On Ash Wednesday 2016, Pope Francis sent forth more than 1,000 priests, including Fr. Tom Orians, SA, as “missionaries of mercy”. Now, the Holy Father has extended Fr. Tom’s commission from the Year of Mercy to a lifetime appointment.
Pope Francis called these missionaries from around the world to be “signs of this mercy of the Lord’, and “to make ourselves very available in bringing about that reconciliation of God through the sacred ministry of Confession.”
Fr. Tom reflected on the appointment explaining, “Since the earliest day of the community the Founder of the Society of the Atonement Servant of God Fr. Paul Wattson, SA, always reminded the friars to “pray to God the Father to withhold punishment and continue to show mercy and forgiveness towards God’s people.” In receiving this mandate as a Missionary Mercy, I see it as a continuation of the Friars of the Atonement charism of reconciliation.”
Missionaries of Mercy are charged by Pope Francis to be “facilitators of a truly human encounter, a source of liberation, rich with responsibility for overcoming obstacles and taking up the new life of Baptism again” (Misericordiae Vultus,18). They have been granted special permission as well to absolve sins that are normally reserved to the Holy See (such as profaning the Eucharist).
In addition, Fr. Tom and other missionaries of mercy are called to share the message of the mercy of God through their preaching, talks, retreats and other opportunities.
“To exercise this special ministry furthers the work of the Friars in bringing about healing and reconciliation (at-one-ment) in the lives of those most in need of the mercy of God”, says Fr. Tom. “I look forward to fulfilling this challenge because for me that is exactly what the friars do in bringing to life God’s mercy in the sacrament of Reconciliation enabling those most in need to once again be “at-one” with God.”
The Holy Father has requested that all missionaries return to Rome on Divine Mercy Sunday in April 2018 to share with one another their experiences and for further formation. Fr. Tom summarizes this extraordinary call saying, “The Holy Father challenged us to “be willing to walk patiently alongside the faithful on their penetential journey…and to be generous in dispensing God’s forgiveness” (Misericodia et Misera, 10).