Charity clusters


Three parishes combine resources to practice works of mercy

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

The cluster parishes in Wellman, Riverside and Richmond have come together to celebrate the Year of Mercy through a variety of service projects, including feeding the hungry and making blankets for persons in need.

Contributed Members of the cluster parishes in Wellman, Riverside and Richmond serve food at Iowa City’s Free Lunch Program Feb. 9. It’s one of several corporal works of mercy the cluster is practicing during the Year of Mercy.
Members of the cluster parishes in Wellman, Riverside and Richmond serve food at Iowa City’s Free Lunch Program Feb. 9. It’s one of several corporal works of mercy the cluster is practicing during the Year of Mercy.

“We wanted to emphasize the corporal works of mercy and tie them into the activities we would be doing throughout the year,” said Deacon Derick Cran­ston, deacon for the parishes.

At the beginning of the Year of Mercy, which Pope Francis opened Dec. 8, the parishes formed a Year of Mercy committee and brainstormed ideas. The first official project was selling CRS Fair Trade coffee and chocolate to support small farmer co-ops in impoverished countries. Deacon Cranston said this project offered an opportunity to practice the corporal work of giving alms to the poor.

The projects have continued during the Lenten season. Last month, about 15 members of the cluster parishes served food at Iowa City’s Free Lunch Program (FLP). FLP serves lunch six days a week, relying on volunteer teams to prepare and serve nutritious meals using their own food or food from local restaurants, grocery stores, a food distributor or from the Free Lunch pantry where items are obtained through the HACAP Food Reservoir.
Cluster volunteers from age 19 to 70 prepped and served the FLP meal Feb. 9. Parishioners unable to volunteer in person donated food and money to the project.

Sandy Marner of Holy Trinity Parish-Richmond led the cluster’s participation in the project. “Personally I found the experience so uplifting! I sat down and ate lunch with three nice men and we had such a nice conversation. They asked lots of questions and we shared stories. FLP encourages the volunteers to eat lunch with the guests so it feels like a home-like atmosphere.”

The cluster plans to return to FLP in June. They join St. Mary, St. Wenceslaus and St. Patrick parishes in Iowa City; St. Joseph Parish-Hills, St. Thomas More Parish-Coralville and St. Mary Parish-Solon as Catholic entities offering regular support to the program.

Last month, the three cluster parishes began making and collecting blankets for homeless veterans and other in-need individuals as a way to demonstrate the corporal work of clothing the naked. Deacon Cranston said the parish got the religious education students involved with the project by having them bring used blankets from home and make tie blankets in class. “This was a good opportunity to catechize our kids. … Young kids are more apt to learn when there is something tangible they can do and be a part of.” So far, the parish has donated 60 blankets. They will continue donating and making blankets in March.

Future corporal works of mercy projects include making May Day baskets and delivering them to nursing homes and homebound individuals (visiting the sick); hosting a food drive (feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty); hosting a Christmas in July toy drive (giving alms to the poor); making gift baskets for the homebound (visiting the sick); and making care packages for college kids, military personnel and individuals in jail (visiting the prisoner).

Deacon Cranston said through the Year of Mercy projects the cluster will have covered six of the seven corporal works of mercy. “It’s truly a cluster-wide effort, as members of all three parishes offer to volunteer.”

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Putting the works of mercy to the test


A Davenport alderman’s letter to the editor in the Quad-City Times serves as a challenge to Catholics this Lenten season in the Year of Mercy, even if that was not his intention. A convicted sex offender — described in Alderman Ray Ambrose’s letter as “a repeat and violent rapist” — has served his time and may be coming to Davenport to live.

The alderman cites several convictions to demonstrate the danger that Ben Sanders presents to society. Ambrose also cites the newspaper’s previous reporting that Sanders, convicted of rape and sexual abuse committed in Scott County, “is more likely than not to commit another act of sexual violence. …” The letter concludes: “Stop placing men like Ben Sanders in our neighborhoods.”

