By Katherine Long
If you’re intrigued by the Year of Mercy but unsure how to put your interest into action, a new collaborative effort between the Dioceses of Syracuse and Steubenville, Ohio, may be just the thing to help you get started.
The two dioceses have joined forces to create a Year of Mercy calendar that provides daily guidance to readers. Each day of the week has a theme — Sabbath Sunday, Make a Difference Monday, Transforming Tuesday, Wisdom Wednesday, Thirsting Thursday, Fasting Friday and Selfless Saturday — and each individual day has a prayer intention, inspirational quote or suggestion for action, such as “fast from worrying today” or “pray for seminarians and discerners.” There are also suggested readings from the Catechism of the Catholic Church each week, along with the pope’s prayer intentions for each month.
The calendar began with Alyson Radford, a Diocese of Syracuse native who now works as a catechetical consultant and coordinator of youth ministry for the Diocese of Steubenville. (She, however, gives all credit for the idea to the Holy Spirit.) Asked by her diocese to help brainstorm ideas for the Year of Mercy, Radford ultimately proposed a calendar.
Thinking back to the Year of Faith, she recalled often finding herself busy. “There’s so much to do, you don’t always have time,” she said. “So I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had an actual calendar that laid out of all the different ways that we could live and extend mercy?”
Radford pulled together the content, drawing from a wide range of sources, and created a mock up. She then called Mary Hallman, director of the Office of Evangelization in Syracuse, with whom she had worked the previous year, for her thoughts and input. Hallman loved the idea and said she wished she could make her own, but lacked the time. Radford had the time, but lacked the resources to design and print the finished product. The two decided to collaborate.
Hallman enlisted Bob Raymonda of Artist On Call, Inc., a parishioner of St. James in Syracuse, to complete the design work. Ten thousand copies were printed and split between the two dioceses. The project was supported by a grant from the Good News Foundation.
To date, more than 500 calendar requests have come from people in 42 states and 17 countries, according to Hallman.
The calendar’s content is also complemented by a daily email and text program, produced by Kathy Poupart in the Syracuse Office of Evangelization. The emails flesh out the daily prompts and themes found in the calendar, drawing on the words and examples of saints, Catholic writers and speakers, and a variety of other Catholic sources. Poupart said she tries to keep the corporal and spiritual works of mercy central while also providing some depth and even some humor. The brief texts mirror the calendar’s prompts.
The emails and texts are sent through Flocknote, a web-based communication platform. Radford contacted Flocknote’s founder, Matthew Warner, about using the platform for the project. Warner not only gave the team no-cost access to the tool but also sent a message to Flocknote users announcing the new initiative. Poupart said that as of early January, 17,160 people had subscribed to the emails and 10,600 had subscribed to the texts.
Poupart hopes the project results in “changed hearts and minds and souls,” ultimately showing people that they are capable of being the face of God to others. Hallman hopes to provide a tool that helps Catholics “engage people that maybe we don’t see in church.” She also hopes that perhaps the project will show people a new or different face of this Church that is so big. “This allows us to reveal the mercy of God [and] to help people find their identity as a Catholic Christian,” she said.
To receive free daily email or text messages, or to download or request a calendar, visit livemercy.org or contact your parish.