Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy

My Life for Your Freedom

The Latest from the Order

Please read the latest information about the great moments of our religious life.

Soon to be "Saint" John Paul II's address to the Order

Mercedarian Friar - Saturday, April 19, 2014

Next week, on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014, Blessed John Paul II will be canonized. All the world will be watching as this amazing figure will be formally recognized as a Saint. John Paul "the Great" was the longest reigning pope in modern history and brought the Church into the new millennium. It is estimated that more people saw him in person or via television than any other person in the history of the world. The message that he brought to the world was of great hope. As Mercedarians, we remember Pope John Paul II fondly as sharing with us an intense devotion to Mary. Here is an address given by the Pope to the entire Order:


Maintain the Entire Spirit of the Gospel

On May 22, 1986 the Holy Father received in audience the members of the General Chapter of the Order of the BVM of Mercy (or Ransom). He addressed them in Italian.

 

Reverend Father Master General,

Dearest Brothers,

 

1) It is with the greatest joy that I granted your request for a meeting, dear representatives of the esteemed Order of Our Lady of Ransom, on the occasion of the General Chapter of your religious family.

 

I greet you all cordially, and through you I greet all your brothers and sisters of the Institute, scattered in their communities through eighteen different countries--mostly in Latin America--continuing the work of your founder, Saint Peter Nolasco, in accordance with the demands of the Church and of modern society.

 

As you know, last year I sent a letter to the Master General and through him to the entire order, on the occasion of two major anniversaries in the history of your family: the 800th anniversary of the birth of your founder, and the 750th anniversary of the approval of your Order by my predecessor, Pope Gregory IX.

 

In that letter, I reiterated the trust that the Apostolic See still places today in the charism of your religious family. For so many centuries, in its own special ways, your family has served the cause of human dignity, of freedom of faith and of Christian life, especially in areas where these values are most seriously violated.

 

2) On this happy occasion, it is a joy for me to encourage you in your commitment to the realization of the ideals and intentions of your founder within the contemporary socio-historical context. However different this context may be from that of his day, there is still need for guidance towards the same essential values of justice, compassion, liberation, reconciliation, and peace. In particular, I would like to appeal to you to maintain, increase and spread the intense devotion, that stems from your very origins, to the Most Holy Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, who participated in such an exemplary manner in the redemptive task of her divine Son. Only thus will your Order be able to preserve whole and unaltered that evangelical spirit, that profound yearning for redemption and liberation of man, that has always been its essential quality—liberation of man from every misery, slavery and oppression, beginning with the fundamental one of sin.

 

Persevere in the Task

 

3) In the course of your long history, you too, as indeed other long-lived Orders, have been tested by historical events, some very difficult and painful. Your ancient tree has often felt the fury of storms: however, deeply rooted in faith and in communion with the Church and the See of Peter, it has victoriously resisted to this day. It is essential that your Order should persevere with renewed energy in its mission, for today the needs are immense, and there are many opportunities for intervention by your Order, so wisely instituted and providentially approved 750 years ago.

 

Persevere with tenacity in the task you have undertaken, totally aware that you are fulfilling a very useful role in the Church and in the world. However, this can only be true as long as you remain diligently faithful to the holy resolves of your profession, guaranteed and codified by the Church, and as long as you know how to fulfill these resolves in accordance with the legitimate demands of current realities, in harmony with the reforms now being introduced as a result of the Council.

 

On these conditions, a vast field of activity is open to your spiritual family: through evangelization and mission, the possibility of a large increase that would inspire and attract new and youthful enthusiasm for the cause of the Order and for the aim it serves—the liberation of man in accordance with the spirit of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church.

 

4) The richness of the inspiration of your founder is clearly manifested through the centuries, particularly in its capacity to express itself not only in the form of male religious life, priestly and lay, but also in female religious life, both active and contemplative, as well as in the lifestyle of the secular members. All these various modes and degrees of living the spirit of St Peter Nolasco find in this spirit their necessary unity and coordination, however different the various forms appropriate to each of them.

 

Therefore, I appeal to you all, priests and lay members, men and women religious always to be united among yourselves, as sons and daughters of one and the same father and patron, joining your forces more and more in a true spirit of fraternal love and cooperation, exchanging and sharing in a true spirit of communion those gifts that are proper to each, for a better realization of the common objectives of your diversified spiritual family.

