Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 15, 2006
Redemptorist seeks to bring back the lost
- WCR photo by Bill Glen
"Bring them in through the back door"
Fr. Daniel Francis
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Father Daniel Francis would travel to the ends of the earth if it meant bringing a single Catholic back to the Church.
He has helped to reconcile people who have been away for more than 50 years. "They return to the sacraments. They go to Confession for the first time in many years and then they come to Communion," he told the WCR.
"Pastors tell me weeks later that so many marriages have been blessed. Those are some of the immediate fruits of my mission."
A member of the Redemptorist Mission Team based in New York, Francis led a mission May 6-10 at St. John the Evangelist and Holy Spirit parishes.
Francis held several talks dealing with the meaning of the rituals and the sacraments, including a visit to Grades 4 to 6 students at Our Lady of Peace Elementary School.
Reach out to children
"We try to reach out to kids to give them an idea of religion and spirituality at their level," Francis said. He showed the children how he prays. He told them he keeps his cross close to his heart so he is always near Jesus.
Francis has been part of the Redemptorist team for 10 years.
Francis' way of encouraging a person to return to God is far from the old "hellfire and brimstone." He is calm, humorous, articulate and engaging. He used his personal experiences. He had purpose and conviction.
A loving God
He said the theory of the Redemptorist missions is based upon the order's founder St. Alphonsus who in 1732 gave his first mission to Italian goat herders who had never heard of a merciful God. They had been influenced by the heresy of Jansenism which convinced them they had to be perfect to go to Confession and Communion.
Francis sees a parish mission as an opportunity to reach out to members of a community who might have turned their backs on the Church.
The way to do that is to open the door and show them that a loving God has been waiting for their return, he said.
"I do some homebound visits. We have a large emphasis on Reconciliation. We love Mary so we always end a mission with devotion to (Our Lady of) Perpetual Help. We discuss the rituals and the sacraments," he said.
The Redemptorists have held parish missions in the West for a number of years, but have not recently come to the Archdiocese of Edmonton.
Bonnie Kirk says that might change.
"There is a spirit of renewal," says Kirk, who spearheaded the effort bringing Francis to Edmonton.
"This mission has been incredible. The Redemptorists' charism is to preach the simple Gospel message without gimmicks. Father Daniel tells the basic truth of the power of the cross," Kirk said.
Francis sees his work in terms of a "Catholic revival."
"One thing that keeps me so enthused about this form of Catholic ministry is that so many people left the Church quietly. And they want to return the same way. I'm in favour of bringing non-practising Catholics back home to the Church without fanfare. Bring them in through the back door, let them go to Reconciliation and receive Communion," he said.