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.”