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Welcoming Mercy

Have you ever felt unwelcomed in any place and/or by another? It seems to me one of the most negative human experiences one can have. If the experience ever happens in or around a church, it seems to be doubly offensive. When feeling unwelcome in and among a faith community, a person might even feel their relationship with God is diminished

Five years ago, Argentine Archbishop Jorge Bergolio was elected Pope Francis, and within his first public comments he introduced the topic of the place of Mercy in the Church. Later he declared a “Year of Mercy” and published a letter on the topic. He continues to teach that Mercy is at the very heart of God.

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday wherein the Church seeks to lift up the theme of Mercy in the teachings and person of Jesus. On one occasion, Pope Francis said, “Jesus is the face of God’s mercy to the world”. In every way imaginable, recognizing mercy as the bedrock of how God looks at us and, in truth, of Who God is, is fully orthodox and Catholic. As followers of Jesus, we, too, are to be the face of mercy to one another. 

The Latin word for mercy is Misericordia – in its broadest sense, it is to be tenderhearted. So to have mercy for someone is to look upon them with a tender heart.  It’s hard to be tenderhearted toward someone, if you don’t know them. And how can we get to know one another in our Parish, if we don’t take the time.

Pope Francis prays:

“May the Church be a place of God’s mercy and hope, where all feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live according to the good life of the Gospel. And to make others feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged, the Church must be with doors wide open so that all may enter. And we must go out through these doors and proclaim the Gospel.” 

And so for any parish to be a parish of mercy – tenderheartedness – we need to come to know one another and break down any barriers that prevent us from being tenderhearted within our doors and beyond.

In many ways, big and small, we have been growing as a Parish and as an authentic community. We make a concerted effort to be “Welcoming” and we hope that this is the experience of all who enter our doors.  Yet, we know there is more to be done.

Weekly, we greet one another, worship beside one another but know very little, if anything, about one another. Having Sunday morning coffee has helped a bit, but we wish everyone would choose to stay awhile longer and engage with one another to help bring us together.  So many wonderful relationships have grown out of this gathering and other faith sharing events and ministries we offer.

In an effort to create stronger bonds among us as a Parish and in the wider community, a new committee is being formed in the parish, presently called the “Welcoming Committee”. This group of parishioners will be tasked with facilitating and initiating activities and programs that will further grow us as a genuine community of faith. The committee will be dedicated to reaching out to long-time parishioners, both active and inactive, newly arriving parishioners and Catholics in Charlestown not active in the Parish. The first signs of the work of the committee will be evident this springtime.

Recognizing the ever changing reality of social media and the importance of the presence of our Parish on the internet, the project of developing a new and refreshed website is nearing completion. The new site will be especially friendly for mobile devices and will facilitate our communication with our parish community and beyond.

In this time of great division within our nation and in our world, we are called to make a difference, to be Easter people, believers in the Resurrected Jesus who calls us to be one as He and the Father are one.  Taking the time to get to know one another is an important step towards Jesus’ vision.

Each and all of us need to know more fully the Mercy, the tenderheartedness of God. This Sunday’s celebration can be one moment to look back and recognize how prominent God’s mercy has been our lives. It is equally important to look ahead and consider how we can share this gift of Mercy with one another.

Fr. Ronan