 

May Our Lady of Ransom be for all the Mother and Model, in particular as you live your “fourth vow.” The very title of your Marian devotion that gives its name to your Order as well, is in itself a marvelous life programme: it speaks of compassion, redemption, conversion and forgiveness. These are the very same values for which the Son of God came to earth, became incarnate and gave up His life for us. May He therefore, through the intercession of Mary, be your light and your strength today and forever.

 

Dearest brothers, it is in this spirit that I express the hope that the work of your Chapter will contribute to the realization of the suggestions that I have offered, for the good of modern humanity and the coming of the Kingdom of God. With all my heart I give my special blessing to all the brothers and sisters in your spiritual family.

 

Date set for Canonization 

 

Blessed John Paul II Bio

 

Generalate Website 

Br Daniel prepares for Solemn Vows in the Order

Mercedarian Friar - Monday, April 07, 2014

In August 2006, Daniel Bowen had the courage to follow God's Call to enter the Mercedarian Order as a postulant. This was not an easy transition since he was 35 years old and was making a decent salary as claims adjuster for Progressive Insurance. But, Daniel believed that God was calling him to something "radical" to follow Jesus totally as the first apostles did. So, he began the process of selling some of his things to pay some debt that he had accumulated.

 

After making application to the Order, Daniel was accepted and invited to live at the House of Studies in Philadelphia. There he began a the long journey of formation which included seminary study, human formation, and spiritual formation. After nine months in postulancy, Daniel "took the habit" and began to live the life of a religious in Novitiate. The canonical year of novitiate consisted of a more intense prayer life, classes in the history of religious life, the vows, and especially the Charism of the Order. This year prepares the novice to understand the commitment which they will undertake by making vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and the Fourth Vow of Redemption. On the feast of the Holy Redeemer July 9th 2008, Br Daniel made these temporary vows before the community, his family, and members of the laity.

 

After making simple or temporary vows, Br Daniel came back to Philadelphia to continue his formation in religious life and for the priesthood. As a clerical student, he attended St Charles Borromeo Seminary until receiving his Masters in May 2013. After completing his Seminary studies, Br Daniel continued his formation while being assigned as DRE of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in LeRoy, NY. Here he works as director of the religious education program, as sacristan, and in so many other capacities with the local community.

 

The journey of formation was not always easy for Br Daniel. He, like all candidates, had his good experiences and painful ones, but through it all Our Lady of Mercy sustained him. Br Daniel has grown over the years in his understanding of the consecrated life and especially the Mercedarian Charism. This Charism is centered on the 4th Vow which obligates the friars to be willing "to give up our lives, as Christ gave up his life for us, should it be necessary, in order to save those Christians who find themselves in extreme danger of losing the faith by new forms of captivity (CO #14)."

 

It is in this spirit of self-sacrifice that Br Daniel Bowen, O. de M. will make his Solemn Vows for life through the Order in the service of captive Christians. This will take place at Our Lady of Mercy Parish, LeRoy, NY on the Solemnity of St Peter Nolasco, Tuesday, May 6th at 7pm. All are invited to attend the Mass and a cookie reception afterwords. In the meantime, please keep Br Daniel in your prayers as he prepares to become a Solemnly Professed Mercedarian Friar!

 

For More information on this event please visit:

Profession of Solemn Vows

Our Lady of Mercy Parish

 

Serving Latinos in danger of losing the faith in Georgia

Mercedarian Friar - Monday, March 24, 2014

According to the latest Census stats: Latinos make up the largest ethnic minority in the United States The majority — two-thirds — are still traditionally Roman Catholic. However, a growing number, almost 600,000 a year, are leaving the Catholic Church. We can imagine that St Peter Nolasco's heart would be broken at these people leaving the Apostolic Faith. The Mercedarian Third Order in Atlanta, Georgia is doing it's part to preserve the faith of these immigrants.Sheila Appling, the treasurer, tells of their work and prayer:

 

We are proud and blessed to belong to such an outstanding faith community. We humbly dedicate our lives in the service of the Lord through His Blessed Mother under the title of Mercy. It is a great privilege of grace to work alongside priests, brothers and seminarians of whom we share in the redemptive mission.

 

The Third Order in Atlanta carries out the redemptive mission through the weekly recitation of the holy rosary with families that invite Our Lady of Mercy into their homes. The families we visit are immigrants mostly from Mexico. We started this mission by knocking on their doors, offering them food, clothing and asking them if they would like to receive Our Lady. Without hesitation they said yes. During these weekly prayer times, we discovered that many of the families were not attending Mass as well as numerous children and adults were in need of the sacraments. We continue the Rosary but have added another dimension of serving the homeless with food collected through donations from the rosary and our members.