The alderman’s letter appeared two days after Pope Francis visited Cereso prison in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where he told the detainees that mercy “embraces everyone and is found in every corner of the world. There is no place beyond the reach of (God’s) mercy, no space or person it cannot touch.” What an inspiring, but challenging message to reflect on when we’re dealing with outcasts in our own neighborhoods. How do we respond? How do we balance the Gospel call to love our enemies with our responsibility to care for the vulnerable in our communities?

In his letter explaining the purpose of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis described a “burning desire” that Christians reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead. The spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear patiently with those who do us ill and pray for the living and the dead.

Truth be told, many of us would be relieved to know that Ben Sanders wouldn’t be living anywhere near us. We wouldn’t have to deal with him or have fear of him. But what about other prisoners and parolees, the individuals whose names we’ve found on the Iowa Sex Offenders Registry? Do we shun them, or offer them even a bit of human kindness?

Some 8,200 inmates were confined in Iowa prisons in fiscal year 2015, a figure that doesn’t include inmates in the state’s county jails. And it doesn’t include the children and adults whose loved ones have been incarcerated. Do we avoid them, or offer them even a bit of human kindness?

Deacon David Sallen has volunteered for nearly a decade at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison where individuals who have committed the most serious offenses are sent. He knows that not everyone has the inclination or the personality to do prison ministry. But people of faith can act on that corporal work of mercy in other ways. “The one thing everyone can do is pray – for the prisoners and for their families,” Deacon Sallen, a member of Holy Family Parish in Fort Madison, said.

Employers could reflect on their willingness to provide job opportunities to people with criminal records, and to family members struggling to make ends meet because their bread winner is in prison or jail. Teachers aware of a student with a close relative in prison could provide a little extra attention to that student. “They are going to have extra needs that the average student isn’t going to have,” Deacon Sallen observes. He encourages all of us to challenge individuals speaking negatively about a prisoner or the prisoner’s family member. Consider serving as a mentor in a drug court program, such as in Scott and Lee counties. Join Quad Cities Interfaith and other groups collaborating to explore establishment of a Scott County Mental Health Court.

Individuals like Ben Sanders are a challenge for us because of the misery they have inflicted repeatedly on their fellow human beings. But God’s mercy extends to them as well. If one of them moves into the neighborhood, go ahead and get the Neighborhood Watch activated. But how about offering them a cup of coffee and a prayer, too?

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor

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Our Lady of the Prairie offers Year of Mercy programs


By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

WHEATLAND — When planning programs and retreats at Our Lady of the Prairie in rural Wheatland, the advisory committee looks at what is going on in the church. “Pope Francis’ peace messages and themes have been the focus the last couple of years,” said director Sister Kathleen Storms, SSND.

A pond at Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat near Wheatland.
A pond at Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat near Wheatland.

The pope’s release of his encyclical Laudato Si and designation of the Year of Mercy provided plenty of ideas for events at the Prairie.
“Several of our programs and retreats are specifically designed around this goal (of mercy),” Sr. Storms said. The Second Step of Mercy: A Men’s Retreat was held Jan. 29-31. Women of Mercy: A Women’s Re­treat, will be held March 18-19. Kathy Coffey, author of “Women of Mercy,” will lead the retreat. Journey to For­giveness, by Pat Shea, will be held April 29-May 1. Works of Mercy in Action is scheduled for Aug. 7 and The Promise of Restorative Justice, with Fred Van Liew, author of “The Justice Diary — an Inquiry into Justice in America,” will be held Oct. 21-23. Sr. Storms noted that “all of our Come to the Quiet days are an aspect of Year of Mercy.”

To highlight Works of Mercy in Action, Sr. Storms plans to have a speaker who will talk about works that have been set up in Cedar Rapids and the outreach for those who suffered because of the 2000 flood. Also, “we intend to have Humility of Mary Shelter and Housing, someone from RiverBend Food Bank and other folks. I am open to others.”

