Alumni News | Missionaries of Mercy National Gathering
Photo: Missionary Gathering, 2016
Commissioned by Pope Francis in the Jubilee Year of Mercy (2016), Missionaries of Mercy were granted by papal mandate permission to hear confessions freely in every diocese throughout the world and authorization to absolve Reserved Sins which normally require the permission of the Apostolic See. Upon the conclusion of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis extended and expanded the appointment of the Missionaries of Mercy on the condition of their personal willingness.
Now in 2021, over a hundred priests serve as Missionaries of Mercy throughout the United States. The Rome Experience alum Fr. Rich Pagano and program advisor Fr. Roger Landry are two such missionaries.
The missionaries met August 27 – September 2, 2021 for a national gathering. Fr. Rich Pagano recounts that, “The national conference of the Missionaries of Mercy in the USA was held at St. Meinrad Archabbey, which is just such a remarkable setting. It is quiet, peaceful – a true sense of retreat.” He called to mind the Gospel passage of the past weekend in which Christ drew to himself the deaf man (Mk 7:31-37): “Jesus was presented with this man’s poverty. He took him away from the crowd, brought him into a moment of retreat, and renewed his entire personhood completely.”
This, Fr. Pagano affirms, is what is expressed by the mandate of Pope Francis. Individuals living in shame and guilt have a refuge – have personal contact with and can be cared for by a priest in their area. “Mercy renews us,” said Fr. Pagano, “And this ‘order’ of missionary priests is called to inspire the Church and work for the betterment of the Mystical Body of Christ.” Being appointed a missionary was not something that he pursued. Rather, “the bishop contacted me and then petitioned Rome. As a priest I serve with the blessing of my bishop; I share in his priesthood. In the same way, as a missionary, I share in the pastoral care of the Holy Father. I will continue to do so or cease this ministry according to the Holy Father’s direction.”
The gathering of missionaries featured a number of notable conferences by those involved, including Fr. Landry as a member of the Steering Committee who presented the results of a recent survey on Confession, and the exciting announcement that Delta Airlines is partnering with the Vatican to bring all of the Missionaries of Mercy to Rome.
Fr. Pagano spoke about the experience of being among other U.S. Missionaries of Mercy: “On a fraternal level, among the other missionaries, we felt at one. Through intentional conversations at meals or the socials at the end of the evening, we really were being reinforced. I am able to come back and preach that fire, feel its effect in the confessional, and truly live out my mission.”
Back in Florida, Fr. Pagano keeps busy at St. John Paul II parish, which now has over 1800 families. “I am so grateful for the experience of building – not closing. There is enthusiasm and mobilization among the parishioners here, which I love to be a part of,” he mentioned. The Catholic Talk Show, with episodes released weekly, is also doing really well. “Above all, we just have such a good time on there as friends! We are forming great partnerships, have a presence in Lebanon and Belize, and work with Bishop Reed in Boston who is just great. We love living our faith with joy and spreading that contagious energy.”
Fr. Rich Pagano attended The Rome Experience in 2009 and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Saint Augustine in 2013. He is the pastor at St. John Paul II Catholic Church and seeks to proclaim the Gospel in a relatable way both to those in the pews and through a variety of new media.
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