 

Georgia is the largest state east of the Mississippi River. It is the fastest growing state and has a large population of Spanish speaking immigrants from Mexico. According to a 2003 Needs Assessment by the Archdiocese of Atlanta the estimated number of Latinos in Atlanta was 460,000. I believe we have surpassed that number. In one of the areas we serve we estimate over 1,000 people living in this small mobile park community. This community is in dire need of evangelizing. We have discovered many adults and children without the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Marriage. They are very opened to the Charism of the Order of Mercy. We, the Third Order of Atlanta,try to visit these captives, "break open the Gospel" and help them return to and be reconciled with Christ and His Church. The harvest is ripe indeed! There is a strong sense of urgency here in Atlanta to help those in danger of losing their faith.

Thank you for taking the time to hear efforts here in Georgia.

In Jesus through Mary,

Sheila Appling

Treasurer

Third Order of Our Lady of Mercy

 Founding of the Georgia 3rd Order

 

For More information about Latinos leaving the Church see:

Switching Sides: Latinos Ditching Catholicism For Evangelical Churches

 

USA Today

 

 

Preparing to Celebrate 30 years in St Petersburg, Florida

Mercedarian Friar - Sunday, March 02, 2014

For 30 years the Mercedarian Friars have had a presence in St Petersburg, FL. Presently, five friars live at St. Peter Nolasco Residence. Their superior, Fr Tony Fortunato, recently took sometime to share the latest news from the "Sunshine State".

 

1) For those who do not know the history of the local house, how long has the Order been in St Petersburg? How did we come to the diocese?

 

The order came to St. Petersburg, FL in August 1984 to work in the diocese of St. Petersburg. Our first apostolate was at St. Jude's Cathedral and then, later in the local Catholic High School. Frs. Benedict,Joseph, and Anthony, were the very first ones to open the house. Then, later, Fr.
Ken was the fourth friar to make up the local community. All of this was thanks to Bishop Thomas Larkin who knew Fr.
Luigi Di Talia from Le Roy, NY. Bishop Larkin was in fact born in Mt. Morris, NY near to our
religious house.

 When we first got to Florida, the Order rented the old Office of St. Jude from August
10, 1984 until 1991. On March 17, 1991 we build our own "home", so-called: St.
Peter Nolasco Residence, blessed on that very day by the Bishop of St.

Petersburg, John Clement Favalora.


2) Who is in your local community and what are their apostolates?


Fr. Oscar works full time at Eckerd College, for the Catholicstudents. Also he works for the Latino's in various churches, such as Holy Cross, St. Michael and St. Cecilia. Fr. Michael works at Maria Manor, R.C. Nursing Home and part time as Chaplain at Bay Front Hospital and All
children Hospital. Fr. James is full time Parochial Vicar at St. Jude's Cathedral  (from 1984 until now there has been a Mercedarian Friar workingat St. Jude C. full time). Fr. Scott is full time Parochial Vicar at Sacred Heart Church and also as Canon lawyer for 3 Dioceses such as Orlando, Venice, and St. Pete. Fr. Anthony works from time to time at St. Jude Cathedral and at Blessed Trinity...

Is there anything exciting or interesting which the friars have been involved in over the past year or so?


Three Friars work nicely with all the Knights of Columbus in the area next to our Community, in different capacities, but most of all as spiritual animators of the members. One friar works also with the Marriage Encounter Community of the Tampa Bay Section 5 with spiritual assistance and the priest for the weekend, several time a year.

Any news or events from the diocese of St Petersburg?


Last September 12th, the Diocese of St. Pete rededicated the St. Jude Cathedral with a Liturgical Celebration attended by many Bishops and at least 200 priests. Before the Celebration in the Cathedral, there was a
very rich supper which was attended by all the clergy invited by such a celebration with much interpersonal sharing and best wishes for the all diocese.

 

What would you say has been the highlight of the last year for your local community?


Surely the coming of Fr. Scott to our Community all the way from Rome. He studies  Canon Law at the Gregorian University. This was a very important event of our local Community,
with his experience of His Romanitas and Gregorian Community gave to us a very important push to be more Mercedarian and more priestly people for the sake of the local faithful that we are serving for the past few years.