Sr. Storms
Sr. Storms

Sr. Storms said the first of two fundraisers for Our Lady of the Prairie has a mercy theme: Rooted in Love: the Life and Martyrdom of Sister Dorothy Stang. That event will be held at St. Ambrose University in Davenport on March 10 at 7 p.m. Sister Nancy Murray, OP, will perform a one-woman play about Sr. Stang, an American nun who was murdered in Brazil.

Relating to Laudato Si and Earth Day is “Compassion for Our Fragile Earth,” by Sister Janet Maliak, SSND, and Sister Paulette Zimmer­man, SSND, from April 22-24. “I have studied both the Year of Mercy suggestions and Laudato Si in coming up with the programs,” Sr. Storms said. “Speakers sometimes are local and have been suggested by participants in our ongoing programs. I read books on the topics and check out the availability of presenters. Programs are set up seasonally as well — Lent usually has presenters for both men and women’s retreats.”
She is especially excited that Coffey, a well-known international presenter, is doing a weekend at the Prairie on Women of Mercy. Reflecting on mercy with “skin and a human face,” Coffey asks “What can better lead us into the quality of mercy than seeing it at work in the lives of those who make it tangible? Mercy can re­main an abstraction until we see it flourish in Teresa of Avila, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Katharine Drexel and many more merciful models.” Through the art of Michael O’Neill McGrath, lively storytelling, discussion and quiet reflection, participants will discover “what mercy means to me.” Taking thoughtful ownership through this process will enable us to better embrace Pope Francis’ invitation.

To see all the programs the Prairie has to offer, visit and click on Prairie Retreat. To book a program or to inquire about financial assistance, call (563) 336-8414. Many programs book early.

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Missionaries of Mercy: Two diocesan priests reflect on their yearlong commission


By Lindsay Steele and
Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Fathers David Brown­field and Marty Goetz of the Davenport Diocese are among 1,142 priests from around the world who have been commissioned by Pope Francis as “missionaries of mercy.”

The two diocesan priests received their special mandate during an Ash Wednesday ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica on Feb. 10, following a selection process that included an endorsement from Bishop Martin Amos. Now back home, they’re looking forward to preaching and teaching about God’s mercy and serving especially as confessors during the Year of Mercy. Both priests will continue to minister to their own parishes, as they reassured their parishioners, in addition to doing missionary work.

Contributed Father Marty Goetz, left, and Father David Brownfield were both named Missionaries of Mercy and commissioned Feb. 10 by Pope Francis. Here they are pictured with St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in the background.
Father Marty Goetz, left, and Father David Brownfield were both named Missionaries of Mercy and commissioned Feb. 10 by Pope Francis. Here they are pictured with St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in the background.

“In 25 years as a priest I see this as a wonderful opportunity to renew the sacrament of reconciliation,” said Fr. Brownfield, pastor of St. Mary Parish-Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish-Richmond and St. Joseph Parish-Wellman. He’s seen participation in the sacrament drop over the years; he believes the pope’s emphasis will encourage Catholics to return to confession.

Fr. Goetz said he has experienced the profound gift of mercy in his own life, and that’s why he wanted to be a missionary of mercy. “I have been blessed in so many ways; when I had lost my way, God gave me the gift of mercy, the gift of a second chance, and I wanted to be able to share that special gift with others, especially those going to confession.”

As missionaries of mercy, Frs. Brownfield and Goetz will be invited by individual diocesan bishops in the United States to give missions or facilitate specific initiatives organized for the Year of Mercy, with particular attention given to the sacrament of reconciliation. They will be able to forgive sins that, under normal circumstances, only the pope can forgive. Among these sins are physically attacking the pope, desecrating the Eucharist, and a confessor breaking the seal of the confessional.

Among the highlights of the trip to Rome for both priests was “celebrating Mass with the Holy Father on Ash Wednesday with about 1,000 other priests,” Fr. Brownfield said. “It was very powerful for me to be with brother priests from all over the world to do this,” Fr. Goetz added.

