. 10, Lenten mercy groups will meet in parishes throughout the archdiocese as part of Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Mercy, which began on Dec. 6.

The Jubilee Year of Mercy will help raise parishioners’ awareness that the church’s mission is to become more merciful like the Father by practicing spiritual and corporal works of mercy in local parishes. Works of mercy include feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, praying for the living and the dead and almost a dozen others.

The Small Christian Communities office has provided parishes with a resource for their groups. A booklet called Mercy Quest focuses on Jesus’ parables of mercy: the two debtors and creditor, the good Samaritan, the Merciful Father and the related parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Each week, groups are encouraged to read and reflect on a parable, then share with each other where they perceive God’s mercy in their lives and how their parish might show mercy more richly to those in need in their community.

In his introduction to Mercy Quest, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair wrote: “In these parables, Pope Francis notes, ‘Jesus reveals the nature of God as that of a Father who never gives up until he has forgiven the wrong and overcome rejection with compassion and mercy.’”

The Church of St. Timothy in West Hartford is planning to participate in the Lenten mercy groups. Pastoral associate Patricia Piano is using the Mercy Quest resource for the groups she was helping to assemble as 2016 began.

In early January, Ms. Piano met with parish leaders to request volunteers to facilitate the Lenten mercy groups. “We’re trying to gaze more attentively on mercy so we can become a more effective sign of God’s mercy in our lives,” she said.

“We talk about mercy, we pray about it, we sing about it, but when we get out in the world, we seem to forget. In small groups, we can look at it.”

St. Timothy, she added, already has an active outreach committee that does monthly corporal works of mercy.

“But the pope is asking us to do more. To reach beyond our community and do what the church is standing for – not only to come to church but to be the church and get our hands dirty.”

Small group gatherings are not new to St. Timothy. Parishioners have gathered in small Christian communities for some time. A small community, according to Ms. Piano, usually consists of six to eight parishioners who come together with a facilitator to share and reflect on the Sunday Scripture readings.

Jean Tressy, a member of St. Timothy with her husband for approximately 30 years, participates in small communities at the parish and was looking forward to the Lenten mercy groups. She sees a lot of value in her group, especially in bringing people of different backgrounds together and fostering inclusivity.

“Our small Christian community has been meeting for the last five or six years,” she said. The group, she added, usually consists of nine people who meet every other week in someone’s home. “Whoever hosts the meeting is the leader for the night.”

She was hoping that the already established group she attends would consider using the Mercy Quest booklet for its Lenten meetings because the mercy theme would be appropriate. “You receive mercy and affirmation by being in a group like this. You experience humanness.”

One of the reasons the group works, she said, is because of its diversity and inclusiveness. “There are both men and women, in all different life circumstances and ages, and a wide variety of people. Everyone comes with differing thoughts and feelings and offers different things.”

Brother Robert Moriarty, director of the Small Christian Communities department, noted that such gatherings date back to the formation of Renew groups in the ’80s. The Marianist brother said he hopes that the Lenten mercy groups will spark development of new, ongoing small Christian communities.

Information about Lenten mercy groups and small Christian communities is available by contacting parish offices or Brother Robert’s office at 860-242-5573, ext. 7450.

mercymission20160130T1232 152 CNS POPE 800Pope Francis greets a child while meeting the disabled during a special audience for the Holy Year of Mercy in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Jan. 30. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Mercy and mission have a close relationship that calls all Christians to be missionaries who share the joy of the Gospel without trying to force others to believe, Pope Francis said.

The joy that comes from conveying God's love and mercy is "the concrete sign that we have met Jesus," the pope said during his first jubilee audience Jan. 30. However, he added, "this does not mean proselytizing. This is making a gift: 'I am giving you what gives me joy.'"

An estimated 30,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square for the jubilee audience, an event that will be held one Saturday each month throughout the Holy Year of Mercy.

In his talk, the pope said the Holy Year is a reminder for Christians to never tire of feeling the need for God's forgiveness "so that when we are weak his closeness makes us strong and allows us to live our faith with greater joy."

Christians are called to be missionaries of the Gospel like the first disciples, feeling the need to share the good news they have received. "We feel within us that we cannot hold back the joy that has been given to us and we want to spread it," the pope said. "The joy that arises is what pushes us to communicate it."

The experience of the first disciples called by Jesus, he said, is an experience of love that "transforms us and compels us" to share its strength with others.

"In some way, we can say that from the day of our baptism each one of us was given an additional name to what our moms and dads had given us and this name is 'Christopher,' which means 'Christ-bearer.' Every Christian is a bearer of Christ," he said.

God's mercy is not just a "private consolation" but a catalyst that transforms Christians into "missionaries of mercy" to those in need. The pope called on the faithful to take their calling seriously and to live their lives as believers "because only then can the Gospel touch the hearts of all people and open them to the grace of love."
Before concluding the jubilee audience, Pope Francis led the crowd in praying for a woman named Elvira who, along with her husband, worked at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the pope's residence. The long-time employee passed away Jan. 29 after a long period of sickness, the pope said.

Saying his residence is like a family, the pope told the crowd that he was sad at her passing.

"I invite you today to do two works of mercy: to pray for the deceased and console the afflicted," he said. "I invite you to pray a Hail Mary for Elvira's eternal peace and eternal joy, and pray that the Lord may console her husband and her children."

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