For the past 10 years or so, the Mercedarians of the present Community were present at Focus 11, first at Christ the King Church and then to St. Lawrence Church. This included spending  a couple of days to help out the sixth graders and the eleven graders to start to think about a particular Vocation to the Priesthood, Religious Life, Married life, or single life, our table of the Mercedrians was well prepared with much Vocational materials with the great assistance of some members of our local Third Order.

ciao, stammi
bene fr t....salutissimi to you all...........

 

 Diocese of St Petersburg

 

Looking Towards the Future: Our Redemptive Mission

Mercedarian Friar - Monday, February 24, 2014

On February 11th, members of the Mercedarian first Order and lay fraternity met to discuss the Order continual response to the modern forms of captivity that are emerging in today’s society. This meeting brought together friars and laity from all over the United States via an Internet telephony service. Representatives were virtually present from Cleveland, OH; LeRoy, NY; St Petersburg, FL; and Atlanta, GA. It was an amazing experience of the power of technology used to promote the work of an Order soon to celebrate 800 years.

 

The Order of the BVM of Mercy was founded to ransom Christians in danger of losing their faith. In the early 13th Century Spain, the faith was most endangered by Muslims who took possession of Christian lands throughout Northern Africa, most of Spain, Southern France, and Sicily. Men, women, and children were taken as “war booty and submitted to the absolute dominion of their Moorish owners.” “The real risk of captivity for a Christian captive in the power of the Saracens was the danger of renouncing the True Faith (Historical Synthesis, Ch. 1)”    The captives were subject “to forced labor in construction and in the fields, the infernal torment of in galleys, lack of food, diseases, dungeons, the conquerors’ scorn, the mistreatment…and the tempting offers of the advantages they would have if they converted to Islam (H.S.)”. Thousands were renouncing their faith not freely, but out of necessity of survival. It was this loss of liberty. This basic human right to choose to worship and live the Faith that lead St Peter Nolasco to action. He set out give the merced or ransom or payment for those in most danger of losing the faith. From the simple work of mercy of one merchant came a religious family which was destined spread throughout the world.

 

Now, 800 years later, the world is much different than the one that St Peter walked on. Much has changed, but deep down many of the same problems and sins are afflicting our technological age. There is still captivity. “Today there are arising in our societies new forms of social, political, and psychological slavery which derive ultimately from sin and become for the faith of the Christians just as dangerous as the slavery and oppression of former times (CO #3)”. In each country or province that the Order exists there is a need to establish some redemptive mission which becomes the focus of the efforts to free Christians in danger of losing their faith.

 

The Mercedarian friars first came to the United States in the 1920’s to minister to the Italian immigrants who because of discrimination, marginalization, and poverty were in serious danger of losing their faith. Now, 90 years later, many of these Italians and their descendants have been fully assimilated into the American society. We thank God for blessing the work of our Order in the States, but there are always other forms of captivity emerging in society.

 

It is for this reason that the Mercedarian Family came together one night in February. For as our Constitutions say, “the religious should study the spiritual values that manifest themselves historically according to the signs of the times, and everything else that would contribute to a better individual and social knowledge of man.” The Mercedarian never truly stops studying the current culture to understand how new forms of captivity may be afflicting Christians and causing many to lose the faith.

 

This preliminary meeting brought together the Mercedarian family in its many elements. From the beginning, St Peter Nolasco and his followers were dependent on the many dedicated lay collaborators. These became known as the Third Order. They did, and still do, provide critical assistance in carrying out the ransoming mission of the Order. They were present on February 11th to help us discern a possible future redemptive mission in the United State Vicariate.

 

Although, these discussions are still in their initial phases they show how the Charism or spirit of St Peter Nolasco is still very much alive today. Modern forms of captivity are holding people in bondage just as they were in 1218. Jesus the Redeemer and his holy Mother are still inspiring the Mercedarian family to reach out in true charity to help these Christians. May our Lady of Mercy intercede on behalf of our Vicariate that it may continue to free those most in danger of losing the faith in our nation!!

 

Constitutions of the Order of Mercy

 

Video on the History of the Order 

 

One women's love for Our Lady of Mercy leads her to establish a 3rd Order

Mercedarian Friar - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

From the foundation of the Order in 1218. St Peter Nolasco and the friars were assisted by lay people. These became the 3rd Order. Wherever the friars are so are the dedicated lay men and women helping the ransoming mission. However, sometimes the Holy Spirit reminds us that he is in charge. This happened when he inspired Mary Virginia Fant to establish the 3rd Order where there were no friars present. The small group has grown to over 50 active members Here is the story:

 

Small beginnings

Mary Virginia Fant first established the Georgia Chapter of the 3rd Order of the BVM of Mercy, upon her return to the United States from Rome Italy at St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church in Jonesboro, Georgia. There she was asked to serve as the spiritual director of the Legion of Mary.

 

The Spirit blows where He wills

Later Mary Virginia was offered the opportunity to move to North Georgia to head a group home for unwed mothers. Feeling that this was not quite what Our Lady wanted her to do and having a strong yearning to go out into the community she declined the offer.

Mary Virginia and Beverly White later moved to St. John the Evangelist Church where they met with then pastor, Father Vincent Douglass C.Ss.R, who gave them a blessing to go out and bring the people to the church.

 

The 3rd Order begins to take shape

Mary Virginia, Beverly and one more person, gathered clothing and prepared food to distribute among the poor immigrants living in the shadows of St. John. Initially, they would distribute the food and clothing on Saturday mornings. During this outreach, Mary Virginia began telling the people about Our Lady of Mercy and asking them if they would like to receive her in their homes to pray the Rosary. They all opened their homes to Our Lady thus opening their hearts to her Son and began attending Mass and receiving the Sacraments.

 

Captivity of the marginalized

The Third Order gained more members, mostly Immigrants from Mexico. As the number of families attending St. John grew, we knew we needed to help them organize into a group that would help with the liturgy and serve in the Mass. While the children were in Religious Education classes. Mary Virginia would meet with the parents to plan special liturgies and feast days which included The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We worked alongside St. Joseph Hospital ‘s Mercy Mobile delivering healthcare to the poor in south Atlanta.

 

 

3rd Order

Celebrating 100 years: Faith, Family and Fidelity 1914-2014

Mercedarian Friar - Friday, February 07, 2014

 In 1914,  group of Italian immigrants wished to honor Saint Rocco and erect a statue of him in Zaccaro's General Store on Trent Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio.This was the humble beginning of St. Rocco's parish. Within a few years a church was built for those same immigrants who were not always welcome in other parishes. On January 29, 1924, the custody of the parish is given to the Order of the BVM of Mercy (Mercedarians) by Bishop Schrembs. The Order's commitment was to protect those who were in danger of losing the faith because they were minorities.Now, 100 years after the first statue was erected, St Rocco's celebrates its Centennial. Here is the official proclamation given by the pastor Fr Michael Contardi, O. de M.:

Centennial Proclamation

 

Wherein, that in 1914, the Italian immigrants located on Fulton Road and Clark Avenue, devoted to Saint Rocco, and never unmindful of the gratitude they owed to God for His watchful care and having brought them to this country of the United States and to Cleveland, Ohio; Who shielded them from disasters and pointed out to them the way of peace and happiness. Nor did they ever refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon God’s Mercy and Benevolence:

 

And, wherein, the small community of believers has over the past century grown to a vibrant worshiping community and what was a simple celebration of Saint Rocco’s feast, was the initial seed to what we know and love as “Saint Rocco’s Parish:”

 

And wherein that these thoughts may be quickened, it is fitting that this the year of the Lord, two thousand-fourteen, we should join together in approaching the Throne of Grace with praise and supplication; with gratitude in our hearts for all that the Lord has done for us. The Almighty has preserved and blessed us. It is only right and just that a year of jubilee be celebrated with gratitude to the Most Holy Trinity!

 

Therefore, I, Father Michael G. Contardi, O. de M., Pastor of Saint Rocco Parish, Cleveland, Ohio, do hereby set apart a year of Jubilee commencing the Fifth of January, Two Thousand and Fourteen until the Twenty Eighth day of December Two Thousand Fourteen in the Year of Our Lord.

May this year of Jubilee be for all of our parishioners and friends, an opportunity to render Praise and Adoration to Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Veneration to His Holy Mother, Mary and Love and Petition to our Heavenly Patron, Saint Rocco, for our perseverance and their protection; for peace within our families and homes; for the plenteous rewards that have followed the labors of our parishioners and for all the blessings that have been bestowed upon us.

 

Let us, throughout the mediation of Him who taught us how to pray, implore forgiveness of our sins, and a continuation of heavenly favor. Let us not forget in this year of jubilee, to be mindful of the poor and needy, and by deeds of charity let our offerings of praise be made more acceptable in the sight of the Lord.

