Last week, local parishioners and members of the Diocesan Evangelisation Team offered an invitation to a meal and a prayerful experience at each of the five Doors of Mercy across the Archdiocese of Cardiff. Hundreds of people accepted the invitation to share a meal at table; many took the opportunity to pass through the Holy Door and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The Cardiff “Jesus Youth” group went each day to the secondary school in the parish: St. Mary’s in Hereford; Bishop Hedley High School in Merthyr Tydfil; St. Joseph’s High School in Newport; Archbishop McGrath High School in Bridgend and (in parallel with the Cathedral day) St. Richard Gwyn High School in Barry. The group worked with Year Seven pupils in each school, exploring the love and mercy of the Lord in an age-appropriate and engaging way.
Although the days differed from each other, all comprised the same elements. There was Mass and a Holy Hour to support the day in each parish. There were two or three shared meals, lunch, tea and an evening meal, then a short talk giving an overview of the Holy Year of Mercy and the Holy Door of Mercy. This was followed by a discussion at each table, facilitated by a table host, which explored a Gospel story and focussed on the divine and unconditional love and forgiveness of the Lord. This was the message of love and mercy that the Holy Door event in each parish wished to share with all those who came.
After this, people who wanted to do so were invited to go through the Holy Door. At each of these Doors, there was a particular liturgy delivered by people from the parish mainly, but helped where needed by members of the diocesan team. The liturgies were powerful, evocative and very meaningful. Many people used the opportunity to go to Confession. It was evident that going through the Holy Door and participating in a short liturgy moved many people considerably. Some shared their stories and expressed their joy and gladness to have attended the event. For one parishioner, it was the first time she had ever been asked to read in church. For a few, it was their first visit to worship in church for several years. For some, it was the first time they celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation after a gap of many years. All told, more than 700 people (team members and guests) enjoyed 12 meals at five venues in five days in pursuit of one message – the message of God’s unconditional love.
The local parish teams and the members of the Diocesan Evangelisation Team have made an important step in the work of the Church to invite those on the margins to connect or re-connect with the Catholic community. The Holy Door event must not be seen as an end in itself but as a beginning of something further. The band of helpers in each parish might now form the basis of an evangelisation team, which can continue the work of evangelisation in the months and years to come. The Year of Mercy will end in November, but the work will not: “No one can be excluded from God’s mercy.”