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Mission Possible

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By Marc Massery (Jan 9, 2018)
Father Chris Alar, MIC, director of the Association of Marian Helpers, has only been ordained three and a half years, but he's already lost count of the number of times he's boarded an airplane to spread the message of Divine Mercy. Since 2010, under the leadership of Fr. Chris and Fr. Dan Cambra, MIC, the Marian Evangelization Team has been bringing a piece of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy to parishes nationwide.


The idea to assemble a parish mission team started with Fr. Chris before he was even a perpetually professed Marian brother. After spending some time in Marian formation, Chris left the Marians in May 2009 to discern a call to marriage. In late January 2010, he came back to the Order for good. Since he had missed the beginning of the winter semester in seminary, Chris returned to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he would remain until school began in the fall. "I just started going into the Marian Helpers Center, meandering through the halls, getting involved in all kinds of different projects," Fr. Chris said.

That February, a parish in Rochester, New York, called Fr. Dan, the Marian Provincial at the time, and asked if he would deliver a parish mission. Father Dan had not given a parish mission in many years. "I brought Chris along with me," Fr. Dan said. Before they left for Rochester, Fr. Dan was struck with the idea to bring along a few boxes of Divine Mercy pamphlets and images. He also made Chris carry a few boxes of Marian Press books.

"The first night [of the mission], Fr. Dan hit a home run," Fr. Chris recalled. The parishioners told Fr. Dan that it was the best parish mission they had ever been to. They took every last Divine Mercy pamphlet and prayercard, and they purchased every book.

On the third and final night of the mission, Fr. Dan was still hearing confessions before his talk at 7 p.m. "He had a line a mile long. Everyone wanted to go to Confession," Fr. Chris said. Five minutes before Fr. Dan was supposed to speak, in between penitents, Chris peeked his head into Fr. Dan's confessional and told him that it was time to go on.

"Don't you know something about St. Faustina?" Fr. Dan said. "Go up there and tell them the basics." That night, without the advantage of wearing a collar, Chris Alar gave his first parish mission talk.

"The way people responded, we realized that they were hungry for the Word and hungry for Divine Mercy," Fr. Chris said.

When they returned to Stockbridge, Fr. Dan and Chris drafted a letter addressed to nearby parishes, telling them that if they could not bring their community to the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, then the Marian Fathers would bring the Shrine to them through a parish mission.

Father Dan gave Chris permission to mail the letter to parishes within a 50-mile radius of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. They soon started receiving invitations from around the country. "We took invitations to go to parishes without regard for whether or not they could pay us anything," Fr. Dan said. Thus, the Marian Fathers' parish mission team was born.

Since his first brief talk about St. Faustina in Rochester, New York, Fr. Chris himself has spoken to more than 100,000 parishioners across the country. Though Fr. Dan has been listed as the spiritual director of the Marian Evangelization Team, he attributes most of its success to Fr. Chris. Other members of the team include: Fr. Mark Baron, MIC; Fr. Thaddaeus Lancton, MIC; Fr. Jim McCormack, MIC; Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC; and Fr. Anthony Gramlich, MIC, among others — and in a special way, Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, and Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC. Now, the Marian Evangelization Team has spoken to parishes in almost every state in the country — including Hawaii and Alaska.

Proceeds raised through good-will offerings and sales of Divine Mercy material at the missions have gone to support the seminarians. "We did not start a parish mission team to raise money. But now that we have so many seminarians, it would be difficult to afford them without it," Fr. Chris said. Each seminarian costs almost $40,000 per year to house, feed, insure, and educate. With over 30 seminarians in formation, costs exceed $1 million a year. "We feed the people spiritually, and they feed us physically," Fr. Chris said. He added that though the main goal of the parish missions is to spread the message of Divine Mercy, it also serves as an opportunity for the Marian Fathers to connect with Marian Helpers around the country and to invite new members into the Association.

A Recent Mission

This year during the weekend before the Feast of St. Faustina, Fr. Chris travelled to Batavia, Illinois, to give a parish mission at Holy Cross Catholic Church, a community of about 3,500. He gave a series of three talks, as is his custom, one each night starting on Sunday.

A day before the mission, Fr. Chris arrived in Batavia to immerse himself in the life of the parish community. He gave the homily at all the weekend Masses; he attended a fundraiser at the home of a family from the parish; and he even prayed the Rosary and the Chaplet with dozens of parishioners outside of an abortion clinic. Later during the mission, he celebrated Masses, heard confessions until almost midnight, and spoke to all 420 students at the parish elementary school, then visited several of the classrooms individually.

Father Jim Parker, pastor at Holy Cross, was hoping that Fr. Chris' parish mission would inspire lukewarm parishioners and encourage those who were already fervent. Almost 500 parishioners came each night of the mission. "It was a phenomenal response," Fr. Parker said.

Father Chris hopes that as the Marian Fathers grow in number, they will be able to expand the Marian Evangelization Team and spread the message of Divine Mercy to more parishes. Currently, parish missions are being booked for Fr. Chris even into 2019. "We're teaching the teachers," Fr. Chris said. "Catholics need to know how to teach Divine Mercy. But first we have to help them understand it."

See if the Marian Fathers are coming to an area near you. We are booking for next summer and beyond. To arrange for a mission, visit TheDivineMercy.org/mission or call (413) 298-1349.

Order Fr. Chris' Divine Mercy 101 on DVD or on CD online or call 1-800-462-7426.

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