At St. Pius X Parish in Getzville, members of the parish community came together to celebrate the Year of Mercy, as Pope Francis declared, and to recognize the mercy of God through the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, presentations from parish leaders, inspirational videos and testimonials of parishioners who felt they have been touched by, or witnessed firsthand, the role of divine mercy in their lives.
From July 27-29, the parish held a series of presentations, beginning with a procession and a talk on one topic related to the Jubilee Year of Mercy. On the first day, the talk focused on the topic of the God of Mercy and compassion, as well as Pope Francis and what he has said about mercy. On the second day, the talk was on the blessed and merciful. The final day focused on mercy, forgiveness and acts of kindness, with a recounting of the parable of the prodigal son, as well as presentation of testimonials from the attendees.
"It's been a wonderful time here," said Deacon Venatius Agbasiere, a transitional deacon serving at St. Pius X, who led the event with the parish's pastor, Father Jay McGinnis. "The turnout has been really very impressive, even though everyone has been busy. We have been very surprised by the turnout of people from Orchard Park, from Alden, our parish here in Getzville, and from other places."
Each day concluded with a series of inspirational YouTube videos focusing on the day's topic, closing with exposition and benediction. The Western New York Catholic visited the parish on July 29 to hear what parish community members had to say about their own experiences with God's mercy, as well as ways in which ordinary people can act in ways that are more merciful toward others who are in need of it.
After the church recited the Divine Mercy Chaplet and heard a retelling of the story of the prodigal son, Father McGinnis told the congregation that particular passage from St. Luke's Gospel highlights the many opportunities for acts of mercy that present themselves in Catholics' lives. While the older brother is resentful of his father for welcoming his brother back, the father's love never ceases at all.
"All the time the son is away, he still loves him. He comes home. He's prepared a speech. He knows that there's no reason on the face of this earth why his father should take him back, why he should call him his son. So he says, 'Just hire me as a worker. Please,'" Father McGinnis said. "Let us never forget the Jewish and Muslim attitude toward pigs. They're unclean animals. They are to be avoided at all costs. To come into contact with them is to become unclean, and this is what he ends up doing - caring for them."
Father McGinnis reiterated examples of corporal and spiritual works of mercy, like feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and clothing the naked, as well as comforting the afflicted. These are not the only works of mercy, and there are many opportunities via either volunteering or donating to charity.
Toward the end of the final day, Deacon Agbasiere walked among the pews and offered parishioners an opportunity to speak to the congregation about their stories of kindness, mercy or how they had learned something about what it is to be merciful to others. One woman recalled how she took in a woman who was evicted from a residence, only to be annoyed by her inability to listen or do chores. She changed to show mercy when she found out from a friend that the woman was living with a mental disability.
Deacon Agbasiere said that during the event, many people came to him and told him how they had been inspired and learned a great deal. The theme of the Year of Mercy at St. Pius X has been "Rediscovering the Mercy of God in this Year of Mercy." Deacon Agbasiere noted how many grew up in a generation where God was taught to them as being a mean, sad, or angry God, and this presents a different view.
"This Year of Mercy is a wonderful time to let them know another side of God, to let them see another side of God, the merciful side," Deacon Agbasiere added. "The way we see God is going to affect the way we relate to Him. If we see God as a merciful God, then we have to love Him, not fear Him."
"In the parable of the prodigal son, the love of the father is transformed into mercy. In order for us to be merciful, we have to be a loving people. We cannot be merciful if we do not love. I always tell people, whenever I read the parable of the prodigal son, it should have been the parable of the merciful father. The story oftentimes tries to focus on the son, but the father, the attitude of the father, the large-heartedness of the father is also something to take note of here."