During the commissioning, the pope’s observations about confession affected Fr. Goetz deeply. Pope Francis explained the need for priests to be a merciful presence for those who come to confession, as many are afraid of being judged. Additionally, he explained the need for priests to be aware of their own need for mercy.

Fr. Goetz said he is aware of the feelings people have when they approach the confessional, but for the Holy Father to speak of those feelings really “slapped me upside the head.” Pope Francis said that people coming to confession may feel afraid and full of shame. Fr. Goetz understands those feelings because “I’m afraid when I go to confess! …We need to take people where they’re at and show them a Father’s love.”

While the commissioning was a memorable event, another highlight of the trip to Rome for Fr. Goetz was the opportunity to pray before the
relics of St. Padre Pio and St. Leopold, two Capuchins who were known for the time they devoted to hearing confessions. “If you look at St. Padre Pio and St. Leopold, whose relics were brought to Rome for the commissioning,” Fr. Brownfield said, “each of them represents a different point that the pope emphasized about confession.”

Contributed Father Marty Goetz, left, and Father David Brownfield are pictured in Rome.
Father Marty Goetz, left, and Father David Brownfield are pictured in Rome.

The two points focused on discerning an individual’s contrition and on welcoming that person in the confessional. The pope used the image
of Noah, a righteous man who, like all human beings, sinned. When Noah got drunk and was laying uncovered in his tent, God took a blanket of mercy and covered up Noah. “God takes the blanket of mercy and covers up the shame of our sin,” Fr. Brownfield said.

He also appreciated receiving a special stole, bearing the image of a cross on one side and the logo for the Year of Mercy on the other.

Fr. Brownfield said he’ll wear his Year of Mercy stole for communal penance services long after the year concludes on Nov. 20.

Fr. Goetz looks forward to focusing his attention on being a merciful presence in the Burlington area he serves, as well as with anyone he meets or may be called to serve at a later time.

“We have been sent forth to be instruments of God’s mercy. Whatever I do, wherever I go, I am to be a missionary of mercy. When people
come to my door or I meet someone on the street, I should be a sign of God’s mercy,” Fr. Goetz said.

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Knoxville parish explores corporal works of mercy during Lent


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

KNOXVILLE — T. Waldmann-Williams admits she is more likely to lose her cardboard CRS Rice Bowl bank each year than she is to fill it with change. This year, though, things are going to be different.

Contributed Members of St. Anthony Parish-Knoxville’s Social Action Committee serve Rice Bowl meals to parishioners after Mass the weekend of Feb. 6-7. The parish is incorporating lessons and acts of mercy into their Lenten observances this year.
Members of St. Anthony Parish-Knoxville’s Social Action Committee serve Rice Bowl meals to parishioners after Mass the weekend of Feb. 6-7. The parish is incorporating lessons and acts of mercy into their Lenten observances this year.

“I have the Rice Bowl where I can see it — right by my Kleenex tissues because I use them quite often,” she quipped. “Every time I sneeze, I’ll consider what I need to get rid of in my life to allow room for God’s plan in my life.”

She credits this newfound inspiration to the initiatives her parish, St. Anthony Parish-Knoxville, has taken on to encourage its members to practice corporal works of mercy during Lent, including Rice Bowl.

To get people excited about Rice Bowl, Father Jake Greiner spoke about the Lenten collection in his homilies Feb. 6-7 at the Knoxville parish where he is pastor. He noted that one local nonprofit, Helping Hands, received a $2,000 donation last year from the portion of diocesan Rice Bowl collections that remain in the diocese. With that money, the organization was able to donate roughly 14,000 pounds of food to families in need.

The pastor noted that Lent is a perfect time for personal growth and spiritual transformation with a focus on praying, fasting in solidarity and almsgiving.

Fr. Greiner told The Catholic Messenger, “It is my hope and prayer that my parishioners are challenged to acknowledge that mercy is not an abstract idea, but mercy is supposed to be concrete actions that we do every day in the practice of our faith. The corporal works of mercy are a great start in living out mercy in our lives.”

