Trip to Saltillo puts Jubilee of Mercy into focus

By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
The Jubilee of Mercy is about to blossom as the season of Lent begins next week with the traditional distribution of ashes. Ash Wednesday invites the faithful to recall the words and standards of the Lord in the sixth chapter of Saint Matthew’s Gospel at the center of the Sermon on Mount.
The Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and abstinence are a response in faith to the merciful love of God the Father who invites us anew to turn away from sin and to experience his tender compassion. The three pillars of our Catholic Lenten tradition are nearly two thousand years old, ever ancient and ever new. They support our relationship with God, inspiring us to know that we are made in his image and likeness, a dignity that far surpasses all that the malignant evil spirit of the world seeks to tear apart.
For several days last week, I had the blessed opportunity for the second time to journey to Saltillo, Mexico, to represent our diocese in the mission that is nearly 50 years young. There were many inspiring and heartfelt experiences about which I will write in the next edition of Mississippi Catholic. With Lent on the horizon I want to share with you the experience of the consecration of the new church constructed in the heart of the San Miguel parish, Divina Misericordia, Divine Mercy.
As the Jubilee of God’s mercy engages our hearts and minds, I realized that this new church was inspired from its inception. When Msgr. Mike Flannery and I went on mission to Saltillo over the Thanksgiving weekend in 2014, we participated in the groundbreaking of the new church with the bishop of Saltillo, Bishop Don Raul. The name for the new church was already determined before Pope Francis announced the Jubilee of Mercy. Fourteen months later I returned to participate in the consecration of the Divina Misericordia.

The church has a seating capacity of 500 to 600 people and it was overflowing with parishioners from the San Miguel parish, its capillas (chapels) and with people from around the city of Saltillo. The nearly three-hour ceremony was majestic, and most of the men, women and children who filled the church remained throughout. It was truly a festive celebration bathed in the joy of God’s mercy, reminiscent of Psalm 117. Praise the Lord, all nations; acclaim him all peoples. Strong is his love for us; he is faithful forever.
By virtue of its location and name the church will be a holy site for pilgrimage for many in this Jubilee of Mercy. The statue of Divine Mercy that stands at the apex of the structure is an invitation to all to know the mercy of the Father, whether or not they ever enter into the church’s hallowed edifice.
The name of the church is closely linked with the nascent religious order whose two priests faithfully serve the mission of San Miguel and the 29 ranchos that were developed by Father Patrick Quinn with the on-site support of many from the Diocese of Jackson. The charism of their religious order is divine mercy, and they lovingly carry forward the legacy of Father Quinn.
In my closing remarks to the congregation at the mass of consecration I reminded them that my presence represents the Diocese of Jackson, especially, but all of Mississippi’s Catholics who continue to support the mission through their love, prayers and generosity. Padre David, and Padre Evelio are the two amazingly dedicated priests who serve the mission, along with their strongly committed lay collaborators, and repeatedly offered to me and to the diocese their profound gratitude for our generosity. Without our loving support there would be no San Miguel mission and its 29 ranchos scattered throughout the State of Coahuila over its high desert, mountainous terrain.
What I experienced at the Mass of consecration was a Jubilee of Mercy that comes from God’s tender compassion to all peoples. It is my prayer for all Catholics within our 65 counties that we will be able to celebrate the Mercy of God in like manner, the mercy that flows from our Eucharistic assemblies, the source and summit of our lives, into our hearts and homes, our communities and diocese.
May the 40 days of Lent be an oasis of mercy in this Year of Favor from the Lord.