Pope Francis designates three Denver priests as Missionaries of Mercy

The following words from Romans 11 guide the “Missionaries of Mercy”: “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all.”

As part of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has decreed that each diocese around the globe designate certain priests as Missionaries of Mercy in an effort to facilitate and promote the theme of mercy around which the Jubilee Year revolves.

In the Archdiocese of Denver, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila has recommended three men to serve as Missionaries of Mercy on the local front: Father Paul Kostka, chaplain of Bishop Machebeuf High School, Father John Ignatius, chaplain of the University of Denver, and Monsignor J. Anthony McDaid, J.C.D., pastor of Risen Christ Church.

The men traveled to Rome and were officially commissioned by the Holy Father as missionaries of mercy on Feb. 10, Ash Wednesday.

As Missionaries of Mercy, Father Kostka, Father Ignatius and Monsignor McDaid are charged with the task of being readily available to perform specific functions relating to the Jubilee Year. This includes preaching on mercy and being available in a particular way to perform the sacrament of reconciliation. They’ll be placed on a register alongside all of the other nearly 800 missionaries around the world for easy contact should a need for them arise.

Another function of the missionaries of mercy is to forgive sins normally reserved for the Holy See. The Holy Father has given permission to these men to forgive such sins without reference to the Vatican. Examples of such sins would be the desecration of the Eucharist or a priest breaking the seal of confession.

Each of the men chosen to be Missionaries of Mercy in Denver said they are honored.

“In quiet moments, I say, ‘why me, Lord?’” Monsignor McDaid said. “The answer is because you’re such a great sinner and need mercy and therefore, you might be a good Missionary of Mercy.”

“It was a surprising blessing,” Father Ignatius said.

The official Vatican website for the Jubilee Year describes several characteristics that should be exemplified by the missionaries, including being a “living sign of the Father’s welcome to all those in search of forgiveness,” “inspiring preachers of mercy,” “herald of the joy of forgiveness,” and “welcoming, loving and compassionate confessors.”

Father Kostka, Father Ignatius and Monsignor McDaid each bring different insights and suggestions for living out the Jubilee Year.

In addition to the sacrament of reconciliation, Father Kostka emphasized the significance of pilgrimage during the Jubilee Year, specifically international pilgrimage.

“Pilgrimage is not just a tourist trip we go on, it’s actually reflective of the fact that our whole life is a pilgrimage and the Lord himself is with us on the pilgrimage,” he said. “The value of international pilgrimage is it helps connect us with the universal Church. It’s easy to forget about the reality that the Church is universal and it exists in Africa and Asia and all of these different cultures. Pilgrimaging to a place far away can help a person to encounter the universality of the Church.”

Father Ignatius said this Jubilee Year is a great opportunity to extend mercy not only to those who may have wronged us, but also to ourselves.

“Even when we’re forgiven we beat ourselves up and hold things against ourselves. We’ve accepted that God’s forgiven us but sometimes we really haven’t let ourselves up,” Father Ignatius said. “We hold ourselves to a higher standard than God does.”

Monsignor McDaid said this Jubilee Year provides an opportunity to stop and think about the state of the world and the need for God’s mercy in it. We need to be aware of our own sinfulness in order to see how in need of God’s mercy we are, he said.

“We don’t need God’s mercy if we’re not aware of our own sinfulness,” Monsignor McDaid said. “This Jubilee Year is placed here in this moment of history specifically to help us find God again, and to find ourselves in relation to God.”

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash