HARTLAND – Until he received a call from Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki in early November asking him to be a “missionary of mercy,” Fr. Ken Omernick, pastor of St. Charles Parish, Hartland, was not aware Pope Francis had included that designation in “Misericordiae Vultus” (“The Face of Mercy”), the bull of indiction calling for the Year of Mercy.

Terming it “an honor to be a part of the Year of Mercy in this way,” the priest said he does not see it as “just another duty.”

“It has made me study the whole idea of mercy in order to get myself immersed in it,” he told the Catholic Herald Dec. 8. “It is amazing how often the church speaks of mercy.”

Fr. Omernick noted that St. Pope John XXIII spoke about mercy early in his pontificate and St. John Paul II devoted his second encyclical, “Dives in Misericordia” (“God the Father, Rich in Mercy”), to mercy.

“Pope Francis sees how much the world needs mercy,” the priest said. “It is the right antidote to the violence we are experiencing.”
According to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, the Vatican office coordinating the Year of Mercy, a missionary of mercy should be “inspiring preachers of mercy, heralds of the joy of forgiveness; welcoming, loving and compassionate confessors, who are most especially attentive to the difficult situations of each person.”

Archbishop Listecki and Fr. Omernick have had preliminary discussions about his missionary of mercy duties, but the priest is already scheduled to give several retreats and talks during the year.

“I am doing these only as I’m able – if they do not interfere with my work at the parish,” he said.

Fr. Omernick has begun work on one aspect of his missionary role – writing and being featured in a 12-part video series on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The first one, about instructing the ignorant and counseling the doubtful, was shot by videographer Darrell Boeck and will be posted on the archdiocese’s Year of Mercy web site later this month. The videos will also be distributed to parishes and be available on social media.

One hope the priest has for the Year of Mercy is that “people take it seriously.”

“If the whole local church takes mercy as its theme, as its focus, it should produce a great result,” he said.