Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has called for a Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning December 8, 2015. In order to deepen our personal encounter with the living Christ, to experience the joy of his Gospel, and to bring more mercy into our tired world, with a whole-hearted affirmation, and after having consulted with our Eparchial Pastoral Council and Presbyteral Council, I have decided to embrace the Holy Year with the following Eparchial requests of clergy, religious and laity:
Our Pastors will increase their efforts to offer the Sacrament of Penance. On at least two public occasions during the Jubilee Year of Mercy they will invite other priests with them to hear confessions in the parish.
Our Deacons, Subdeacons, their spouses and I will redouble our efforts in practical and concrete ways to assist the poor and needy in our own parishes, in our surrounding communities (by connecting with the local Saint Vincent de Paul Societies) and in the Middle East by connecting to Caritas Lebanon and/or Catholic Relief Services.
Our Pastors and I will make a special effort to reach out to any parishioner that has left the Parish and invite them to return home.
From the Jubilee Year forward, one tenth of our Eparchial Benefit Dinners will assist needy Christians in Lebanon and the Middle East.
Anyone whom we (clergy, religious or laity of the Eparchy) have offended or hurt by any actions or decisions, we stand ready to apologize and make amends. I will personally embrace this with all sincerity. Anger lasts but for a moment, but “mercy endures forever” as the Psalmist reminds us (Psalm 136).
Every Parish and Mission in the Eparchy is encouraged to do one or more fundraisers for the needs of the local poor as well as those in the Middle East.
Every Maronite is asked to re-evaluate his or her way of life to see where more mercy, more patience and more listening can make for better relationships with others, in particular, for those closest to us (as well as those estranged from us). We will find creative ways to reach out. For those who are far away or have distanced themselves over the years from us, for any reason, let us reach out as well.
The Marriage Tribunal will reduce fees from $600 to $500 as we redouble our efforts to do all we can to help those, who because of financial or time constraints, find this process a hardship. We will continue to do all we can to build on the good work already done by our Tribunal to help those seeking the Church’s help.
Seven parishes including the Cathedral will be designated as places of pilgrimages:
• Our Lady of Mercy in Worcester, Mass.
• Saint Louis Gonzaga in Utica, N.Y.
• Our Lady of Victory in Pittsburgh, Penn.
• Our Lady of Lebanon in Washington, D.C.
• Saint Joseph Church in Atlanta, Ga.
• Saint Jude Church in Orlando, Fla.
• Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Brooklyn, N.Y.
We will also promote a special spiritual Pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., for the Annual March for Life in January, as well as a pilgrimage to the National Shrine in North Jackson, Ohio, for the Feast of the Assumption on August 15.
The Relic of Saint Sharbel from Lebanon will be present in the Eparchy from February 2016 until June 2016. This is intended to be a special grace for every parish for spiritual renewal.
On the third or fourth Friday of October 2016, at Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral in Brooklyn, N.Y., our Eparchy will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the presence of a Maronite Bishop in the United States of America. Archbishop Francis M. Zayek, God rest him in peace, came to us at that time. Every priest, deacon, subdeacon, monk, religious sister and lay person is welcome to join in the gathering. Every parish is asked to send at least five couples (and their families if possible) to the celebration to enrich marriage and family life. The anniversary will be done simply and in the spirit of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Our Eparchy will continue, and in fact, redouble its efforts to collaborate with ecumenical and charitable organizations such as Christian Arab and Middle Eastern Churches Together (CAMECT), Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), In Defense of Christians (IDC), Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and others to make mercy more a reality for those in need.
The purpose of the Jubilee Year of Mercy is to bring more mercy and love into our world, which is so divided and partisan, and to create what Pope Francis calls a culture of dialogue.
Mercy also begins with me, with each one of us. Therefore, with God’s grace I ask that we find ways to forgive ourselves, and seek God’s forgiveness through a deeper, and more personal, and devout union with God by frequent Penance and Holy Communion. Thus, in turn, after having experienced the great mercy of our loving God, we may be even more merciful to others.
May the prayer and love of Our Lady of Mercy be with us. ❒
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Gregory John Mansour
(Reprinted with permission.)