By Kay Cozad
NOTRE DAME — With the Year of Mercy as declared by Pope Francis clearly underway with the faithful around the world participating in meaningful events with joy and enthusiasm, a special initiative began on Ash Wednesday in Rome. There Pope Francis commissioned over 700 of the 1,142 specially-chosen priests from every continent to be Missionaries of Mercy, authorized to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See.
One of the chosen is Holy Cross Father Joseph Corpora, priest in residence at the University of Notre Dame. After expressing an interest in the initiative to Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Father Corpora responded to the call for Missionaries of Mercy. And on Dec. 22, 2015, he received notification that Pope Francis had accepted his name. “Why?” said Father Corpora, “My deepest self-definition is that I am a sinner whose sins are forgiven. I live in and out of this truth. Perhaps in God’s Providence, this is why I was selected.”
The Holy Father met with the Missionaries of Mercy on Feb. 9 in Rome where he expressed the meaning of the initiative and on Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis celebrated a special Mass, along with the Missionaries of Mercy, during which they were given the mandate to offer others God’s mercy as well as the faculty to absolve those sins reserved to the Holy See.
Father Corpora holds great vision for this Year of Mercy initiative. “My hope is that I will be able to do some good in spreading the mercy of God by being a person of mercy. The Holy Father wants the missionaries to be living signs of the abundance of God’s mercy and forgiveness,” he said, adding, “In being accepted to be a Missionary of Mercy, one is asked to make oneself available to bishops and pastors who request help for the duration of the jubilee. During Lent I will give Days of Recollection to all the priests in our diocese as well as to the priests in the Archdiocese of Newark. I have five penance services in our diocese. I have made several other commitments to bishops and pastors outside of Lent. I continue to receive requests.”
Upon his return to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Father Corpora brought a renewed sense of God’s love and mercy to the faithful of the area. And along with his current work at the University of Notre Dame with the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) and Campus Ministry as chaplain of the Latino students, he looks forward to his role as Missionary of Mercy. “I am excited, grateful and humbled. I know that I will be enriched and fortified by the many people that I will come into contact with through this assignment. I hope to be more open to the relentless mercy of God in my own life and in accepting that mercy, I hope to be a more merciful person,” he said expectantly.
Father Corpora concluded, “I am so grateful to be a priest at this point in the Church when the Holy Father is inviting us to really be open to the mercy of God. When he opened the Holy Door of Mercy at St. Peter’s Basilica, he said, ‘How much wrong we have done to God and His grace when we speak of sins being punished by His judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by His mercy. We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event, God’s judgment will always be in the light of His mercy.’”
“I love that. I want to be part of spreading that truth and helping people to more fully accept the mercy of God,” he said.
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