Now he’s returning in the role of ‘Missionary of Mercy’ as Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy unfolds.
In December, Bishop Bill opened the Door of Mercy at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton, following the Pope’s opening of the Holy Door at St Peter’s in Rome. On that occasion, the enthusiasm of members of the community to embrace Pope Francis’ call to “Be merciful as God is merciful” was evident.
Speaking recently, Fr Richard said that in reading the papal letter detailing the Jubilee Year of Mercy, “I became entranced by what Pope Francis had in mind. I spent time sitting with my wish to offer myself as a Missionary of Mercy in the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese and then took that desire to my annual retreat in June. I then made the offer to be considered as a Missionary of Mercy – and so I begin my role in February!”
Fr Richard will travel independently in a motor home to places where there are communities and churches but no resident priest. While Fr Richard will base himself around churches as a practical necessity, he will also visit significant places where mercy is sought and given. He stresses that “each day I will be available to anyone who wishes to chat” in ways which echo Pope Francis’ “desire that the year…will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God!” (Papal Letter #5). In each place, Fr Richard will welcome all who seek mercy, a listening ear and forgiveness.
In fact Fr Richard will soon be in Rome to gather with Missionaries of Mercy from all over the world. He says that “Pope Francis will welcome all the missionaries and speak further about the sensitive nature of their service. On the following day, Ash Wednesday, there will be a solemn Eucharistic celebration, during which he will confer the mandate to the Missionaries of Mercy.”
Pope Francis and Fr Richard are both members of the Society of Jesus – Jesuits – so Fr Richard naturally feels a special connection: “He is my brother – fratello mio!”
Bishop Bill is enthusiastic about having a Missionary of Mercy in the diocese. “I would be delighted if we could lead people to realise that religion is mostly about God and God’s goodness to us, not about us and our morality.”
Bishop Bill will commission Fr Richard for his mission of mercy on Saturday, 20 February, at the Vigil Mass, 5pm at St Joseph's, New England Highway, East Maitland. All are welcome.
Missionary of Mercy, Father Richard Shortall shares in this Catholic News Service video.
To learn more about the Year of Mercy, and the plans for the Missionary of Mercy, please visit the diocesan website or P 4979 1134.