Local Year of Mercy plans take shape

YearofMercylogo-11-12-15-wBy Marnie McAllister, Record Editor

The Archdiocese of Louisville is planning seven programs and events to celebrate the extraordinary jubilee Holy Year of Mercy beginning next month.

The Year of Mercy, which Pope Francis proclaimed in April, begins on Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the 50th anniversary of the end of the Second Vatican Council. The year and its emphasis on mercy will be observed in Catholic dioceses throughout the world.

“How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God,” Pope Francis wrote in his proclamation, known as a bull of indiction. “May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the kingdom of God is already present in our midst.”

Pope Francis has asked dioceses to do several specific things, including designating a “Door of Mercy” at the diocese’s cathedral and holding “24 Hours for the Lord,” which would include eucharistic adoration and penance services. He also asked all Catholics to give more time to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

The Archdiocese of Louisville’s plan for the Year of Mercy, which ends on the feast of Christ the King in 2016, includes all of these and more.

Dr. Brian B. Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese, said that the Year of Mercy “calls us to understand the mercy taught by Jesus, that there’s a merciful God that we’re all in need of.”

“The Holy Father has given the universal church a gift by calling for an extraordinary jubilee Holy Year of Mercy, which will highlight the church’s mission to be a witness of God’s mercy,” he said. “Such a unified action builds Catholic identity. It provides us an opportunity as an archdiocese to unite our parishes and the wider community on the same thing.”

Following is a list of the Year of Mercy plans in the Archdiocese of Louisville. All 111 parishes in the archdiocese have been invited to take an active role in these programs and events.

  • Catholic Connection — This program, which will begin in Advent, reaches
    out to inactive Catholics and invites them to reconnect to the church.

    Parishes are asked to solicit the names of inactive Catholics by distributing postcards at weekend Masses or directing parishioners to an online registry. Those who are identified will be invited by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz to reconnect to the church and they’ll be invited to attend “listening sessions” in February.

    The archdiocese also offered the Catholic Connection in 2001 and received more than 5,000 names, said Sal Della Bella, director of evangelization for the archdiocese. He said that several hundred people attended listening sessions.

    The sessions “provide a small group process for them to share their story,” said Della Bella, who is leading the program this time and was one of the leaders last time it was offered. “We heard real reasons why people had left (the church). And there was an opportunity (for us) to clarify things, especially things that had changed since they left. We got a lot of positive response.”

  • 24 Hours for the Lord — Just as Pope Francis has suggested, parishes around the archdiocese are invited to join churches around the globe in hosting a 24-hour-period of eucharistic adoration with reconciliation on March 4 and 5, 2016. Parishes may opt to do this individually or regionally.
  • Holy Doors — Passing through Holy Doors is a ritual tradition that began in the 15th century to signify a pilgrim’s conversion as he walks into new life. At St. Peter’s Basilica, the Holy Door is located to the right of the basilica’s main entrance; between Holy Years it remains sealed with bricks as a symbolic reminder of the barrier of sin between human beings and God. At the beginning of a Holy Year, the pope opens the door to signal the opening of a special year of grace and pardon. It will be opened on Dec. 8 to begin the Year of Mercy.

    Pope Francis has asked dioceses around the world to designate Holy Doors, too, which will become “Doors of Mercy” when they open Dec. 8, he said in the proclamation. The Cathedral of the Assumption and the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky., will designate Holy Doors. Other parishes also are invited to designate Holy Doors. More information about this tradition is available from the Office of Worship and The Record will report in more detail in the coming weeks.

  • Formation — Parishes are encouraged to offer opportunities for small groups to gather to study and discuss their faith during the Year of Mercy. This may include RENEW groups that are still meeting and other faith-sharing groups.
  • Public witness — The archdiocese is also planning a public liturgical rite to acknowledge the church’s own need for God’s mercy. While the details are still being planned, Reynolds said, “We want an event to focus on the church’s need for God’s mercy … for the times when we as a church haven’t fully lived the Gospel or have been wrong in our treatment of others.”
  • Corporal works of mercy — Pope Francis has urged all Catholics to spend more time on the works of mercy. During the Year of Mercy, parishes, schools and church organizations will be encouraged to engage in acts of mercy and justice. Plans are being made to formally track this service and report its impact.
  • Life conference — The archdiocese is planning a diocesan-wide conference highlighting the church’s teaching on the dignity of life as the foundation for the works of mercy. This program is still being planned by several archdiocesan agency staff, but it is tentatively scheduled for the fall of 2016.

More information about these plans will be provided within parishes and in upcoming issues of The Record.

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