Pope Francis announced a Jubilee Year of Mercy to begin Dec. 8 and to end Nov. 20, 2016.
“The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more,” since the church’s “very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love,” Pope Francis said.
As part of the preparation for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the relic of St. Maria Goretti was sent on a “pilgrimage of mercy” to the United States.
The Diocese of Belleville hosted the relic from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Oct. 19 at St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville.
Known as the “little saint of great mercy,” thousands of people visited the cathedral and more than 1,200 attended an evening liturgy with Bishop Edward K. Braxton as celebrant.
This special Holy Year has as its focus forgiveness and mercy.
“Pardoning offences becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves,” Pope Francis said in Misericordiae Vultus: Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. “At times how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart.”
To prepare for this Holy Year, the diocese and its vicariates (formerly deaneries) have been meeting and planning.
Following is information from the diocese and each vicariate about plans they are making to celebrate the year.
During the “Jubilee Year of Mercy,” the diocese will open a “Holy Door” at the cathedral at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 13 and close it Nov. 13, 2016, Msgr. John Myler, cathedral rector, said.
In the West Vicariate, Father Eugene Wojcik, pastor at Mary, Help of Christians in Chester and vicar, said pastors and parish leaders continue to develop their plans as the year unfolds.
Parishes in the West will do some “major posting on their media” on Year of Mercy web sites; they will form partnerships with the theme of mercy during Advent and Lent.
In their vicariate, they will set aside a day to practice the Corporal Works of Mercy.
A Holy Door will be opened in West Vicariate parishes Dec. 8 or Dec. 13. In unity, all of the parishes will ring their church bells for five minutes at 11 a.m. Dec. 8 to mark the beginning of the Year of Mercy.
Religious education programs and the Catholic schools will discuss the Corporal Works of Mercy with activities devoted to practicing them.
The South Vicariate is still developing plans, but vicar, and pastor at St. Joseph in Marion, Msgr. Thomas Flach, said he would like to invite a representative from the Marriage Tribunal to facilitate a workshop on the annulment process and to schedule this during Lent and again next fall.
Msgr. Flach said he hopes to schedule parish partnership and/or regional penance services. “Father Charles Anyaoku, administrator of St. Paul in Johnston City, and I are thinking of having a parish partnership celebration of Corpus Christi with procession and adoration on May 29,” he said. “I hope to invite other pastors and parishes of the Vicariate to participate.”
At 7 p.m. Dec. 8 the opening of the Holy Door at Holy Cross in Wendelin will precede a Mass in honor of the Immaculate Conception in the East Vicariate.
Priests of the East Vicariate will be available for those who wish to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at three locations on three dates during the Year of Mercy, Father Mark Stec, vicar, and pastor at Holy Cross in Wendelin, said.
All services begin at 6 p.m. They are: Jan. 31 at St. Joseph in Olney; May 15 at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (St. Mary) in Mt. Carmel; and Oct. 9 at St. Polycarp in Carmi.
A coordinated effort is being made to perform the following Corporal Works of Mercy: Outreach to each of the local county jails; identify and be present to the sick, elderly and shut-ins in parishes; seek out and invite and support the divorced Catholics with annulment process and regularize marriages.
An open support session will be scheduled for parents and/or family members of those who have a LGBT family member.
Nov. 20, 2016, the Holy Door at Holy Cross in Wendelin will be closed.
In the Metro East Vicariate, priests and ministers of the vicariate will emphasize the Sacrament of Reconciliation, vicar and St. Peter Cathedral rector, Msgr. Myler said.
The parishes will also join together to support “Our Brothers’ Keepers,” a faith-based organization dedicated to the full integration of formerly incarcerated persons, including housing, in St. Clair County.
The North Central Vicariate is developing their plans for the Year of Mercy.
Each vicariate covers some of the 28 counties of southern Illinois. Following is a breakdown of the counties in each vicariate.
The Metro East Vicariate is comprised of parishes in St. Clair and Monroe counties; the West: Randolph, Perry, Jackson and Union counties; the North Central: Clinton, Washington, Marion and Jefferson counties; the East: Clay, Richland, Lawrence, Wayne, Edwards, Wabash, Hamilton and White counties; and the South: Franklin, Williamson, Saline, Gallatin, Johnson, Pope, Hardin, Alexander, Pulaski and Massac.
A number of diocesan churches and chapels have been designated “pilgrimage churches” in the diocese.
Those include: (Churches of the Vicars’ Forane)
St. Peter Cathedral in Belleville
Holy Cross Church in Wendelin
St. Mary, Help of Christians Church in Chester
St. Joseph Church in Marion
St. Mary, the Immaculate Conception Church in Mount Vernon
(Church of Historical Importance to the Diocese and to the U.S.A.)
Holy Family Log Church in Cahokia (1699)
(Large Residences of Women Religious)
The Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy in Belleville
Chapel of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ in Ruma
(Catholic Hospital Chapels)
St. Elizabeth Hospital Chapel in Belleville
St. Joseph Hospital Chapel in Breese
St. Mary Hospital Chapel in Centralia
Good Samaritan Hospital Chapel in Mt. Vernon
St. Joseph Hospital Chapel in Murphysboro
Pope Francis has made indulgences available during the Jubilee Year. Please ask your pastor or priest what is needed to gain an indulgence during the Jubilee Year. More information will be provided as it becomes available.