The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy – a year to experience and extend God’s mercy.
And that was the case for many people around the Archdiocese of Omaha, including three people the Catholic Voice spoke with about their efforts to experience the Year of Mercy.
They include a parishioner from Schuyler who found spiritual growth through prayer with her husband, a student at Wayne State College who discovered new ways to serve others, and a member of the Knights of Columbus in Omaha who is reaching out to serve.
EXTENDING AND RECEIVING
Adam Smith, a freshman at Wayne State College in Wayne, said the Year of Mercy helped him focus on the needs of others.
"We have a food pantry here on campus, and so I got involved in that; and I got involved in our Newman Center here that does a lot of good things for the community," he said. "We’re also looking into visiting a jail or the homeless shelters in Omaha.
"It helped me find ways to live out my faith, more than just going to Mass; there’s so much more you can do," said Smith, who also is a member of St. Anthony Parish in Columbus.
One of those acts was Smith’s participation in the archdiocese’s pilgrimage to the 2016 March for Life in Washington, D.C. It was a unique opportunity for him to deepen his faith and experience God’s mercy, he said.
"Getting to go on that trip during the Year of Mercy just gave me a lot of peace – it was really an awesome experience," he said.
Smith said he prays more now, including a rosary every day for the intentions of the Holy Father, and for anyone who needs mercy.
"That’s what we’re all about – spreading the message of mercy and living it out every day in our lives, not just this year; and in all aspects of our lives."
A PRAYERFUL EXPERIENCE
"Immensely affected. We knew this was something we needed to pursue." That’s how Jill Ruskamp of Divine Mercy Parish in Schuyler described the Year of Mercy.
Ruskamp and her husband, Randy, participated in two, 33-day self-directed retreats based on St. Louis de Montfort’s consecration to Jesus through Mary, and St. Therese’s "offering of merciful love," including a consecration to Divine Mercy.
Rising early each day before their children woke up, they read short meditations and readings exploring the spirituality of saints, then discussed the readings and how they connected with their daily lives.
By improving her personal prayer life, Ruskamp said she learned to "see people through new eyes – the eyes of Christ. This softens your viewpoint, and helps you not be mired in the muddiness of judgment."
She also chaired a parish project that reflected the spirit of the Year of Mercy, helping five couples who were civilly married return to full communion with the church by providing a joint wedding for them at no cost.
"It was important to help these people get married sacramentally and was an appropriate act of mercy for the Year of Mercy," she said.
MERCY THROUGH SERVICE
For Joe Bober, a member since 1987 of Knights of Columbus Council 3019 and a lifelong member of St. Stanislaus Parish, both in Omaha, showing mercy to others through service is nothing new.
Much of his work helping others is done through the Knights, whose meetings often began with a rosary and included discussion of the jubilee year and ways to extend mercy.
Regular service projects include a wild game feed to benefit people with special needs and a Tootsie Roll drive to raise money for those with intellectual disabilities.
And a new project Bober’s council is exploring: How best to help residents at the Eastern Nebraska Veterans’ Home in Bellevue.
"The jubilee also has made me more attentive to what goes on in the world and how we should help the needy and the homeless, and how prayer helps," he said.
"It’s softened my outlook on others, especially people in need," Bober said. "We as Catholics should be a little more attentive to their needs – not only physically, but spiritually, like talking to people who have drifted from the church and trying to teach them.
"Most of all, when somebody needs help, instead of looking the other way, I try to stop and help them," he said.
"Talking to people who might be lonely, just saying ‘have a nice day’ to someone. Although group projects are important, one-on-one conversations can mean a lot more."