Mother of Mercy House is rooted in and inspired by four PILLARS.
PILLAR ONE: Archbishop Chaput’s challenge to see the Church in new ways.
In his talk to the priests at Hershey in May, 2012, the Archbishop addressed the need to respond more creatively to the present reality of the Archdiocese. The Archbishop stated the priests and the People of God need to discover new ways of being church, a church less tethered to huge buildings or institutions. He suggested the possibility of “storefront churches”, that is, being present in neighborhoods as church in a simpler but still profound way.
During his remarks the Archbishop specifically mentioned Ascension parish which had only recently been suppressed, requesting that any priest who may be interested in developing a new presence of the Church in the former Ascension parish should alert him to that interest. Both Fathers Devlin and Murphy immediately responded both verbally and in written form, communicating their interest to the Archbishop.
Since that time, and upon further investigation of the pastoral reality and overwhelming need in that neighborhood, the desire to create a new presence and ministry of the Archdiocese there has grown and deepened for Fathers Devlin and Murphy.
PILLAR TWO: Pope Francis’ call to be a “poor Church for the poor.”
Pope Francis is constantly calling on all Catholics—ordained and lay alike—to live the gospel more radically and authentically. He challenges us to “go to the frontiers,” to reach out to the poor and marginalized, to go out of our comfort zones. He even encourages us not to be afraid to make mistakes in the process of going out and renewing the Church with the message and witness of the Gospel.
The words of the Holy Father speak deeply to Fathers Devlin and Murphy confirming their own discernment of God’s call. Both Fathers Devlin and Murphy have actively sought spiritual direction and engaged the 19th Annotation of St. Ignatius.
Their discernment is beautifully named by Pope Francis in these words:
Since this Exhortation is addressed to members of the Catholic Church, I want to say, with regret, that the worst discrimination which the poor suffer is a lack of spiritual care. The great majority of the poor have a special openness to the faith; they need God and we must not fail to offer them his friendship, his blessing, his word, the celebration of the sacraments and a journey of growth and maturity in the faith. Our preferential option for the poor must mainly translate into a privileged and preferential religious care. (Evangelii Gaudium, #200)
PILLAR THREE: Creating new structures for the 21st century Church.
With the necessary closings of parishes in certain areas of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, there is a need to discover new ways for the church to maintain its presence in the affected areas, especially since many of these areas are populated by the poor, immigrants and the most vulnerable members of society.
Creating an additional presence of the Church in the Ascension neighborhood would enable the provision of ministry to a densely populated, needy area. This ministry would enhance the good work being done by Holy Innocence parish.
What is more, both Fathers Devlin and Murphy believe such a new model of being Church could be replicated in other impoverished areas of the Archdiocese.
PILLAR FOUR: A personal call to go to the “furthest boundaries.”
In the preface of the book, The Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church, Giuliano Vigini sums ups the theology of Pope Francis this way:
“According to Pope Francis’s theology, full time Christians don’t sit down to admire their faith in the reflection of a mirror, nor talk about it over dinner, but they come out of themselves, embrace their cross with courage and walk the streets to share with everybody the joy of the Gospel.
Pope Francis never gets tired of telling everyone that evangelizing is conversion, going out, and walking. The first to be summoned are the priests, “anointed to anoint,” whose duties are to welcome and to serve. They are asked not to be afraid to go to the furthest boundaries and outskirts of human existence to meet the poor, the marginalized, and the least. Those who are materially, spiritually, and humanly poor are not the focus of special attention because they are an economic, social or pastoral problem, but because the loving God, poor among the poor, reserved for them a privileged place in Christ’s life and ministry.”