by ROWENA OREJANA
Catholic dioceses in New Zealand are in the final stages of their preparations for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, a time Pope Francis declared “for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on the day of Easter: to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy”.
The Year of Mercy will start on December 8 and run until November 20, 2016. Holy doors in cathedrals will be opened, allowing pilgrims going through those doors to gain plenary indulgences connected to the jubilee.
Palmerston North Bishop Charles Drennan, emailing from India, wrote that “the practice of passing through a holy door came into vogue in the late 1400s”. Bishop Drennan was in India doing volunteer work for special needs children and leprosy sufferers.
“I think it’s important to know that jubilee years are about deep-seated, broad-based, spiritual renewal found through right relationship with God, with each other and with the land, as we read in the book of Leviticus.”
He added, “This highlights the sense of pilgrimage and destination, and fits with Christ’s own description of himself as a door or gateway (John 10:7) through whom we meet the merciful Father”.
He expects many pilgrims will visit the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Palmerston North during the year. “Passing through the holy door will help pilgrims focus on personal space and communal renewal with a sense of passing from sin to grace, from daily space to sacred space, from any laxity to focused commitment, and all this for the purpose of strengthening our resolve to leave the cathedral determined to be missionaries of mercy for our communities and the world.”
Palmerston North pastoral leader Mark Richards said their diocese is well prepared, with a kit going to all parishes, schools, colleges and Maori eucharistic communities.
“It includes a letter of invitation from Bishop Charles, a summary of the indult of Pope Francis, an outline of the year, and an invitation to make a hikoi/pilgrimage to the cathedral. It will also have the link to the diocesan website, where the monthly newsletter for the diocese and curriculum materials for the school year will be posted,” he said.
Their holy door, the main door of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, will be formally opened on Sunday December 13 at the 9.30am Mass.
“We are placing the symbol of the year of jubilee upon it, and it will be open all year from early morning to dusk. In addition, the inner wall will be painted by St Peter’s College students with a frieze of the works of corporal mercy,” he said.
Mr Richards said schools, colleges and parishes are invited to come on a Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. He said pilgrims will be supported with guided meditation on mercy focusing on the windows of the cathedral, which are of the Lukan parables of mercy. He said they are mobilising 400 people to welcome the pilgrims and each pilgrim will receive a pilgrim badge, as in the great pilgrim sites of Europe, and will be asked to commit to the positive action of mercy on return to their community.
“The cathedral is to be our place of pilgrimage. We are encouraging all the main churches to also have a place or door of welcome, as a stepping stone to coming to Palmerston North,” he said.
Hamilton Bishop Steve Lowe said that diocese is laying out its plans for the year. “In the diocese of Hamilton, the Year of Mercy will commence with the opening of the holy door, and Mass at 3pm on the 13th of December at the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Hamilton,” he said.
“Reconciliation will be available after the Mass, not only marking the start of the jubilee year but also preparing for our celebration of Christmas.
“Mercy will be the focus of many of the normal diocesan events and gatherings. Other initiatives for the diocesan celebration of the Year of Mercy are in the planning stage,” Bishop Lowe added.
Dunedin Bishop Colin Campbell said there will be increased opportunities for the sacrament of Reconciliation throughout the year.
“There are two designated churches in the diocese for the holy door of mercy: the cathedral in Dunedin and St Mary’s Basilica in Invercargill. The rite of blessing will take place on Sunday December 13 and [they] will be places of pilgrimage,” he said.
The initiatives were drawn up at the meeting of the Dunedin Diocesan Synod Group. The synod was launched late last year by Bishop Campbell for Catholics in Dunedin to “find their way together”.
“Amy Armstrong, our pastoral leader for formation, outreach and growth, in collaboration with Janice McDrury, mission coordinator of Mercy Hospital, have devised a card/poster campaign that will centre on five feasts over the year and focus on a corporal work of mercy for each,” he added.
“The Dunedin Diocesan Synod Group is looking to support this campaign with a programme for our groups established last year as part of our ongoing synod.”
Bishop Campbell will also preach on the parables of mercy at the Moran Buildings Chapel in the Octagon on the Friday evenings of Lent.
The opening of the Year of Mercy is a special time for Wellington archdiocese, as it is also the diocese’s patronal feast day, when it was consecrated to Mary.
The opening Mass will be on December 8 at 7pm at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, pastoral services director Mike Noonan said.
“New glass doors have been prepared with the words ‘Mercy’ and ‘Atawhai’ engraved on them. These will be the holy door opened for the archdiocese, and will lead from the cathedral to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel,” he said.
He said a reflection programme, “Merciful like the Father”, has been prepared for the use of parishes. Based on the papal bull of indiction, Misericordiae Vultus, the programme can be used by individuals as well as groups and will be made available for other dioceses in Australia and New Zealand.
Mr Noonan said there will be opportunities for individuals or groups to find creative ways to express and receive mercy.
“Parishes are being invited to make a pilgrimage from a place of mercy in their parish; perhaps a night shelter or a soup kitchen or a hospice, back to one of the churches in their parish, where they will celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation together,” he explained.
“These pilgrimages will be phased at different stages in the year.” On the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, the archdiocese will hold an event of prayer for people who are sick or infirm.
There will be interfaith activities. “On May 18 there will be an Interfaith Abrahamic Panel on mercy, while on Saturday May 21 there will be Interfaith Service Day, where people undertake works of mercy as a service project, working together with people from other faiths,” Mr Noonan said.
In Auckland, the doors to the righthand transept of St Patrick’s Cathedral had been designated as the holy doors. Auckland Vicar-General Msgr Bernard Kiely said glass doors had been installed for the 2000 jubilee year and they had since kept the wooden doors open and glass doors shut.
“It had a number of effects, apart from the jubilee celebrations of making the cathedral more secure [and] people could look in a little if they were out on the street,” said Msgr Keily.
Msgr Kiely invited parishes to book their pilgrimage to the cathedral. “What parishes generally do is, they let us know they are coming, and we’ll have the doors accessible for them,” he said.
Parish and Pastoral Services group leader Pat Lythe said regions in the parish have also been asked to designate a special place of pilgrimage, not necessarily holy doors. “So far, Tai Tokerau have designated St Mary’s at Motuti as their special regional place of pilgrimage for next year,” she said.
Mrs Lythe said a big emphasis will be on forgiveness, whether seeking it through the sacrament of Reconciliation, or forgiving others. “The diocese also wants to connect the Year of Mercy with Fit for Mission. So apart from Mass and the pilgrimage sites and our own reaching out in mercy, we’re asked to observe, reflect on and carry out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy,” she said.
She said each parish and community is asked to take on one of those works of mercy as their project and to do something about it.
Christchurch diocese will open four holy doors: St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Christchurch, Timaru, Greymouth and a holy door at the pilgrimage church in Akaroa, on Sunday December 13.
Acting Youth Director Matt O’Connell said he and Fr Paul Williamson, SM, spoke about the Year of Mercy at a morning session with priests from the diocese and informed them of the process of applying to become a missionary of mercy. “We will be participating in the worldwide 24 Hours For The Lord with continuous adoration and, hopefully, continuous Reconciliation,” said Mr O’Connell.
The diocese’s 2016 formation series will feature three sessions: one on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, another on Reconciliation and another on the papal bull.
“We will be having our Divine Mercy Sunday celebrations at the pro-cathedral on the Second Sunday of Easter,” he said.
He added they hoped to have a eucharistic procession to close the year and also a Marian procession sometime during the year to honour Our Lady, Mother of Mercy.