Herda-Father-JerrySome people are warning about the evils of Pokémon Go. What is your take on this phenomenon?

Pokémon Go has become quite the phenomenon; it seems this past summer you could find people everywhere playing the game, searching for Bulbasaur and Wigglytuff and over 700 characters.

I didn’t really know any of the characters; I had to look them up, although I do remember Pikachu, because years ago I bought a Pikachu stuffed animal for my niece. That simple memory reminded me that Pokémon has been around for a long time.

My nephew collected Pokémon cards and my niece loved her Pikachu stuffed animal. Pokémon Go, on the other hand, is a new phenomenon and just like all things, there is a good side and there is a not so good side.

I cannot speak from personal experience because I have not downloaded the app; I have not spent time searching the streets and parks and yes, even churches for the 721 Pokémon Go characters. But I have been witness to others who have participated and I have seen both sides of the coin.

Let’s start with the good. I have personally witnessed people who do not normally go for walks now suddenly out walking the streets and parks in search of the Pokémon Go character they hope is near.

Exercise is a great thing; going for a walk on a regular basis is one of the best things we can do for our body. So, from a health perspective, Pokémon Go is great. One person claims to have walked 140 miles since starting to play the game; another person claims to have lost 28 pounds because of the game.

I also spoke with one of my parishioners, whose son is really into Pokémon. They went to Lake Park, the supposed hotspot in Milwaukee for searching. She shared with me that there was something quite unique about the experience. The park was filled with people, young and old, people of all nationalities and color. This woman shared with me that it was a wonderful opportunity for her son to experience the diversity of the real world.

This also leads to the not so good side; people can become obsessed. Too much of anything can become problematic.

While Pokémon Go is just a game, it has also become a craze, which can get people to do crazy things. I don’t completely understand why this phenomenon has taken off to such a large extent, but wouldn’t it be nice if large groups of people would do things like searching for food for the hungry or the next phenomenon would be random acts of kindness all across the world?

There can be “evil” in many things if we take it down the wrong path. Eventually this phenomenon will pass and there will be something else people will be searching for … how about a search for God!

Have you seen any impact on the culture of the church as a result of the Year of Mercy?

This Holy Year of Mercy is slowly slipping away. It started last December on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and will continue until the Feast of Christ the King, Nov. 20, 2016. Pope Francis declared this year to be an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and a chance for us as Catholics to receive the graces and mercy of God in our lives.

In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Archbishop Listecki has led the way by declaring Holy Doors in 10 churches around the archdiocese. A Holy Door, as Pope Francis tells us is “a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instills hope.”

The archbishop has also led the way with his Mercy Pilgrimage schedule, where he has tried to live out the corporal works of mercy of sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned, burying the dead, giving drink to the thirsty and visiting the sick. He has traveled to wonderful sites around the community that are doing great works of mercy.

I have also seen first-hand parishes and individuals trying to make this Year of Mercy a special time for themselves.

I have witnessed an increase in individuals participating in the sacrament of reconciliation. One priest shared with me the other day that he heard a confession of a person who had not gone to confession in 60 years. Parishes have been offering more opportunities to go to confession.

I have heard of parishes doing pilgrimages and visiting the Holy Doors and participating in the sacraments. At my two parishes, St. Monica and St. Eugene, we are excited about our upcoming pilgrimage to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist during the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 9.

We are delighted to give people the chance to see our beautiful cathedral, to be able to receive the mercy of God by entering through the Holy Doors and to be able to receive the Jubilee of Mercy indulgence Pope Francis has granted.

“As is traditional, the faithful are asked to turn away from any attraction to sin, receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, attend a Eucharist, and pray for the pope’s intentions in order to receive the full mercy of God’s indulgence,” from archmil.org.

It is not too late to celebrate this Year of Mercy. If you wish to join my parishes on our pilgrimage, please do so. If that doesn’t work, find your own way to receive God’s mercy and love in your life.

(Fr. Herda, ordained in 1990, is pastor of St. Monica, Whitefish Bay, and St. Eugene, Fox Point. If you have a question you’ve always wanted to ask a priest, email it to poirierj@archmil.org and place “Ask Fr. Jerry” in the subject line.)