Pope to commission Cathedral rector ‘missionary of mercy’

| January 25, 2016 | 1 Comment
Pope Francis will commission Father John Ubel, rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, a missionary of mercy prior to Ash Wednesday. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Pope Francis will commission Father John Ubel, rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, a missionary of mercy prior to Ash Wednesday. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Father John Ubel, rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, is about to become one of Pope Francis’ Missionaries of Mercy.

On Feb. 8, two days before Ash Wednesday, Father Ubel will travel to Rome and be part of a group of about 800 priests throughout the world that will be commissioned by Pope Francis at an Ash Wednesday Mass 5 p.m. Feb. 10 at St. Peter’s Basilica.

“I’m really honored,” Father Ubel said. “I think that what will happen on Ash Wednesday will be a real sign of the universality of the Church.”

When Pope Francis announced the Year of Mercy, he noted that he intended to send out missionaries of mercy as part of the jubilee. “They will be a sign of the Church’s maternal solicitude for the people of God, enabling them to enter the profound richness of this mystery so fundamental to the faith,” he wrote in “Misericordiae Vultus,” the bull of indiction announcing the jubilee. “There will be priests to whom I will grant the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See, so that the breadth of their mandate as confessors will be even clearer. They will be, above all, living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon.”

Father Ubel didn’t apply for the role, and he isn’t sure who nominated him. He also isn’t certain what specifically he will do as a Missionary of Mercy in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, but he is aware that the designation will allow him to remit canonical penalties associated with certain serious sins, such as abortion. More than that, he thinks it will be a chance for him to make mercy more visible in the Church and from the pulpit.

“[Pope Francis] wants these priests to be able to preach mercy, he wants them to be heralds of joy and forgiveness,” Father Ubel said. “If this is what he is asking us to do, then the first thing I’m going to do is ask myself a question: Am I a herald of joy? Am I a herald of forgiveness? And, if not, why not? Or, how can I do so better?”

Father Ubel sees his role as being an ambassador for the pope in terms of mercy. One practical aspect is hearing confessions, which he does six days a week at the Cathedral — 4-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 3:30-5 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s a sacrament that has always been a very important part of my priesthood,” he said. “Already, since the start of the Year of Mercy, we have seen a significant uptick in the number of people who have availed themselves of the sacrament of penance. It’s already clear that this is having an effect.”

And, it doesn’t end with receiving absolution, he noted. It continues with showing mercy to others.

“I want people to know it’s really a two-way street,” he said. “It’s our reception of God’s mercy, but also our willingness to show mercy to others.”

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Category: Local News

  • tschraad

    Father Ubel was a good choice. Best wishes as you travel down this path.