Bishop Jenky’s Festival Letter on “Divine Mercy” outlines Holy Year

Photo Caption: Holy Door sites, clockwise from left, St. Mary Cathedral, Peoria; St. John Paul II Newman Center, Normal; Holy Rosary, LaSalle; Sacred Heart, Peoria; St. John, Champaign, and St. Pius X, Rock Island.

By: By Tom Dermody

The Diocese of Peoria’s plans to observe the Holy Year of Mercy include the designation of six churches and chapels as Holy Door pilgrimage sites, according to a newly released Festival Letter by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC.

“As Christians, we know God’s mercy, and so all our lives we must continue to learn how to be more merciful to others,” writes Bishop Jenky in “Divine Mercy,” a reflection issued as the church prepares to open an extraordinary jubilee year proclaimed by Pope Francis.

The full text of Bishop Jenky’s letter is found in a pull-out section of the Dec. 6 issue of The Catholic Post. It has also been posted on the diocesan website, which offers a page of Holy Year of Mercy resources at

Schedule of blessings, openings for Holy Door sites around diocese

While Bishop Jenky’s previous 13 Festival Letters — major teaching documents for the coming year — were issued in January on the Feast of the Epiphany, the 2016 letter has been released early to correspond with the opening of the Holy Year of Mercy on Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Pope Francis has asked that all “gaze even more attentively” on the mystery of God’s mercy during the jubilee year, which concludes on Nov. 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Christ the King.

In his Festival Letter, Bishop Jenky announces that the Diocese of Peoria’s observance of the jubilee year will officially open on Dec. 13, known as Gaudete Sunday. On or before that weekend, Holy Doors of Mercy will be dedicated at the following churches and chapels designated by Bishop Jenky:

— St. Mary’s Cathedral, Peoria
— St. John Catholic Chapel, Champaign
— The Shrine Church of the Most Holy Rosary, La Salle
— St. Robert Bellarmine Chapel at St. John Paul II Newman Center, Normal
— Sacred Heart Church, Peoria, and
— St. Pius X Church, Rock Island

The specially designated churches allow local Catholics to take part in a jubilee year tradition observed in Rome, where Holy Doors are established at St. Peter’s Basilica and the city’s other major basilicas. In declaring them Doors of Mercy, Pope Francis hopes that those who pass through them “will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instills hope.”

“Throughout the Holy Year, a plenary indulgence may be gained by the faithful who enter these doors,” writes Bishop Jenky. A plenary indulgence is the removal of the temporal punishment due for the sins committed up to that time and already sacramentally forgiven. Bishop Jenky outlines the conditions for the indulgence, including sacramental confession, reception of the Eucharist, and prayer for the pope’s intention within 20 days before or after.

He asked that the designated churches and chapels in the Diocese of Peoria “make ample provision” for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and, when possible, remain open throughout the day “to help the faithful encounter the Lord of Mercy not only through the Sacred Liturgy but also in prayer, devotion and contemplation.”

In other Holy Year of Mercy directives, Bishop Jenky asked that:

— all pastors and chaplains make additional and varied times available for the sacrament of reconciliation, especially on the Wednesdays of Lent;

— frequent reference to God’s mercy be made in preaching, and

— more frequent Mass participation, adoration, and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy be encouraged.

He especially requested coordinated, regional celebrations of Divine Mercy Sunday on April 3, 2016. A significant part of Bishop Jenky’s Festival Letter explains the development of the Divine Mercy devotion following visions of Jesus experienced in the 1930s by St. Faustina Kowalska.

Bishop Jenky opens his letter by acknowledging that all blessing comes from God and that the “blessed” are called happy because they respond in praise and thanks to God’s acts, “especially God’s gracious gift of mercy.”

“Lured by this gift of mercy, we must ourselves be merciful,” writes the bishop, urging Catholics to imitate the challenging example of Jesus, whom Pope Francis refers to as “the merciful face of the Father.”

But he warned that “when human beings take on the Divine role as ultimate judge, they assume a responsibility that is not theirs,” calling it a “foolish and a heavy burden” to keep a strict account of the fault of others.

“When a relationship can be healed, Christians should be willing to take the first step towards reconciliation,” said Bishop Jenky, though he acknowledges in “toxic relationships” the best path might be to “charitably avoid all contact.”

“In any circumstance, hatred is always a corroding acid that hurts us more than the person we hate,” he wrote.

Bishop Jenky concludes by noting the Year of Mercy begins on a feast of the Blessed Mother.

“As we begin this special Holy Year of Mercy, it is a blessing and a consolation for us to remember that Mary is rightly reverenced as the Refuge of Sinners and the Mother of Mercy.”

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