Done this Fifth day of January, Two thousand and fourteen in the Year of our Lord, Cleveland, Ohio.

 St Rocco's Website



 

A Permanent State of Mission

Mercedarian Friar - Wednesday, January 15, 2014

On January 1st 2014, 40 Catholic men and women departed on a  nine day mission to General Cepeda, Mexico.  Among those who attended were two Mercedarian Friars to assist with the Sacraments and promote the Order.

 

The region of General Cepeda, Mexico is located 221 miles from the Texas border. The area surrounding the city is mostly desert, however over time many tiny villages have sprung up. The “Ranchos” and “Ejidos” are composed of 10 or so adobe houses. Each “Rancho” has a small chapel, but the people only occasionally see a priest. At times, the residents can go up to 3 or 4 months without the Sacraments. Absence of catechesis and the Sacraments can have devastating effects on the people’s faith. Protestant and non-Christian sects take the opportunity to proselytize the people. Some Ranchos have gone from 100% Catholic to 94% Jehovah Witness. One wonders if this would occur if the Church was able to better tend to Her sheep.

Family Mission Company arrived in General Cepeda in the 1980’s with the intent of aiding the diocese in reaching out to the poor with a missionary spirit. They open their doors to many who wish to exercise their baptismal call to mission. It was to this place that Life Teen organized a mission experience and opened it up to young adults. Several of these Catholic youth, have already made a courageous commitment to be part-time or full-time missionaries to the youth in the United States.

 

The Shift

 One might ask the question: What is the reason to go all the way to Mexico when there is such a need in the United States? This is certainly a legitimate question. In fact, Pope Francis expressed this need in his recent Apostolic Exhortation that all Catholics throughout the world are called to be in a “permanent state of mission” (EG #25). Many such as Dr. George Weigel would argue that there is a dramatic shift going on over the past 40 years in the Church’s relation to the world. In the 400 years prior to the Second Vatican Council, we lived what might be referred to as “Counter-Reformation Catholicism”. It was characterized by defense of the Church’s doctrine in response to criticism from Protestantism and Rationalism. This philosophy was effective in preserving the faith and evangelizing thousands in South America, Asia, and parts of Africa. However, it was not equipped for our contemporary culture which began to take shape in the 20th century.

The pontificate of Blessed John Paul II gave us the concept of the “New Evangelization”. This new method of Church life is vastly different from the old model since it seeks to “engage” the culture rather than “solidify and protect one’s own beliefs”. Pope Benedict continued this call by giving us the foundation to bring out into the world. He gave us much clearer understanding of the liturgical and catechetical aspects of our faith. Now, Pope Francis dreams of “a missionary option…so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation(EG #27).”

 

How to be Missionaries

All of this is sounds nice, but it must be practically put into action. We need to learn how to be missionaries. One way to do this is to step back and go on a classical missionary experience to gain a better understanding of the essential aspects of “mission”. The Family Mission Company’s mission at General Cepeda offers such an experience. The members of the mission had to collect funds for their trip from local parishes or sponsors. After meeting in Houston, we all traveled almost 12 hours in vans from Houston to General Cepeda.

 The whole gang

From the beginning each member was asked to foster a missionary heart or attitude. Several virtues were to be embraced. First, we were to realize that a certain type of austerity is essential for mission. As our Holy Fathers says, “…I want a Church which is poor and for the poor (EG 198).” We must live as the people we serve. For North Americans this can be a great penance.

Several sacrifices are inherent in living this region of Mexico. The desert climate was warm during the day, but cold at night. The houses do not have any heat so an individual room can get as cold as 30 to 40 degrees at night. Secondly, water is a precious commodity which must be used with limits. So each missionary was only allowed to shower every other day. Toilet paper is scarce and cannot be flushed down the toilet, but must be put in the trash. The missionaries took turns each day cleaning the bathrooms and doing other service duties. The food was of a very good quality, but we were encouraged to use moderation and “eat what is placed before you”.

Prayer was a central part of the mission experience. Each morning we began the day with prayer. Every activity was initiated with prayer and praise. The tendency to complain was offset by an emphasis on gratitude. Each day we were asked to give thanks for everything individually and communally. Thus, we attempt to escape what Pope Francis calls the “deadly habit of complaining (EG #82).”

