NSW Hunter region priest Fr Richard Shortall SJ has been designated a Missionary of Mercy for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Fr Richard Shortall is a familiar face to many in the NSW Hunter community, thanks to his "retreat in everyday life" offered in several parishes and his accompanying the relic of St Francis Xavier back in 2012.
Now Fr Shortall has a new role.
In December, Bishop Bill Wright opened the Door of Mercy at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton, following the Pope’s opening of the Holy Door at St Peter’s in Rome. On that occasion, the enthusiasm of members of the community to embrace Pope Francis’ call to “Be merciful as God is merciful” was evident.
Speaking recently, Fr Richard said that in reading the Papal letter detailing the Jubilee Year of Mercy: “I became entranced by what Pope Francis had in mind. I spent time sitting with my wish to offer myself as a Missionary of Mercy in the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese and then took that desire to my annual retreat in June. I then made the offer to be considered as a Missionary of Mercy – and so I begin my role in (this month)!”
Fr Richard will travel independently in a motor home to places where there are communities and churches but no resident priest. While Fr Richard will base himself around churches as a practical necessity, he will also visit significant places where mercy is sought and given.
He stresses that “each day I will be available to anyone who wishes to chat” in ways which echo Pope Francis’ “desire that the year… will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God!” (Papal Letter #5). In each place, Fr Richard will welcome all who seek mercy, a listening ear and forgiveness.
Fr Richard was in Rome together with Missionaries of Mercy from all over the world for a celerbation on Ash Wednesday, during which the Pope conferred the mandate on them.
Pope Francis and Fr Richard are both Jesuits – so Fr Richard naturally feels a special connection: “He is my brother – fratello mio!”
Bishop Bill is enthusiastic about having a Missionary of Mercy in the diocese: “I would be delighted if we could lead people to realise that religion is mostly about God and God’s goodness to us, not about us and our morality.”