In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI gave us "a mandate" to "go forth and be witnesses of God's mercy, a source of hope for every person and for the whole world."
The word is getting out. For three days in November, God's message of mercy will take center stage in our nation's capital, and the outcome could be monumental.
In an interview on Teresa Tomeo's radio show, "Catholic Connection," on Oct. 23, Divine Mercy author David Came framed the upcoming North American Congress on Mercy (NACOM) thusly:
"The theme is 'Mercy: Our Hope.' It couldn't be more appropriate if you think about the rising unemployment rate in our nation, the moral crisis in terms of abortion and pro-life issues, and families who are struggling and fearful," said Mr. Came, executive editor of Marian Helper magazine and author of Pope Benedict's Divine Mercy Mandate (Marian Press). "We're fighting two foreign wars. I have a son who's a medic in Afghanistan, serving in the Army. So you look at our situation, and, boy, do we need hope. And where do we find hope but in God's mercy!"
Ave Maria and EWTN radio networks carried the interview. Listen to it in its entirety.
'Huge, Huge Effort'
NACOM will be celebrated Nov. 14-15 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Dr. Scott Hahn, well-known Catholic author and speaker, will deliver the keynote address.
The two-day congress will be preceded by a day-long Divine Mercy Networking Forum, hosted by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, on Friday, Nov. 13, at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, 3900 Harewood Road, near the Basilica.
The two events will be "an opportunity to unpack and celebrate mercy for our nation," said Mr. Came.
"Any chance to promote The Divine Mercy message, we've got to jump on it because it's such a huge, huge effort in order to bring people closer to Christ and to understand God's mercy," Ms. Tomeo said. "The Divine Mercy is such a gift to us."
The networking forum, said Mr. Came, will feature "the movers and shakers" of the Divine Mercy movement who will gather to "give people the hands-on tools they need to go back to spread the message in their own parishes."
The forum will include workshops that cover such topics as:
• How to protect human life and dignity.
• How to inspire youth and young adults.
• How to bring God's mercy to healthcare.
• How to start a Divine Mercy cenacle.
• How to renew your parish and school.
• How to evangelize when you're not preaching to the choir.
• How to get your pastor to learn about, accept, and celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday.
• How to share The Divine Mercy message in a more effective way with your family, friends, parish, community, and co-workers.
• How to learn more about the message of Divine Mercy, so you can comfortably speak about it and share it with others.
In addition, the forum will include a panel discussion called "Ask the Divine Mercy Experts."
"The Marians have various Divine Mercy apostolates and experts on bringing [Divine Mercy] into parishes and schools and training leaders in the message and bringing [Divine Mercy] to healthcare, and so forth," said Mr. Came.
NACOM, itself, he said, "will really showcase Divine Mercy in a big way for our nation right there at America's shrine dedicated to Our Lady."
In addition to Dr. Hahn, NACOM will include the following presenters:
• Father Donald Calloway, MIC, who has a profound conversion story. The title of Fr. Donald's talk is "Mary: Mother and Masterpiece of Mercy."
• Father Matthew Mauriello, president and coordinator for NACOM and pastor of St. Roch Parish in Greenwich, Conn. He will serve as master of ceremonies.
• Theresa Bonopartis, who will address the congress on the topic "Where Mercy Meets Faithfulness," touching on how God not only healed her from an abortion but radically changed her life.
• Dr. John Bruchalski, MD, a former abortionist who founded Divine Mercy Care that performs spiritual and corporal works of mercy in northern Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
• Kellie Ross, co-founder and director of Missionaries of Our Lady of Divine Mercy in Manassas Va., who will give a talk titled "Imitating Christ through the Image of Divine Mercy."
• Sister Mary Joseph, OP, who will give a talk titled "God Be Praised for His Mercies." She is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne (New York), which preach the sanctity of life.
• The Most Rev. William E. Lori, STD, Bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., and episcopal moderator of NACOM, who will celebrate Mass on Nov. 14.
• Father Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, who served as vice postulator of St. Faustina's canonization cause, will be the homilist for the closing Mass on Nov. 15.
Mr. Came said the networking forum will be geared to "Divine Mercy leaders working in the trenches" who seek "tools and resources" and "hands-on training." The leaders will include priests and brothers of the Marian Congregation, who have been official promoters of the authentic Divine Mercy message since 1941.
NACOM, said Mr. Came, will allow participants to "get spiritually nourished and inspired through the talks, testimonies, and Liturgies at the Basilica."
To put it all into perspective, Mr. Came noted that the mercy congress, the first-ever in our country and our continent, comes as a result of last year's first-ever World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Rome, which kicked off in St. Peter's Square with Holy Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI. There will be a second World Apostolic Congress on Mercy in Krakow, Poland, in 2011.
"These congresses, on a continental level and world level, are now ongoing in the life of the Church, just as congresses devoted to Our Lady and the Eucharist are also," Mr. Came said. "So this is big."
"I hear more and more people embracing the Divine Mercy Chaplet as part of their daily walk with the Lord," Ms. Tomeo noted. "How do you account for that?"
"People are realizing the need for mercy," Mr. Came said, noting that the chaplet, a prayer given to St. Faustina by our Lord, provides "an opportunity everyday to pray and to invoke God's mercy."
"True conversion to Christ begins when people accept His mercy," Ms. Tomeo said, quoting words of Pope John Paul II who made the spread Divine Mercy, as revealed to St. Faustina, a central theme of his papacy.
"What we're really trying to do with this congress and networking forum is to get across to the Church in our own country how important and pivotal and central Divine Mercy is," Mr. Came said. "It isn't simply a devotion or a prayer. Those are definitely part of it. But it's right there at the heart of who we are as Catholics and as Christians."
Learn more about the upcoming North American Congress on Mercy, to be held in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14-15, and the Marian-led Divine Mercy Networking Forum preceding it.