YOM-lenten-series-1-1After Masses that weekend, Fr. Greiner and the parish’s social action committee served all five ethnic recipes from the Rice Bowl promotional materials for parishioners to taste test. Each of the recipes came from a country that Rice Bowl assists with economic empowerment endeavors. Seventy-five percent of Rice Bowl donations go abroad through Catholic Relief Services, with 25 percent staying local.

“The purpose of the taste testing was to create a relationship with, be in solidarity with, and learn from the five countries Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Rice Bowl program is highlighting this year,” Waldmann-Williams said.

Tasters gave the recipes a wide variety of critiques. Some recipes were deemed “delicious,” while others were labeled as “not salty enough,” “different” or “colorful.” But the project started a constructive dialogue and many parishioners vowed to try the cost-effective, vegetarian recipes at home. The Rice Bowl program encourages families to eat simpler meals when possible during Lent and to donate the savings. “I can’t believe you can feed a family of five for $2.50 and have it taste this good,” one tester commented.

On Feb. 13 and 14 the parish hosted a doughnut social with fair trade coffee, which was sold after the Masses along with fair trade chocolate. The World Fair Trade Organization defines fair trade as a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks greater equity in international trade. Fair trade contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers.

On Feb. 27-28 parishioners are invited to make shoes for children in Uganda through a program called “Sole Hope.” Waldmann-Williams said these activities align with the corresponding Lenten weekly learning and reflecting programs on mercy, particularly considering the corporal works of mercy.

Fr. Greiner hopes his parishioners, and all Catholics, will take a spirit of mercy far beyond the Lenten season and the Year of Mercy. “Mercy is supposed to be one of the defining features of our lived experience as Catholics,” he said. “It is my hope and prayer that my parishioners will be people who learn to live mercy — seeing others as Jesus Christ and tending to the needs of his body. If parishioners start living with this vision, it would radically transform a parish and the larger community around it.”

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Soup suppers help students


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

OTTUMWA — It’s a longstanding tradition for Catholics in the Ottumwa area to eat a bowl of homemade soup on Ash Wednesday and help college-bound students at the same time.

YOM lenten seriesSt. Patrick and St. Mary of the Visitation parishes each host a lunch and supper, with soups made by the two religious education co-directors, Gail Bates and Lisa Canny. Their husbands and volunteers also pitch in. The two parishes share a religious education program, and older students and high-schoolers are encouraged to help serve the dinner of their home parish.

Diners eat for a free-will donation. The parishes combine the donations and add them to a college scholarship fund for high school seniors from Ottumwa and Bloomfield parishes. The soup meals are one of several ways the religious education department helps raise money for the scholarships.

Eligible applicants must demonstrate involvement in parish life. Need is also taken into consideration. Bates, a member of St. Patrick’s, said past scholarship winners have served the parish in a variety of ways. Some help with religious education after they are confirmed, while others help around the building and grounds. Some babysit, altar serve, lector or serve as a eucharistic minister. “They just need to have involvement. We even count helping at the soup suppers!”

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Lenten mission in Albia


Albia — St. Mary Parish is hosting a Monroe County Lenten Mission March 5-8 with Sister Barbara Jean Franklin, ASC.
Sr. Franklin is a 50-year member of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ. She gives retreats and days of reflection and has written articles and reflections which have been published in various Precious Blood newsletters and magazines. She is the author of three books of reflections on the Sunday Gospels entitled “Through Another Lens.”
During her mission in Albia, she will explore the message behind the Year of Mercy and invite participants to “open their hearts.” She will speak at all weekend Masses. Mission schedule is as follows:
March 5: 5:10 p.m. Mass followed by social.
March 6: 8 a.m. Mass followed by potluck; 1 p.m. communal penance.
March 7: 9 a.m. Mass; 7 p.m. presentation by Sr. Franklin (both followed by social).
March 8: 9 a.m. Mass; 7 p.m. presentation by Sr. Franklin (both followed by social).
Babysitting available; call (641) 932-5589. For a ride call (641) 932-5589 by 4 p.m. on the day ride is needed.

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