Besides the Masses and home visits, each missionary was encouraged to engage in alms giving. In and around General Cepeda, there are many people living in poverty. This poverty is not like anything we would see in North America. On a daily basis many people come to the door seeking alms. Often times, it is for serious medical issues or even money to provide for the very necessities of life. The missionaries were told of these requests and invited, if they wished, to give assistance.

Due to the recent heavy rain in the area, many homes were significantly damaged. Each day a group of missionaries would go out to do Work Projects. This particular week we were able to build a roof for a family. Their roof had collapsed during the heavy rains and they did not have the means to get it fixed.

                                                                                               

                                                                                                         Missionary Disciples

In his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Pope Francis has called each one of us to move from an attitude of “self-preservation” to a “permanent state of mission”. Everyone is called to this by their Baptism, but as the Pope says, “…we no longer say that we are disciples and missionaries, but rather that we are always missionary disciples (EG 120).” Being missionary means perpetually going out to invite all to experience the love of Christ. We do this by speaking the truth with love to our relatives, neighbors, and in the workplace. However, we always recognize that the greatest witness is living a good and generous life. Living simply and sharing freely is the strongest Gospel proclamation that we can give.

Those of us who attended the General Cepeda Mission are grateful for the experiences that we had. We do not leave the mission behind, but it comes with us. As “missionary disciples” we now know better how to take part an active part of the New Evangelization which is to be lived in all places and at all times.

Like St. John the Baptist, we must risk rejection and seek the image of God in others

Mercedarian Friar - Friday, December 06, 2013

Fr. Joseph Eddy. Go to Fr. JosephSecond Sunday of Advent, Dec. 8, 2013

Fr. Joseph Eddy, O. de M.

Self-preservation is something that we learn very early in life. As infants we learn quickly not to pull the dog’s tail, because he will nip at us. Later on in life, we learn not to touch the burner on the stove when it is hot. This may take a blister or two, but we definitely eventually are more careful.

Brother David Spencer was ordained a priest of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy on Nov. 16.

As we get into adolescence we may discover new ways and types of self-preservation such as: Don’t disagree with the popular group in school, and follow the crowd can help us to avoid any problems or ridicule. Naturally, self-preservation can be a good thing. We should not knowingly put ourselves in a places of near occasion of sin or cause unnecessary harm to ourselves.

Our comfort zone

St. John the Baptist, though, was not a man concerned with self-preservation. Yes he did eat food, but it was “locusts and wild honey.” Yes, he did sleep, but it was probably less than others and on the ground. The Gospels tell us that St John lived his early life in the desert preparing himself for his mission. Possibly, he was faced with the temptation to stay in the desert when the Lord called him to his public mission. Certainly the desert was not comfortable, but he faced a great challenge and ridicule by facing down the religious leaders of his time. But, this was the call given to John from the womb, “to prepare the way of the Lord.” John went out of his comfort zone to call Israel to repentance in preparation for the coming Messiah.

In some ways, each one of us are John the Baptist. We are all called by our baptism to “prepare the way of the Lord.” This is evangelization. This is the theme of Pope Francis’ most recent Apostolic Exhortation entitled The Joy of the Gospel. When we think of evangelization we may think of those who go “door to door” — maybe the Mormons or the Jehovah Witnesses.

Temptation of self-preservation

However, evangelization for Pope Francis is more like going out into the world, confident of God’s ability to use our humble witness and love to “warm hearts” with the Gospel. The Pope recognizes the many challenges of today: increased secularization, weakness of the Church’s clergy, and the temptation from the world to not embrace the Judeo Christian morals of the past. The temptation for all of us is always self-preservation. Why? Because that is what we have been consciously and subconsciously taught to do all our lives. So we sometimes hide our faith and avoid admitting it to friends at work or family members. We follow the crowd in some forms of recreation or entertainment which are against our better judgment. Or, we just isolate ourselves, taking as Pope Francis says, “…refuge in the comfort of (our) privacy or in a small circle of close friends…”

The Holy Father reminds us this Advent we must reach out to those of different views or even those who have hurt us. He says, the “Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face to face encounter with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain.” This is extremely difficult!! We are called to take the narrow road. This is, as Robert Frost says, “the road less traveled.” Years ago it was much easier since everyone accepted the same basic way of living. Now every truth is questioned and open for debate.

