Bishop Anthony B. Taylor is acting on a constant theme of the synodal process in Arkansas for the desire for more opportunities for spiritual growth.
On the feast of Corpus Christi, June 11, St. Edward Church in Little Rock will be established as a diocesan shrine of Divine Mercy.
“This shrine will be at and will serve as a place of pilgrimage, adoration and reconciliation,” Bishop Taylor said.
In an announcement made during a recorded homily to all Masses Dec. 3-4, he said he hopes to increase Catholics’ love for and appreciation of the Eucharist during the national Eucharistic revival, which runs through 2024, by announcing the new initiative at one of the diocese’s most historic churches.
Plans call for eucharistic exposition and adoration to take place at 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and at 3 p.m. — the hour of mercy — on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The sacrament of reconciliation will be available in English and in Spanish every day during adoration except Monday.
This shrine will be a ministry of St. Edward Parish, but priests in the diocese’s Central Deanery will assist, said St. Edward pastor Father Juan Manjarrez.
St. Edward Parish and School, which date back to 1885, were named in honor of then-Bishop Edward Fitzgerald. The current church was dedicated July 4, 1905, and the school underwent several expansions and modernizations. Unfortunately, student enrollment declined to the point that it became necessary to close the school in 2019. An Early Learning Center for children 18 months or older opened at the church in August 2019.
About the same time, the neighboring Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, formerly known as the Arkansas Arts Center, began a $142 million renovation, will reopen in April and is expected to be a major attraction in downtown Little Rock.
“Our parish history is that of an immigrant church. It's always been welcoming of immigrants throughout its history, first with the Germans, later with the Polish and Irish and now, of course, a lot of Latinos,” Father Manjarrez said. “It’s always kind of been the Mother Church, so, we’re continuing in that kind of tradition of welcoming people into our parish, to show our beautiful church. I think it is going to be an opportunity for the parish to grow and hopefully get new parishioners with people coming in wanting to be part of our shrine.”
Father Manjarrez said he is working with the bishop and parish council to acquire a statue or image of the Divine Mercy for the sanctuary.
According to the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, a fraternal community best known for their work promoting the message of Divine Mercy, Polish sister St. Faustina Kowalska began having visions and conversations with Jesus which she wrote about in her diary. On Sunday, Feb. 22, 1931, Jesus appeared to her wearing a white alb with red and blue rays emanating from his heart, and said to her, “Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in you. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.… I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and (then) throughout the world.”
“The bishop wants us to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament and experience God’s love and experience his mercy,” Father Manjarrez said. “The idea, at least from my point of view, is to encourage people to fall in love again with the sacrament of reconciliation. It’s the sacrament that opens our way to receive the Eucharist. It gives us that opportunity to be in communion with the Lord. It’s an incredible gift. It's an immeasurable treasure that he wants to give us freely.
“At the shrine there will be stable, set times where people know that there's always a confessional there, and they can prepare themselves to receive the Lord, to know the Lord loves them in a very concrete way,” he said. “You don't have to wonder once you get out of the confessional whether you've forgiven or not.”
While some Catholics may have an aversion to going to confession, Father Manjarrez said the sacrament helps us to become better Catholics because we are more likely to be aware of our sins and to extend grace and forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
“Many people don’t like going to confession because we are prideful,” he said. “I can’t remember the saint who put it this way, but the devil takes away all the shame when we are about to commit a sin, so we can do it and don't feel bad about it. When we confess, that shamefulness comes back, but God forgives us. His mercy is a treasure, and there's nothing that we can do to deserve that. This incredible sacrament of healing is a free gift from the Lord. It's an opportunity for people to grow. Use it for your future. Use it for your eternal life.”
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