A Message Resonates, a Mission Restores
Irene and Larry Field Tend the Lord's Vineyard in Lake Charles, La.
By Dan Valenti (Mar 6, 2012)
About 14 years ago, Irene Field and her husband, Larry, felt the evangelist's call, inspired like many others around the world by the message of Divine Mercy. In 1998, Irene and Larry took action to share the message with their parish community at St. Theodore Church in Lake Charles, La.
On Divine Mercy Sunday of that year, with the permission of their pastor, the couple — who recently celebrated 50 years of marriage — coordinated a Divine Mercy service of prayer, singing, praying the chaplet, veneration of the image, exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and Benediction. Five people attended. Last year, the afternoon service hosted 400, a growth of 8,000 percent in 14 years.
'A Call to Evangelize'
During that time, Irene says she has gained a lot of knowledge about the Divine Mercy message and devotion and also about how to spread them to others. This activity, of course, is at the heart of what the Pope calls the New Evangelization, a thrust meant to convey the need on the part of ordinary Catholics to not only practice their faith but to witness it to others, be they Catholics, lapsed Catholics, non-Christian, or non-believers.
Not content with only promoting Divine Mercy Sunday, Irene and Larry founded a Divine Mercy prayer group a few years ago. Like the Divine Mercy Sunday observation and celebration, the prayer group has grown in number from a few to 20 and in frequency from once to twice a month.
"We're slowly growing," Irene says. "My husband and I are the ministers of it. After we started our little group, we began to incorporate a ministry with the image of The Divine Mercy. We use the Skemp image. I buy 8 x 10 pictures from the Marian Fathers [NOTE: The Marian Fathers are the official promoters of Divine Mercy as Jesus revealed to St. Faustina. They are headquartered in the United States in Stockbridge, Mass., on Eden Hill, home of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy]. We have the images blessed and make them available. For example, we've given one to the local Catholic school, installed one in the conference room at the parish rectory, presented them to parishioners who are sick, and supplied images to people who have asked us to pray the chaplet for them."
'There's So Much to Learn About the Faith'
Irene says she has the images specially framed and matted. That practice has spread; one of the members, Priscilla Ardoin, wants to visit nursing homes and bring copies of the image with her.
Irene and Larry also purchase for distribution Divine Mercy literature from the Marian Fathers. Seven years ago, the couple started a monthly parish newsletter. The newsletter takes up items of interest to Catholics, especially catechesis.
"I've been a Catholic all my life," Irene says, "but there's so much about the faith that I don't know. We figured that was true for most [Catholics], and so each month we spotlight one aspect of [our faith]. The first issue spotlighted the Mass. We also have included a lot about Divine Mercy [in the newsletter]."
From One Person, to Faith, to Many Graces
Irene says she first heard about Divine Mercy "many years ago" from "a lady one day after morning Mass." She reflected on how this one woman, through a seemingly chance encounter, got Irene and Larry onto the path of Divine Mercy and how, if the two women had not talked that day, perhaps Irene and Larry never learn of the message and devotion.
"One morning after Mass, I happened to talk to a lady," Irene says. "She began telling me about Divine Mercy. It got my interest right away, and I began to learn about it, mainly through reading. The moment I heard about Divine Mercy, I felt called to be 'doing' it, to devoting my life to help spread it as best I could. My husband took to it as well.
"Larry and I felt the best way would be to start where we live, right here and right now. Soon after hearing about Divine Mercy, I developed a health condition. I prayed to God that if He got me through it, I would do all I could to spread Divine Mercy."
From there, Irene says "so many people" have received grace and shared blessings.
A Message for Our Times ... and Some Advice
"Divine Mercy is a message for our times," Irene says. "I think the world is in a lot of trouble. People have lost hope. There are so many people who don't know about Divine Mercy. I do take seriously the request of Jesus of St. Faustina to spread the message to the world."
Asked what she would recommend to others who want to do as she and Larry have done — to become evangelizers for and of Divine Mercy — Irene says, "Get some people interested. If we work together, we can do wonderful things. A lot of people want spiritual guidance. There's a lot of people hurting out there, and I think there's a receptive audience for healing and hope."
She recommends starting simple. For example, one strategy is to distribute images of The Divine Mercy or Divine Mercy prayercards. The outlets for such pictures and cards are limited only by a person's imagination and energy, she says.
You'll find, she says, that "this work resonates with a lot of people."