The word 'mercy' is not commonly used today but Pope Francis gave it new standing when he declared that 2016 would be an international Jubilee Year of Mercy.
A unique initiative followed in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. After being commissioned by Pope Francis himself in Rome, Jesuit priest Richard Shortall sj (Pope Francis is also a Jesuit) was missioned by Bishop Bill Wright to spend the Year of Mercy travelling around the Hunter and Manning regions in a motor home as a Mercy on wheels'.
Fr Shortall has spent time in the Chisholm Region and the Upper Hunter, and the Manning, and now he is in the parish of Blackbutt North, encompassing the communities of Lambton, New Lambton and Waratah.
Fr Shortall is quick to dispel any notion he's 'here for the Catholics'. While he acknowledges that the Church in the Hunter and Manning has suffered, and been the cause of suffering, his ministry is about simply spending time with anyone who wishes to take up the invitation. "Each day I will be available to anyone who wishes to chat. I welcome all who seek mercy, a listening ear and forgiveness."
His ministry will include presiding at Mass and leading prayer gatherings, joining communities for fellowship, offering opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and being open to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
Download Fr Shortall's full schedule.
To learn more about the Year of Mercy, please visit mn.catholic.org.au/yearofmercy