Father Dan Cambra, MIC (center), with John Doering of the Divine Mercy Support Network of Sacramento, and Br. Michael Baker, MIC.
Father Dan and Br. Michael with members of the Divine Mercy Eucharistic Society and volunteers at Mary's House of Mercy, in San Pablo, Calif.
Father Dan and Br. Michael, with Thelma Orias, founder and president of Divine Mercy Eucharistic Society, in Oakland, Calif.
Father Diego gives a talk at St. Edwards Parish in Stockton, Calif.
By Br. Michael Baker, MIC
Four Marians, including Fr. Dan Cambra, Fr. Diego Maximino, Br. Thaddaeus Lancton, and me, hitched up the wagons in December and headed out west to the Golden State: not in search of gold, but in search of souls. Blazing the trails established by Blessed Junipero Serra and the early Franciscans nearly 250 years ago, we traversed the state two by two, speaking about God's unfathomable mercy and the message and devotion entrusted by our Lord to St. Faustina.
With nearly 11 million Catholics, California is fertile ground for the new evangelization and a place desperately in need of God's message of love and mercy. It was our desire to assist pastors and laity alike in acquainting them with the message and devotion of The Divine Mercy and to help them to grow in their own relationship with our Merciful Lord. In total, we visited 21 parishes, a seminary, and a home for unwed mothers in crisis — all in a six-week period!
Father Dan and I worked closely with a dedicated group of laity called the Divine Mercy Eucharistic Society. Founded in the late 1980s by Thelma Orias in the Diocese of Oakland, Calif., the group has been actively spreading the message of God's mercy for more than 20 years. They work tirelessly to spread the message of The Divine Mercy through conferences, retreats and formation programs, and they've effectively done what we're all called to do: put the message of God's mercy into action.
In 1999 they opened the first 24-hour Eucharistic adoration chapel in the Diocese of Oakland, providing the faithful with the opportunity to encounter The Divine Mercy Himself in the Blessed Sacrament. In 2001, they opened their second adoration chapel, and in 2002, they opened a home for unwed mothers called Mary's House of Mercy. More recently they've purchased more than 100 acres of land with plans to build a shrine to The Divine Mercy, which will serve as a sanctuary and place of pilgrimage "for all to learn about and receive God's unfathomable Divine Mercy."
We also had the pleasure of working with a group called the Divine Mercy Support Network of Sacramento, headed by John Doering. These lay volunteers work "to bring together individual Divine Mercy groups to encourage, promote, and practice the message of Mercy." They, too, put on conferences and hold workshops to spread the message of God's mercy.
Speaking of God's mercy, we were also able to take some time for rest and renewal while on the mission trail. God's providence placed us near Yosemite National Park, which allowed us the opportunity to explore some of the most beautiful scenery in America and come to appreciate in a deeper way, God's magnificent work of mercy in creation. While at the park we were able to see beautiful waterfalls, hike through the Mariposa Grove of giant Sequoia trees, see beautiful vistas, and enjoy a hearty bowl of chili at the famous Ahwahnee hotel. We were also able to make several visits to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and see a very special exhibit on the Shroud of Turin, which shares a very special connection with the Image of The Divine Mercy. All of this and more helped to renew our spirits in the midst of an intense mission schedule.
What struck Br. Thaddaeus the most in regards to the missions was "the openness and faith of the Hispanic people." He went on to say that "many were on their knees, crying, begging the Lord for mercy in their lives." When asked about his own experience of spreading the message of God's mercy, he said, "I can truly repeat with John Paul II, that Divine Mercy is what humanity today needs the most. I can help others in a variety of ways through works of charity, but Divine Mercy is the only way for people to receive total, complete, and final healing in their lives. It is the hope they need to believe that there is the Light in the midst of all their sufferings — the Light of Divine Mercy shedding healing for sins and new life for the world to come. In the midst of a constantly changing world, Jesus Christ provides the pillar of our lives so that we can say, with Isaiah: 'Trust in the LORD forever, For in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock'" (Is 26:4).
Father Dan Cambra, our former provincial superior in the Mother of Mercy province, was particularly moved by the miraculous healing of a wheelchair bound man who attended one of our conferences in the Sacramento Diocese. Father Dan often prays over individuals with a first class relic of St. Faustina, but he doesn't often hear about the results. One particular evening, Father Dan prayed over a diabetic man who had an ulcerated foot wound that was turning gangrenous. That night after being prayed over, the man went home to bed and when he woke up the next morning, his foot was completely healed, with no sign of the wound or gangrene. He is now walking on his own and no longer needs the aid of his wheelchair. When asked, Fr. Dan said, "this is a clear case of God's unfathomable Mercy in action. The infinite love of a merciful Father poring out His abundant graces on His beloved children. I did nothing; The Divine Mercy Himself healed this man!"
Another aspect of the trip that touched Fr. Dan was "how easily embarrassed people can be." He went onto say, "I met pastors who were embarrassed that his parishioners did not come out in greater numbers, laity were embarrassed that some of the clergy were not very welcoming, and Divine Mercy team members were embarrassed that bigger numbers of people failed to make a showing. And yet, through it all, I thought we were very warmly received and I was impressed with how many showed at odd hours. Even in the middle of the week or all day on a Saturday in Advent when most are doing their Christmas shopping."
We were all deeply touched by the warm embrace we received from all those we encountered and their deep hunger and thirst for God's message of mercy and love. It was very humbling for us to look out over the various congregations we spoke to and see people in tears, knowing that it was not us, but the Lord, touching souls at their very core, through us and through His message of mercy. It causes me to reflect upon my own vocation as a great act of God's mercy, for none of us are truly worthy of the awesome gift of religious consecration and ordination to the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
Would you like Marians to come to your parish? If so, please contact Valerie Laurizio at (413) 298-1307 to learn more about bringing the message of God's mercy to your area.
Brother Michael Baker, MIC, is a Marian seminarian living in Stockbridge, Mass., home of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy.