Disciples of Mercy Join Religious in
Celebrating World Day for Consecrated Life

By Shelley Wolf, FCC Contributor

Norwich — Approximately 75 Disciples of Mercy joined religious priests, brothers, sisters and other members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life in celebrating this year’s World Day for Consecrated Life Mass at the Cathedral of St. Patrick on Sunday, January 31. 

This year’s Mass also marked the closing of the Year Dedicated to Consecrated Life.

“The power of mercy is seen in the women and men of Consecrated Life and Apostolic Life,” said the Most Reverend Michael R. Cote, D.D., Bishop of Norwich, who served as the main celebrant at the Mass.

He welcomed more than 100 religious, among them Jubilarians with a combined service of more than 230 years, and the Disciples of Mercy “who make communities of faith welcoming places of worship,” Bishop Cote said.

“We are all gathered to celebrate the significant contribution made to our community and society,” he stated.

Reverend Jack Rathschmidt, O.F.M. Cap., of the Northeast Province of St. Mary of the Capuchin Order, was the invited homilist, a traveling preacher who spoke to both the members of Consecrated and Apostolic Life and the Disciples of Mercy.

“If you utter only one prayer, say ‘thank you,’” Father Rathschmidt advised. “Take time on a daily basis to say thank you to God for food, for a place to live, and for the call to consecrated life.”

“We hand our lives over to God trusting that He will lead us to ongoing conversion,” Father Rathschmidt said.

He told a story about Thomas Merton, a writer and Trapist monk, who visited a Buddhist monastery and asked the novices what they had learned so far. One novice said, “I have learned to close and open doors.”

Merton was delighted at the response and was intrigued by the metaphysical possibilities of the young man’s answer. Father Rathschmidt was equally intrigued and saw a direct connection to the Door of Mercy.

“This year, more and more people will be sent out as missionaries,” he said. “The Holy Father has begged us not to see the Door of Mercy as just an entrance into a church but into a new way of living.”

He also explored the idea of closing doors. “What doors do we need to close?” he asked.

Pope Francis started the Year of Mercy in Rome, Father Rathschmidt noted, and then proceeded to Africa, where he opened the Door of Mercy at the Cathedral of Bangui in the Central African Republic. There he spoke of the Christian vocation to love one’s enemies to protect against the temptation for revenge and ongoing retaliation.

“He was closing the door of their hearts to all that divides them,” Father Rathschmidt explained. “He was closing the door to hatred and violence in order to open the door so they might walk into the world with arms open, like Jesus Christ, and proclaim that He has come to set us all free.”

“The Pope has said very clearly, just in case you have not heard him, ‘I need your prayers. I can’t do this by myself,’” Father Rathschmidt said.

Father Rathschmidt admitted that he sometimes thinks of God as his loving father and at other times like his grandfather, who indulges him with two scoops of ice cream. “He indulges me,” Father explained, when it comes to his mercy.

“The Pope is begging us to be missionaries,” he stressed. “When we walk out that door, we’re saints and disciples of God’s unconditional love and mercy.”

Father Rathschmidt also asked what baggage we might be carrying with us. “Who’s living in your head rent free?” he asked. “Be open to joy and hope and the possibility that God wants us to be missionaries who travel light. Don’t bring your hurt and your vindictive thoughts. As St. Teresa of Avila said, ‘You’re the only hands that Jesus has.’”

Father Rathschmidt said he recently traveled to Assisi, Italy, the home of St. Francis of Assisi. There, a fellow Franciscan said to the group, “Now brothers, I don’t want you to be tourists.

They take a thousand pictures and nothing changes. But pilgrims let the saints and the places that are holy pass through them and come home transformed.”

“So let the glory of God pass through you and transform you,” Father Rathschmidt said. “If Jesus is in your heart, please inform your faith.”

During the special Mass, six sisters were honored for their years of service, which ranged from 50 to 65 years. They were Sr. Priscilla Blais, D.H.S.; Sr. Consolata Paglia, F.M.H.; Sr. Therese A. Vanasse, D.H.S; Sr. Barbara Hobbs, P.B.V.M.; Sr. Margaret Bareika, M.V.S.; and Sr. Marion Pepin, D.H.S.

Following the Mass, the members of Consecrated and Apostolic Life and the Disciples of Mercy were invited to separate luncheons.

At the Disciples of Mercy luncheon, Bishop Cote thanked the disciples for their willingness to accept their commission. He also noted that he read in the newspaper that morning that Pope Francis’ book, “The Name of God Is Mercy,” is ranked number three on Publisher’s Weekly nonfiction best-sellers list.

The Bishop then asked the Disciples of Mercy to take action in their parishes to bring attention to the Year of Mercy throughout the coming year. “Remember that we don’t do, God does. So let him work through you,” Bishop Cote advised.

During the luncheon, Disciples of Mercy from throughout the diocese were prompted to share ideas and any problems and solutions with other disciples in their deaneries.

Mary Scibelli of St. Bernard Church in Rockville was joined by other parishioners from her parish as well as from St. Matthew Church in Tolland. This combined mercy team, headed by Very Reverend Richard Ricard, has already drafted a list of events that includes putting ongoing mercy notes in the Sunday bulletin and scheduling a Lenten Reflection with Sister Elissa Rinere as a speaker on the topic of mercy.

Joseph Bigger of St. Agnes Church in Niantic said his mercy team, led by Reverend Gregory Mullaney, was advised to read “Misericordiae Vultus,” the Pope’s Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

Mr. Bigger said his team is also looking at the book “Rebuilt: Awakening the Faith, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter” for ideas on bringing back fallen away Catholics and on being more welcoming and merciful.

“Our priest has asked us to look at going beyond the Year of Mercy,” Mr. Bigger explained. “He wants us to start with the Year of Mercy but to keep going beyond this year to continue to build up the Church.”

Missionaries of Mercy
Helping the Faithful Experience the Mercy of God

Effective Ash Wednesday, February 10, 2016, The Most Reverend Michael R. Cote, D.D., Bishop of Norwich, has appointed the following Missionaries of Mercy to help all parishioners embrace the call to mercy during this Holy Year of Mercy:

~ List of Diocesan Missionaries of Mercy ~

Monsignor Leszek Janik, Vicar General
Sacred Heart Parish, Norwichtown

Father Richard Breton
Saint Joseph Parish, North Grosvenordale and Saint Stephen Parish, Quinebaug

Father Roland Cloutier, Pastor
All Saints Parish, Somersville and Saint Edward the Confessor, Stafford Springs

Father Gregory Galvin, Director of Priestly Vocations & Pastor
Saint Bridget of Kildare, Moodus

Father Alfred E. Irving
Retired priest of the Diocese of Portland

Father Brian Maxwell
Saint Michael Parish, Pawcatuck, Saint Mary Parish, Stonington
and Saint Thomas More Parish, North Stonington

Father Michael Phillippino, Pastor
Saint John Parish, Middletown

The Missionaries of Mercy have either volunteered for this ministry or been nominated by other priests. They are available for parish retreats, teaching or to serve as confessors in parishes to which they are invited. May all who hear them be brought to a stronger relationship with God in Christ during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.