Rev. Mark Wiesner is among the missionaries of mercy who received their commission from Pope Francis at St. Peter's Basilica on Ash Wednesday.
Two priests in diocese participate
Rev. Jayababu Nuthulapati
Rev. Mark Wiesner
Pope Francis marked the beginning of the church's Lenten journey by sending off several hundred religious and diocesan priests on their own special path as "missionaries of mercy" in local parishes.
"Look upon your servants, Lord, who we are sending as messengers of mercy, salvation and peace. Guide their steps" and sustain them with "the power of your grace," the pope said during a special Ash Wednesday liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica on Feb. 10.
"May Christ's voice resound in their words and Christ's heart in their gestures," he said.
More than 700 of the 1,142 missionaries specially appointed by the pope attended the Vatican Mass. Dressed in white vestments and purple stoles, the men received the pope's mandate to preach about God's mercy and special authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See.
Among those in the basilica was Rev. Mark Wiesner, who, 36 hours after receiving the commission, was presiding at the 9:30 a.m. Mass at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Livermore, where he is pastor.
"I did not meet the Holy Father," he said. But from his fourth row, second seat from the aisle, he did get a view of Pope Francis as he left the Mass.
And if Pope Francis noticed the missionary whose head was bobbing in agreement during his statements to them, he would have seen Father Wiesner.
In his homily before commissioning the priests at the end of Mass, the pope said their mandate is to be "signs and instruments of God's pardon."
The previous day, Pope Francis met with the assembled missionaries, telling them that the reassuring strength of God's love — not the "bludgeon of judgment" — will bring the "lost sheep" back to the fold.
"Being a missionary of mercy is a responsibility that is entrusted to you because it asks you to be a firsthand witness of God's closeness and his way of loving, not our way, which is always limited and sometimes contradictory," he said Feb. 9.
"It's not easy to go before another person, knowing he represents God, and confess one's sins," he said. Confessors should be respectful and encouraging, he said, because the penitents can easily feel exposed and vulnerable "with their weakness and limitations, with the shame of being a sinner."
"Do not forget, there isn't a sin before you, but a repentant sinner," a person who wants to be listened to, forgiven, and brought home again, he told them.
Hear Missionary of Mercy|
Rev. Mark Wiesner
Feb. 29-March 2, Parish mission, St. Charles Borromeo, Livermore
March 4, 7 p.m., opening speaker, 24 Hours for the Lord, Cathedral of Christ the Light, Oakland
March 8, Alameda Deanery Mission, 9 a.m. at St. Albert the Great, 7 p.m. at St. Joseph Basilica
March 14-15, 7:30 p.m., Parish Mission, St. Callistus, El Sobrante
He said he wants the missionaries to be a living expression of "the church who, like a mother, welcomes anyone who approaches her," knowing that through her they will become one with Christ.
It was a message Father Wiesner brought home to his parishioners. In the encounter with Christ in confession, he said, "what they need to experience is the maternal care of the church."
In commissioning the missionaries, the Holy Father gave them the faculty to absolve sins that are reserved to the Holy Father.
"I'd be really, really surprised if anyone came to me for any of these superpowers," Father Wiesner said, noting that "there's nothing that can't be forgiven."
The 1,142 missionaries of mercy were selected from dioceses and religious orders around the world. Among those from religious orders is Rev. Jayababu Nuthulapati, pastor of St. Edward Parish in Newark, who is a member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.
Father Nuthulapati, began his ministry in 2006 at a large retreat center in India. "I heard a lot of confessions," he said. "The greatest need I saw in people was for reconciliation, where they can confess to God and be absolved."
The young priest found himself "moved by the faith and humility" of those seeking reconciliation.
"We do have daily confession" at St. Edward, where he became pastor last year. "It's very appropriate to be available to the people of God. Any time they knock on the door, we give them the opportunity for confession," he said.
"People long to have confession" where they "always see compassion and love," he said.
In his 10 years of priesthood, he said, "Thousands of times, I have seen penitents crying at the time of absolution. They truly feel the power of absolution.
"Every time I go to confession, I have the same experience. I have been forgiven for my sins."
In addition to life at a parish with 10 weekend Masses, Father Nuthulapati serves as director of the Charismatic Renewal Movement in the diocese. A third priest is expected soon at St. Edward.
There were seven services on Ash Wednesday at St. Edward. It was after them that Father Nuthulapati, in the quiet of the rectory, went online to watch his commissioning service.
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