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Radiating the Joy of the Gospel in the Heart of the City

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March 2, 2016

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Parishes around the world are celebrating the Year of Mercy by examining the meaning of mercy and finding new ways to demonstrate mercy in the world.  St. Dominic’s, San Francisco, recently held a Jubilee Conference in response to this call.

The parishioners devised a plan to celebrate a milestone anniversary and use the occasion to create “intentional preachers”. For anyone who has ever wondered how he or she can spread the gospel in a society that is becoming more and more secular.

“At a staff retreat early last year, the conversation began as to how the parish would celebrate the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Dominican order,” recalls Michael Smith, Director of Religious Education for St. Dominic’s.  “We saw this as a way to learn more about the Dominican spirit and involve each ministry of the Church.   Prayer, service, education, community and fellowship were all envisioned to be integral parts of the event.”

Eventually they organized the Jubilee Conference.  Keynote speaker Father Michael Sweeney, OP, spoke of the mission of the Church today and how it uniquely expresses the Dominican charism of the last 800 years and into the future – not an easy feat with less than 50 minutes. 

Now fully in the midst of Lent, the Parish looks to fulfill its commitment to the Year of Mercy and spread joy to the community and San Francisco.

“Our role,” described Father Sweeney, “is to convince our brothers and sisters what it means to believe, to act beautifully, to live a moral life so that they can begin to see the truth and know that no one is ever excluded from joy.”

“Joy is a state of mind,” reminds Father Michael Hurley, pastor of St. Dominic’s.  “It is being in the presence of the Beloved, knowing we are never alone.  We see Christ and we respond.  Joy connects us to mercy and mercy responds with love to a situation; mercy equates to surprising love.”

When we choose joy, we are “vigorously alive, you become like the one you love,” remarked Father Xavier Lavagetto, former pastor of St. Dominic’s and current Pastor and Director of the Catholic Community at Stanford.

That response, that attentiveness as described by Father Hurley manifests itself in the Lima Center which serves the homeless clients of the church.  At the center, people can eat breakfast, shower and do laundry.  Food, books and clothing is also available.

At the Jubilee Conference, attendees also explored other pragmatic actions, including:  Discussions on homelessness and the ability to find joy in a seemingly hopeless environment, storytelling techniques and radiating joy as a parent.  These and other breakout sessions helped to provide a day-to-day toolkit for conference goers and parishioners to take with them and use in their daily lives.

“Every day we have an opportunity to be a blessing to others, reminds Father Hurley.  When we live our faith, we are connected to the sacraments, connected to the communication, and being that presence of Christ to others.”