As the wheels of the motorhome of the Missionary of Mercy (MOM) roll on, more and more members of the Hunter community are learning about Pope Francis' extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy and our local missionary named Richard.
Fr Richard Shortall is a Jesuit priest who calls Melbourne home (although he originally hails from New Zealand) but this year, he's making his way around the Hunter and Manning regions in a specially blessed motorhome. Each week, Richard moves on to a new location, a place where there is a Catholic church but no resident priest. In these days of fewer priests to minister to parishes, his presence has been warmly welcomed everywhere he goes.
Richard's 'work' in each location is simple in essence: he 'pitches camp', celebrates the Eucharist each day, meets with the locals and most significantly, listens. He cannot stress enough that he is here for all who desire mercy, a listening ear and forgiveness.
Richard said recently, "To me, the most important thing is to allow the person to speak about something which is weighing on them, their burden. And what I have seen is that as they tell their story, as they hear themselves speaking and sense that I am listening, their shoulders droop in relief."
"People have told me as they have left that they have felt like a great weight has been lifted from them. It's a moment of grace. So that is the high point for me because that's what I hoped and it has taken place," said Fr Richard.
Soon Richard will make his way to Tuncurry where he will no doubt be welcomed by the Forster Tuncurry community, led by Fr Greg Barker. He will then travel to Mallabula, Tea Gardens. Bulahdelah and Karuah.
Pope Francis inaugurated the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy by opening the Holy Door at St Peter's Basilica, Rome, in December 2015 and the next week, Bishop Bill Wright of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle opened the holy door of Sacred Heart Cathedral at Newcastle West.
More recently, Pope Francis has said, "Mercy touches, it gets involved, it gets caught up with others, it gets personal. It does not approach 'cases' but persons and their pain....The one who shows mercy and the one to whom mercy is shown become equals."
Learn more about the Year of Mercy and check the Missionary of Mercy's schedule on the diocesan website.