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A message from the bishop

As the Holy Door closes, may our hearts remain open (November 2016)
 
My dear friends,
 
As we conclude the Jubilee Year of Mercy this month
(Nov. 20), I would like to reflect on the meaning of this
Extraordinary Year and the sense of renewal it has hopefully brought to us and our Church.
 
Pope Francis called for this Extraordinary Jubilee on Divine Mercy Sunday 2015: "Here, then, is the reason for the Jubilee: because this is the time for mercy. It is the favourable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and to touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone, everyone, the way of forgiveness and reconciliation …”
 
Daily, we are bombarded with stories and images of violence, terrorism and civil strife at home and across the world. Pope Francis encourages us during this Year of Mercy to “be merciful like the Father.” World peace must start with peace in our own families, homes and communities before we can heal the wounds of the world.
 
In our culture of technology, materialism and self-promotion, Pope Francis reminds us of the call from our Heavenly Father to take time for others and to show mercy to them as the Father has shown us. The pope himself has heeded that call and shown us through his actions how to live a life of mercy. He lives in
a simple apartment, rescues refugees and fights for their safety, feeds the homeless and visits the imprisoned. He addresses this call to mercy in his papal bull announcing the Jubilee: “In this Holy Year, we look forward to the experience of opening our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society: fringes which modern society itself creates. How many uncertain and painful situations there are in the world today! How many are the wounds borne by the flesh of those who have no voice because their cry is muffled and drowned out by the indifference of the rich! ... It is my burning desire that,
during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty … Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And let us not forget the spiritual
works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead. (Misericordiae Vultus, 15)
 
In addition to being a living example, Pope Francis lifted up a true servant of mercy with the canonization of St. Teresa of Calcutta on Sept. 4. St. Teresa is an icon for the 20th century. Many people of all faiths, both young and old, are familiar with the works and life of St. Teresa. She showed us that one person can make a difference in the world through small acts of service done with great love and generosity. With her canonization, the Church tells us that St. Teresa lived a life worth imitating. It is no coincidence that Pope Francis decided to canonize her within this Year of Mercy!
 
But the question remains. How are we, as a whole, doing at “being merciful like the Father” during this Year of Mercy? We have taken a few small steps throughout this Jubilee Year. Our diocesan offices, parishes and schools have heeded the call of Pope Francis to forgive and “open our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society.” We have participated in events such as “The Light is on for You,”
which provided abundant opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation in almost all of our parishes on a Tuesday evening during Lent. Our pastors have acted as the merciful Father in the parable of the prodigal son, welcoming back those who returned and showing us that God’s mercy can overcome everything. Everyone had the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Door at the Cathedral of
Saint Andrew, which offers an opportunity to receive God’s mercy and healing through an indulgence. Schoolchildren and parishes collected bottled water for the residents of Flint, helped in soup kitchens and volunteered with other community organizations.
 
These actions have helped us to see the face of Christ in our brothers and sisters. Mercy is a cornerstone of our faith; calling us to feel sympathy towards others’ needs and to do what we can to alleviate their pain and suffering. May the actions we have taken during this Year of Mercy and the lessons we have learned live on long after the Holy Door is closed and the Year of Mercy ends. I hope during this Year of Mercy that the Holy Door to your heart was opened and that you were able to receive God’s Divine Mercy
and extend it to others! 
 
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak