Seasson-Mercy-Logo_EngWith Ash Wednesday less than a week away, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee prepares to observe Lent as a “Season of Mercy,” an initiative inviting people to participate in the sacrament of reconciliation and to reflect on the need for forgiveness and mercy in their lives.

Initiated by Milwaukee’s former Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, Bishop William P. Callahan, during his nearly nine months as archdiocesan administrator following Archbishop Dolan’s appointment to New York, continued planning for the Season of Mercy. Events will take place throughout the archdiocese during Lent and the week after, including reconciliation services with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki in each of the archdiocese’s 15 districts, lectures, Masses and a conference.

For a listing of “Season of Mercy” programs and resources, visit the John Paul II Center Web site. Printable pdfs are available by clicking on the program titles.

District Reconciliation Services with Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, assisted by district priests, begin at 7 p.m. each evening listed and include individual confessions.

  • Monday, Feb. 22, St. Monica, 5600 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Whitefish Bay
  • Tuesday, Feb. 23, St. Frances Cabrini, 1025 S. 7th St., West Bend
  • Wednesday, Feb. 24, Sacred Heart, 2201 Northwestern Ave., Racine
  • Thursday, March 4, St. Thomas Aquinas, 305 First St., Waterford
  • Monday, March 8, St. Adalbert, 1923 W. Becher St., Milwaukee
  • Tuesday, March 9, St. Dominic, 2133 N. 22 St., Sheboygan
  • Wednesday, March 10, St. Jerome, 995 S. Silver Lake St., Oconomowoc
  • Thursday, March 11, St. Mark, 7117 14th Ave., Kenosha
  • Monday, March 15, St. Dominic, 18255 W. Capitol Dr., Brookfield
  • Tuesday, March 16, Holy Family, 271 Fourth St. Way, Fond du Lac
  • Wednesday, March 17, St. Matthias, 9306 W. Beloit Road, Milwaukee
  • Thursday, March 18, St. Katharine Drexel, 511 S. Spring St., Beaver Dam
  • Tuesday, March 23, St. Joseph, 1619 Washington St., Grafton
  • Wednesday, March 24, Christ King, 2612 N. Swan Blvd., Wauwatosa
  • Thursday, March 25, Divine Mercy, 800 Marquette Ave., South Milwaukee

Bishop Callahan said the Season of Mercy, which begins Feb. 18 with “Breaking the Yoke of Poverty and Racism,” a prayer service and reflection led by Fr. Bryan Massingale at St. Margaret Mary Parish, Milwaukee, has begun to produce fruits in the form of study guides for children and young people, and brochures for the faithful to reconsider the sacrament in their lives.

“Our hope is that the people of God will spend some time thinking about their lives and the necessity for virtue and holiness,” he said in an e-mail interview with your Catholic Herald. “We further hope that our people will be able to take advantage of some of these opportunities and make their way back to the sacrament of (reconciliation) – if they’ve been away for awhile – or refresh themselves in the comfort and healing that the sacrament provides.”

Randy Nohl, coordinator of the John Paul II Center, said the idea was “two-fold,” one being to put more emphasis on the sacrament of which many Catholics seldom take advantage.

“If you look at the sacrament (of reconciliation) and really experience it, it can be a very healing experience because it kind of says we all fall short, that’s part of being human, but God still accepts us and that’s a pretty neat message,” he said  in an interview with your Catholic Herald, explaining the importance of taking that message into family, work and community life.

Nohl said community is the basis for the second part of the Season of Mercy. “That’s why we’re doing this program on poverty and racism, to say there’s need for reconciliation in the community, and then we have some other things like the Mass of healing for people who are separated and divorced,” he said, referring to the Mass that Bishop Richard J. Sklba will celebrate Saturday, Feb. 27 at St. Mary Parish, Hales Corners. “These are people who’ve all experienced some pain and hurt certainly in their relationship and possibly with the church, and so this is a way of saying the church needs to reconcile with them.”

Nohl said the night will be a time of prayer, healing and information as someone from the archdiocesan tribunal will be available to answer questions about annulments.

“So often when somebody goes through a divorce, they feel separated from the church and so this is a way of trying to reach out to say that the church is still very concerned about these people and still trying to be very accepting as well,” he said.

The Season of Mercy programs, mainly funded through the archdiocese, working with the Rosary Evangelization Apostolate, are open to all, though some are targeted to specific groups, such as “40 Days in the Desert,” a Lenten speaker series for married or single young adults in their 20s and 30s.

Other offerings include a reconciliation chapel at St. Vincent Pallotti East Church, Milwaukee, with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, talks highlighting reconciliation and opportunities for confession on Thursdays, Feb. 25-March 25 from 6-7 p.m.; district reconciliation services with the archbishop; online resources for faith formation, small faith groups and parish retreats.

All events are free, with the exception of the April 10 closing event, the “Lord Have Mercy” all-day conference, which costs $35 per person, featuring internationally known inspirational speakers Scott Hahn and Matthew Kelly.

Dick Boldin, director of the Rosary Evangelization Apostolate, said he prefers to refer to the conference as a summary of the Season of Mercy because “like Archbishop Dolan told us, ‘God’s mercy is for all seasons, it’s for every day, it’s for every time, it’s for every generation, every culture….’”

“From that point on, we hope that we have planted seeds on the archdiocese to help the people – the faithful of the archdiocese and beyond there – strive to rediscover the sacrament of God’s mercy, the sacrament of reconciliation,” Boldin said in a telephone interview with your Catholic Herald.

Boldin, the main coordinator when Season of Mercy planning began in 2007, said the archdiocesan opportunities will hopefully encourage the faithful to enter into the sacrament more frequently, spark them to do something further and use their imaginations to create a rediscovery of the sacrament of reconciliation in their parishes, so that “when that April 10th comes, we don’t just say ‘Oh, we had a wonderful 40 days…’” Boldin said. “It’s necessary to go beyond that.”

Free “Personal Encounter With Jesus Christ” brochures about confession and 60-page books, “Encounter With Mercy,” on the sacrament of reconciliation, are catechetical tools they are distributing to the faithful to be used at district events.

While Boldin said reconciliation usually involves a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, it also means being reconciled with the community. “…because whenever we sin individually and personally, we harm the whole Body of Christ so we’re actually building up and healing the whole Body of Christ,” he said, “and these graces that we encounter with Jesus Christ in the sacrament should instill us and prepare us and invigorate us to be merciful and do corporal and spiritual works of mercy with our brothers.”

Something as simple as going through the supermarket line and being friendly to cashiers even if they’re in a bad mood.

“There are just these countless ways where we can bring God’s mercy and love to others,” Boldin said, “and that’s what we hope that this sacrament of reconciliation initiative will bring about in our lives, too.”

Nohl said people can expect to be challenged during the Season of Mercy.

“They can expect to see how God is active in their lives and they can expect to see how we’re all in need of reconciliation and forgiveness with God and with other people,” he said.