Plans underway for retreat, conference in October
Story by Tess Sousek
(SNR) - During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, in collaboration between the Apostolate of Divine Mercy, Spirit Catholic Radio, and Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat Center, a day-long conference on Divine Mercy, surrounded by a weekend retreat, will be held Oct. 8 at North American Martyrs Parish in Lincoln.
In this unique occasion, people have the option to attend the conference on Saturday, or the entire weekend retreat from Friday to Sunday. Retreatants will begin at the Retreat Center in Waverly, then will join conference-goers at North American Martyrs Parish in Lincoln on Saturday, and then return to the Retreat Center for the remainder of the weekend.
The conference will consist of several talks, Mass, and confessions. Father Sean Kilcawley, director of the diocesan Office of Family Life, will speak, as well as Matt Simmons of the diocesan Unbound ministry. Father Wade Menezes, of the Fathers of Mercy, will lead the retreat and will give several talks at the conference, as well.
“I would encourage everybody to attend,” Father Kilcawley said. “We’re all in need of mercy, and sometimes during life we tend to think, ‘well, you know, my life’s not bad. I don’t have great tragedies,’ but really, the faith always begins with the mercy of Our Lord. In Scripture, it always begins with the mercy of Our Lord. Whether it’s the prodigal son, or the woman who was caught in adultery, or the Samaritan woman at the well, all of them became disciples through the experience of mercy, and if we want to be more intentional disciples of Christ, we have to learn how to experience his mercy in our own lives, which then helps us to share that with those around us.”
“Mercy in and of itself is God’s greatest attribute,” Father Wade Menezes said. “Mercy is who God is. It’s Love’s second name. God is more interested in our future than in our past – he is more interested in the kind of person we can yet become than in the kind of person we used to be.
“While indeed taking our sins seriously,” he continued, “whether mortal or venial, he never ever takes those sins as the last word. Why? Because he knows he’s made us in his image and likeness, he knows he calls us constantly to a life of his sanctifying grace, which comes primarily through the seven sacraments, and he knows he is our God. And God will help us to grow patiently toward the person he wants us to become and is willing to do this saving work within us if we let him enter into our lives. And this brings me back full circle to my favorite quote of St. Catherine of Siena, one of the Doctors of the Church: ‘If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze.’
“In other words,” Father Menezes concluded, “becoming that best version of yourself that God wills for you.”
Father Wade Menezes is a Father of Mercy, which is an itinerant missionary preaching order that preaches parish missions, retreats, and devotions throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia. Founded shortly after the French Revolution to bring the people back to their Catholic faith following the havoc and destruction, the Fathers of Mercy now also staff parishes in rural or neglected areas at the invitation of a bishop. Their generalate house is in Auburn, Ky.
“Continuing the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy” is the title of the retreat, which will carry on its theme in the life of the retreat.
Over the course of the weekend, with both the retreat and the conference combined, Father Wade will present five talks: “Mercy Now: Be Faithful to your Daily Duty”; “Be Merciful: Be Other-Centered”; “Mercy Offered: Vice to Virtue, Sin to Conversion”; “Mercy Received: Practice and Live the Sacraments”; “Mercy Lived: Live a Trinitarian Spirituality.”
Father Kilcawley will give a talk on mercy in the family, a message he has always been very passionate about.
“We live in a world where there are so many anti-family messages, and our families really need to experience the mercy of Christ, which still takes conversion in their lives,” he said. “We can become very negative about what’s going on in the world around us and lose sight of the fact that the Christian family is a beacon of hope for the rest of society.”
Father Kilcawley said that this year of mercy has been an opportunity for him, personally, to reflect on the mercy Our Lord has shown him in his life and in his priesthood, and that he has been very grateful that Pope Francis has drawn attention to it.
“My hope is that, for the people who attend, it will be a day that helps to facilitate that encounter with the merciful love of Christ that brings about conversion in our hearts,” Father Kilcawley said.
Pope Francis has continuously been an example of mercy, and has reiterated how God desires mercy for everyone.
“In Misericordiae Vultus (The Face of Mercy),” Father Menezes said, “the document that promulgated the jubilee year of mercy, the Holy Father makes it clear that even for prisoners, the threshold of their cell door is to serve as their Holy Door, and a visit to the prison chapel is the site to obtain the indulgence, so even prisoners are not excluded from this great gift of God’s mercy. That’s pretty awesome.”
He continued with a reference to St. Faustina, the Polish nun who received the message of Divine Mercy.
“In number 975 of St. Faustina’s diary,” he said, “our Lord tells Faustina, ‘pray for souls, that they be not afraid to approach the tribunal of my mercy, meaning the sacrament of penance. Do not grow weary in praying for sinners. You know what a burden their souls are to my heart. Relieve my deathly sorrow. Dispense my mercy.’
“So he’s telling Faustina, ‘get my message out there. Call souls back to the sacrament of penance.’ It’s a very moving reality.”
“I think he [Pope Francis] is calling us to a greater encounter with Jesus, who is mercy,” said Sandy Danek, coordinator of the Apostolate of Divine Mercy. “As we live in these difficult times, this call to mercy allows us to focus on forgiveness and healing, which is so necessary in our time.”
The Apostolate of Divine Mercy is a lay apostolate in the Diocese of Lincoln whose mission is to spread the message of mercy. They have worked on putting out yard signs and putting up billboards, as well as sharing materials and being present at Catholic conferences.
“We just try to be present wherever we can, promoting the message of mercy,” Danek said. “My prayer for this conference is that not only do we give our participants that emphasis on practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, but also that they may experience a spiritual growth and the strengthening of faith.”
All registration for the conference and retreat will be conducted through Our Lady of Good Counsel Retreat Center – even registrations solely for the conference. Registrations can also be made online. The cost of the conference is $45 ($30 for clergy and religious), and the cost of the retreat is $195. All are welcome and encouraged to attend.