Welcome the Image of God

We must like St. John the Baptist be willing to leave the security of the “desert” and welcome the Image of God which is found in each person. To see and affirm the goodness of every person. Yet at the same time we live a faith which is counter cultural. The greatest witness we can give to others is to love despite ridicule. To forgive those who harm us. To listen with respect to all. But, to not compromise the truth or ourselves. This is the way of Christ, which takes us from the Cross to the Resurrection. The path to joy does not come from self-preservation, but by living our faith and taking the risk to love others as Christ loved us. So let us seek joy this Advent by going out of ourselves to proclaim the life-giving message of Christ.


The "simple friar" from the small town

Mercedarian Friar - Monday, December 02, 2013

Every family has it's patriarchs or those who paved the way for a new generation. The Order of Mercy, being a spiritual family, possesses many of these friars who are deceased and yet live on in our memories. Today we remember one such friar Fr Luigi DiTalia, O. de M. The following is an interview with Fr Eugene, the Order's novice master, who lived and worked with Fr Luigi for many years.

Fr Luigi processing at Mass
Fr Luigi processing at Mass

When did you first meet Fr Luigi?

In about 1967, I first came to know Fr Luigi. In the beginning, I had difficulty understanding his Italian accent. But came to know him, little by little, as truly a father for our community. He never asked anything from us what he wouldn’t do himself. He was a great community builder. A great leader of our community and a very humble friar.

How many years did you get the pleasure of working with Fr Luigi? (As solemnly professed)

About 6 or 7 years. He was superior and I was novice master. Fr Luigi always had a great sense of wisdom. He would say “Prudence and common sense are essential for religious life and for living the vows”. He just had great wisdom and advice for people for problems and difficulties. One of the things I liked about him was he would meet you one on one. Fr Luigi always kept confidences and really appreciated those who were in the community.

What are some of the virtues or positive qualities that Fr Luigi exemplified especially for a Mercedarian Religious?

I think he exemplified poverty. Very much so. He was a person who would be more willing to give than to receive. Though he, also, had common sense in poverty. We never starved. We didn’t have a lot of things, but what we had we appreciated everything more. He was truly a good religious. A kind religious. A genuine religious. He was honest and very sincere.

Fr Luigi accepts the vows of one of the friars
Fr Luigi accepts the vows of one of the friars

I think that not only the Mercedarians loved him, but the people in LeRoy, NY loved him. For so many years he was stationed there. He was known as “the simple friar”.

I think also he was a real leader who lead by example. He was a father to us more than a superior. He could combined those two qualities. Truly a person concerned about vocations. Concerned about the Mercedarian way of life and the fraternal life. This is one thing that he insisted upon. He and Fr Marciano really lived the fraternal life which is a key to understanding the religious life.

Can you tell me any story that you remember about Fr Luigi? One of those stories about one of our founding fathers in the USA that we can pass down from generation to generation.

I heard that one time he said in LeRoy he had difficulty with the language. He said one of his first sermons was, “I am Fr Luigi and I love you all!” This was because he had so much difficulty with the English language at first. He did tell a story one time about how he suffered in the war. He said that he was one of the “Brown Shirts” because they had to be at that time. But I don’t remember the details.

Fr Luigi (center) with several of the friars
Fr Luigi (center) with several of the friars

Lastly, I know that in those last years there was a time when Fr Luigi had a stroke. How do you remember those last years? They were times when you were realizing that you were not going to have this great presence with you much longer since he was one of the real “rocks” here in the US for the Vicariate. Can you say anything about those last years and how he handled the suffering?

I think that those last few years were difficult for him, but he still had a true sense of being a real Mercedarian and a real model for us in a different way. Though he often couldn’t be at chapel because of his infirmities. I remember him saying the rosary and always at the third hour, the Hour of Mercy he would put on the television and pray the Divine Mercy chaplet.

But what I think really was significant is that he never gave up during these times and he was very serene and accepting of his suffering. These sufferings are for the Order, for the Vicarate. Even though he could not lead he led by his prayerfulness and his holiness. He never gave up. Human existence we can get upset about things, but most of the time he was very accepting of his sufferings.

And, he tried as best as he could to lead others by his example and his advice. At times he would turn to people and talk to people privately. He would give them advice which was very fruitful. He was a leader then by prayer rather than by being in charge. He lead by his example, by his prayerfulness, by his faithfulness and consistency in loving our Order.

Rest in Peace Fr Luigi! May your soul and all the souls of the faithfully departed rest in peace!

 



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