By Anne Marie Amacher
and Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Share mercy, accept mercy and have a generous heart. That advice comes from Tom East, who gave the keynote address during the Mercy in Motion — A Ministries of Mercy Conference July 30 at St. Ambrose University. The Diocese of Davenport sponsored the conference to commemorate the Year of Mercy.
East, director of the Center for Ministry Development, said the Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis “is the start of something. Not a theme for a year.”
The first World Youth Day (WYD) was held in 1985 in Rome and “was not so international,” East said. It was mainly Europeans. He noted that the 2016 World Youth Day, which was going on that day in Krakow, Poland, has grown much larger and more international.
When he participated in the first WYD he was invited to be part of an international choir at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. He noted that each song was translated into six languages: English, Spanish, Italian, German, Polish and French. “Our conductor was French and he and others were very careful when translating the songs into another language. But when it came to English, it wasn’t quite the same.” The line “my heart is filled with an everlasting love,” when translated to English ended up being my heart is filled with an enlarged heart, he quipped.
“We speak about that here today,” East said. “We are asked to be people with an enlarged heart and to accept that mercy that others offer us.” He noted that it is beyond the capacity of any one person to reflect the face of the Christ of mercy. It takes a whole community. What are the traits of a person of mercy, he asked the nearly 100 attendees in Christ the King Chapel. They responded: compassionate, good listener, forgiving, non judgmental, present, humble…”
East observed that people tend to judge themselves severely, and that they need to be more open to the “caress of the mercy of Jesus Christ” on their sins. Judas was not beyond the mercy of Christ. But unlike Peter and the doubting Thomas, Judas didn’t come back to receive that mercy.
“Like a glass of water, do we have just enough to not be parched or are we overflowing with God’s love and fairness to mercy?”
East said reconciliation is needed to help us experience God’s love. “Allow forgiveness to come.” Put things in the right place and extend love to those who are hurting. He referred to theologian Father Ron Rolheiser who observed that turning to mercy turns people toward having a genuine heart. Without acts of mercy, people are prone to self-centeredness.
A growing heart radiates love and leads people on the road to mercy. “Have a great heart, a very enlarged heart that is noticeable to the community. Our community, together, has a very enlarged heart. That is what attracts people.”
As he concluded his keynote address, East reminded the participants that God leads them to mercy.
Christian singer/songwriter Sarah Kroger played the piano and sang during the conference and Mass.
Throughout the day attendees participated in three breakout sessions with four or five topics from which to choose.
• Deacons Frank Agnoli and Dan Huber spoke on Communion to the Sick and Dying: Mercy for Those Who Cannot Be With Us. They focused on the Ritual Booklet from the U.S. Conference for Catholic Bishops, the ordinary rite and challenges in ministering to people in hospitals, nursing homes or who are homebound.
• Kroger led a session on Mercy in Music: Leading People to the God of Mercy through Music. She incorporated into her talk a song she wrote, “Run to the Cross.” “The sound of music affects lives and penetrates the soul,” she said
• During a session titled Starting a Non profit from the Groud Up: Project 15:12 Love One Another, speakers Monica Burchett and Karley Driscoll talked about the challenges and rewards of starting a nonprofit. They gave examples of how the organization has helped others and the importance of partnerships.
• Father Joseph Sia spoke on the Beauty of Her Varied Face: Ministry to the Many Cultures in Our Church. He provided an historical perspective on immigration and how the church has responded. He used examples from his ministry to Hispanic and Burmese cultures in the Diocese of Davenport.
• Mike Owen, executive director of Iowa Policy Project, spoke on Economic Realities, Moral Challenges for Iowans. He focused his talk on the cost of living in Iowa, and the difficulty of workers with low incomes to make ends meet.
• Colleen Walters, vice president of Regional Mission Integration for Trinity Health Iowa/Nebraska, spoke on End of Life: A Catholic Perspective on Supportive Care. The Iowa Catholic Conference has identified a need for education among the Catholic faithful regarding church teaching on using/foregoing medical interventions at the end of life. Walters provided an overview addressing church teaching on this issue.
• Jennifer Hildebrand, who coordinates the Health Ministry Program for Davenport-based Genesis Health System, spoke on How to Develop and Maintain a Parish Nurse Ministry. She provided an overview of faith community nursing, also known as parish nursing , and said she is available to speak with parishes interested in exploring health ministry nursing.
In the concluding session, East offered attendees an opportunity to reflect on growing hearts of mercy. Accept God’s loving mercy, extend mercy to yourself and others, he said, and become God’s mercy in the world through service. Become the warmth of Christ.
The day concluded with Bishop Martin Amos celebrating Mass.
During his homily, Bishop Amos noted that “I” appears 19 times in the Scripture readings. I chose you. I appoint you. I command you. “Notice who’s in charge here — God, not us.”
The reading draws listeners deeper, he noted. Jesus says, “I call you friends.” Flowing from our calling and his friendship is a commandment. … It’s unconditional love, not just an emotional feeling or quid pro quo.
Whoever loves God, loves his brother. “Know that you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t see the many people with a passion for mercy.”
Mercy in Motion comments
Participants in the Mercy in Motion conference held July 30 at St. Ambrose University in Davenport share some highlights. The diocesan conference, which commemorated the Year of Mercy, provided an opportunity for Catholics to reflect on how they are living out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy and are challenged to extend God’s mercy even more.
Judi Droll: “I like the keynote speaker a lot. My favorite part of his speech was using the cross to build a bridge.”
Candy Boucher: “The keynote was awesome, especially the break-out session on preparing eucharistic ministers. I thought that was very thorough.”
Seminarian Terry Ball: “Very informative on how to be merciful in interacting with others.”
Deacon Dan Dorau: “For me the highlight so far has been Sarah’s concert last night, which I thought was phenomenal. Her music was great. This morning, it’s the ministry. I was excited to see the bishop here, too. It makes me feel like this is really a diocesan event, all coming together.”
Father Tony Herold: “It has been a very good experience. I’m amazed we have this many people considering that we have Bix going on and RAGBRAI ends today. To have this conference on mercy in the midst of all of this — it’s a wonderful event for the diocese.”
Kent Ferris: “In light of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, it’s an opportunity for people not already involved but also for those who want to learn more about mercy. And I’m grateful to Don and Marianne as colleagues who have done so much preparation for this day. The Social Action Office certainly has an interest in making sure it’s a valuable day for people all across the diocese. And everybody who is here I hope will take back to the parishes what they are learning here and share it with others.”
Jennifer Hildebrand: The opening service was a highlight. …. I actually met Tom East when I was taking the Certificate in Youth Ministry … so it’s just reconnecting with my days with youth ministry. I really enjoyed the session about extraordinary ministers of Communion. I learned something there. So much of (what we learned) applies to parish nurses. That validates what we’re doing.”
Sharon Hunt: “The talk, the people from all over the diocese. It’s a beautiful group of people sharing their faith and their stories.”
Carol Burns: “Just to reiterate what the pope has been saying about mercy and feel that we can be an extension of that mercy for our faith. I think he is a very spiritual man and if we can follow in his footsteps; i.e., Christ’s footsteps, that will be a grand evangelical experience for all.”
— Barb Arland-Fye