By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
In an effort to be a presence and to raise awareness of vocations, seminarians of the Archdiocese of Louisville have committed to visiting all 110 parishes during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
The initiative is called “Missionaries of Mercy,” which is different from the missionaries of mercy commissioned by Pope Francis. Father J. Mark Spalding, vicar general of the archdiocese and pastor of Holy Trinity Church, is one of those.
The common thread between the two is to be a witness of Christ’s mercy to people in their communities.
So far, seminarians or staff of the Vocation Office have visited 87 parishes or nearly 80 percent, said Sister Sarah Yungwirth, associate director of vocations for the archdiocese’s Vocation Office.
Sister Yungwirth said that the heart of the initiative is to “be a presence, and by that presence, get people thinking about vocations.”
“The wonderful thing about it is to be able to have people all over the archdiocese see the vibrant, faithful seminarians,” she said in a recent interview.
At the beginning of the summer, each seminarian was assigned to one of 11 regions, said Sister Yungwirth. The seminarians contacted the parishes in the region to ask what type of visit would be most suitable.
Some seminarians delivered more formal vocation talks at Mass while others simply visited with parish staff. Other seminarians visited youth groups, school groups and Knights of Columbus councils.
Robert Barnell, who attends Mount St. Mary Seminary of the West in Cincinnati, Ohio, said the parish visits were a way to introduce seminarians to parishes.
“Many parishioners are praying for vocations but they may not know any (seminarians). This is a way to show our faces to people,” he said prior to a vocation talk at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Church on Aug. 7.
Barnell, 28, has also visited St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Ignatius, St. Rita and St. Luke churches. He also went to St. Albert the Great, St. Martha and St. Leonard parishes, as well as St. John Chrysostom Church in Eminence, Ky.
He said the parish visits have given him the opportunity to learn about the rich diversity in parishes across the archdiocese.
Barnell also noted the emphasis on the Year of Mercy during the parish visits. During a number of his visits, Barnell said he has talked about the “ABC’s of Mercy: Ask for God’s mercy; Be merciful; and Completely trust in Jesus.”
“It’s a scary time in our world. It can be a scary time in our lives but we need to keep trusting in God,” said Barnell, whose home parish is St. Margaret Mary Church.
Sister Yungwirth said seminarians plan to visit the remaining parishes by the end of the Year of Mercy, which culminates with the Solemnity of Christ the King Nov. 20.