January 29, 2016
On Ash Wednesday, the Missionaries of Mercy will be sent forth by Pope Francis during a celebration in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Monsignor Thomas Richter will be among them.
Back in August, the Vatican put out a call for priests to be nominated as a Missionary of Mercy in correlation with the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Pope Francis was looking for a few good priests known for their preaching and dedication to hearing confessions and granting absolution. Monsignor Richter’s name made it on that list, to his amazement since he admits not even being aware that the pope sent out the call for nominations.
“I was surprised, to best describe my reaction to the news,” Msgr. Richter said. “When the Holy Father asks a simple parish priest like me to do something on his behalf, it is always an experience of being humbled and honored.”
He will be commissioned formally in Rome by the pope Feb. 10, Ash Wednesday. Here, these missionaries will be appointed “a living sign of the Father’s welcome to all those in search of his forgiveness” according to Vatican officials.
Most notably, the authority to forgive reserved sin will be given to each one of them personally in cases otherwise reserved to the Holy See. An example of a “reserved” sin would be desecration of the Eucharist, breaking the seal of confession, or violence against the Pope.
The missionaries number 800, with some 100 priests being assigned to the United States. “He has chosen us with a great mission,’’ Monsignor said, “as confessors and instruments of the mercy of the Father.”
At the invitation of local bishops, the missionaries will be sent to dioceses around the world to preach, lead spiritual retreats, and hear confessions. Monsignor Richter will be of service as a Missionary of Mercy to dioceses across the U.S. during the holy season of Lent, returning to his assignment at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit on Palm Sunday.
“Thanks to the generosity of Bishop Kagan, I’m being released from my duties at my parish during this time so I can focus all my time, energy and prayer toward being a missionary of mercy,” Monsignor said. “I’m looking forward to it as a full, fruitful, grace-filled time.”