As I’m sure you know by now, Pope Francis has declared an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which will begin December 8, 2015, and last until November 20, 2016, the Feast of Christ the King. As I’ve described here before, mercy can be understood as treating people like they are one of the family. With that in mind, I am happy to announce that I will be working with two outstanding catechists at St. Cajetan Parish in Chicago to bring the Year of Mercy to their fifth graders and parents.
The two catechists, Eileen and Libba, are passionate about involving their young people in works of mission and mercy. Together, we’re going to “flip” the fifth-grade Finding God curriculum to make involvement in works of mercy the centerpiece and to support that with the doctrinal content of our Catholic faith. Too often, we lead with doctrine and sprinkle in mercy as an “extra” if we have time and energy. The Year of Mercy is calling us to rearrange our priorities and approaches.
Of course, there is no reason to wait until December 8 to begin observing the Year of Mercy! We will hit the ground running in September. Every class session will have some experience of participation in a work of mercy, and we are exploring four major mercy experiences throughout the year in which the entire session will be devoted to participation in a work of mercy, some being offsite. We are also exploring a partnership with the People for Others campaign here at Loyola Press. Several times per year, all of the employees at Loyola Press are invited to participate in some form of charitable outreach to those in need. We are exploring ways that we at Loyola Press can participate in collecting resources (for example, sundries for the homeless or toys for children in hospitals) that I can then bring to St. Cajetan so that the young people and their parents can, in a prayerful context, sort, prepare, and decorate boxes to be delivered to those in need by way of an existing parish ministry (such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society).
You may want to consider exploring such a partnership with businesses in your community. We ask them to sponsor our softball teams; why not ask them to sponsor our works of mercy? They can provide their employees with an opportunity to contribute toward a good cause, and the young people can mobilize to do the leg work to prepare resources for delivery to those in need. This works especially well for younger children who don’t have the resources or ability to go out and purchase items for those in need but want to help others.
I will be working with Eileen and Libba to connect all of the mercy activities to the lessons in Finding God and to ensure that all of the experiences are grounded in prayer and reflection. We will also be exploring ways to invite the parents of the fifth graders to be involved in these experiences of mercy. Thanks to Eileen and Libba for inviting me to journey with them and their fifth graders this year as we celebrate a Year of Mercy!