By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Catholics in the western part of the diocese have embraced the Year of Mercy perhaps more than any other special year, according to Father William Reynolds, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Newton and dean of the Grinnell Deanery.
“People are talking about it … I think people understand the need for mercy. We all want to receive mercy and be treated mercifully,” he said.
To foster that interest in mercy, the Grinnell Deanery has put together a Mercy Team comprised of priests and deacons who will offer prayer services throughout the deanery. The idea came about after Bishop Martin Amos asked all deaneries to do something to observe the Year of Mercy.
About once a month, a deacon will preside over a service at a Grinnell Deanery parish. Each service takes place in a different location. The services include adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Liturgy of the Word, a homily about divine mercy and other prayers and blessings. Following the services, priests are available to those who wish to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. “It’s like a holy hour with different prayer possibilities. … it’s not a communal penance; it’s a mercy experience,” Fr. Reynolds explained.
He said he wanted the deacons to preside as a way to familiarize parishes — especially those that don’t have deacons — with the ministry of the diaconate. Additionally, deacons are being sent to lead services at parishes that are not their own so the congregations can see the different personalities and worship styles of the deacons.
Deacon Joe Dvorak, parish life coordinator of Immaculate Conception Parish in Colfax, presided over the first prayer service April 3 in Grinnell. While Grinnell has a permanent deacon, Deacon John Osborne, two of the upcoming prayer service locations — Brooklyn and Victor — do not. Deacon Dvorak said, “I think having the services led by a deacon is particularly good in those parishes that have no deacon and have no history of one. It may help someone in those parishes discern a call to the diaconate. While we can never take the place of a sacramental priest, we can and do help fill out the pastoral care team of a parish.”
Father Ron Hodges, pastor of the Grinnell parish, said “The people who were there had good things to say about the experience.”
Upcoming prayer services will take place within the deanery in July, August, September and October. Fr. Reynolds hopes the services will help Catholics understand, appreciate, experience and share God’s mercy.
Deacon Dvorak said, “I think now, as always, people are in need of the sense of peace that comes from knowing that God is loving and merciful. The Year of Mercy addresses that need.”
“My hope is that God becomes ever more relevant in people’s everyday lives,” Fr. Hodges said, and that they “see God not just as someone who gets an hour of their time on the weekend when possible. God’s mercy is always present and we need his mercy more now than ever and our duty as Christians is to pass on God’s mercy to others.”
Upcoming prayer services
July 27 at St. Mary Church-Pella, 7 p.m.; Aug. 14 at St. Patrick Church-Brooklyn, 4 p.m.; Sept. 11 at St. Bridget Church in Victor, 2 p.m.; Sept. 15 at Sacred Heart Church in Newton, 4 p.m.; Oct. 23 at Immaculate Conception Church in Colfax, 2 p.m.