Throughout the Year of Mercy, individuals, parishes and other organizations completed projects on the corporal works of mercy. The Witness also did a series of articles on these works in the archdiocese. Here is a roundup of the stories featured this year:
• The Sister Water Project, initiated by the Sisters of Saint Francis of Dubuque, with support from their associates, has raised more than $950,000 to help bring clean drinking water to the people of Tanzania and Honduras. Area Catholics have gone on service trips to help with the construction of wells and water systems in those countries.
• The Catholic parishes in Waterloo hosted a dialogue on the Year of Mercy on Jan. 18 with Dr. Charlotte Wells, associate professor of history at the University of Northern Iowa. Wells discussed the origin and history of jubilee years in the Catholic Church and their roots in Jewish tradition.
• Spires of Faith Cluster (Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, Dyersville; SS. Peter and Paul, Petersburg; St. Boniface, New Vienna; St. Joseph, Earlville; St. Paul, Worthington) collected money to help bring clean water to people in Haiti. Parishioners offered their donations in water buckets left in each of the churches on the weekend of Jan 16-17. Spires of Faith has a sister parish in Haiti.
• The 95 students of Sacred Heart School in Maquoketa collected more than 900 bottles of water this January and sent them, along with personal notes, to the Maquoketa Community Cupboard and a homeless shelter in Dubuque.
• St. Mark Parish, Edgewood, and St. Patrick Parish, Colesburg, sponsored “Mercy Days,” a three-day renewal in February. • The Cathedral of St. Raphael in Dubuque was designated as a site for pilgrimage during the Year of Mercy. The cathedral contained the official “Door of Mercy” for the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
• St. Joseph Parish in Key West organized a “1,000 Acts of Mercy” project, which challenged parishioners to together show 1,000 acts of mercy during the jubilee year. Parishioners wrote their works of mercy on post-it notes and displayed them on a poster in the back of the church.
• The parishes of the Dubuque Deanery sponsored the building of a Habitat for Humanity House in Dubuque for the Year of Mercy. The home was dedicated in November.
• The Jail and Prison Ministry in the Archdiocese of Dubuque offers religious services and spiritual guidance to the incarcerated in northeast Iowa. The ministry has a small full-time staff and relies on about 200 volunteers who visit local county jails and state institutions such as the Anamosa State Penitentiary and Luster Heights Correctional Facility in Harpers Ferry.
• The Saint Elizabeth Pastorate (St. Patrick, Epworth; St. Joseph, Farley; St. John the Baptist, Peosta; St. Clement, Bankston; St. John, Placid) held a special collection at the end of February with the proceeds used to buy books to replenish the Dubuque County Jail library after a bed bug outbreak destroyed many of the facility’s books. Members of St. Elizabeth’s undertook projects for each of the seven designated work weeks during the Year of Mercy.
• Students at St. Mary School in Manchester incorporated the corporal and spiritual works of mercy into their school activities this Lent. During the “clothe the naked” week in March, for example, students brought new pajamas to school that were then donated to the Parents as Teachers program at the Regional Medical Center in Manchester.
• Children enrolled in the faith formation program at St. Patrick Parish in Clear Lake were provided with take-home bags that helped them actively engage their families during the Year of Mercy.
• There are several Catholic Worker Houses in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, including in Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and Dubuque, that focus on the corporal works of mercy, particularly the call to shelter the homeless and feed the hungry. Volunteers donate meals and provide hospitality at the houses.
• This spring, parishioners at St. Joseph Parish in Elkader drew over 100 people to a Lenten Stop Hunger Banquet intended to created awareness about worldwide hunger. Attendees were divided into three groups – poor, medium income and wealthy – and received the amount and types of food each group worldwide would eat at a typical meal. The banquet and other parish efforts raised $2,600 for the international charity Mary’s Meals.
• Holy Spirit Parish in Dubuque joined other area parishes this April in offering its members cloth grocery bags to fill up and bring to Mass each week. The non-perishable items they returned were taken to the St. Vincent De Paul Society to be distributed by the city’s food bank.
• St. Patrick Parish in Dubuque serves meals to the hungry each week at its Wednesday Night Meal. The meals are prepared and served by volunteers from St. Patrick and St. Raphael Parishes, other parishes and schools, religious congregations and various community organizations. About 100 people are served by the meals each week.
• Immaculate Conception Parish in Charles City planned projects for each of the work weeks during the Year of Mercy. For example, during the “feed the hungry” week in April, the parish had what it called a “reverse collection.” At Mass, ushers passed the collection baskets, which contained slips of paper that listed needed items at the local Messiah Food Pantry. All were invited to take from the basket and return the requested items and put them in grocery carts at the church entrances. Around one thousand items were collected in eight carts for the food pantry.
• In Marshalltown, St. Francis Catholic School students were successful at completing all the works of mercy in the course of the year, including, for example, partnering with the local Hy-Vee grocery store in providing goods for House of Compassion, a charity that provides clothing, food and shelter to those in need.
• Wahlert Catholic High School’s choir was featured in a Witness article after being selected to perform at the Year of Mercy Closing Mass in Rome. They will be there on Nov. 20, when the pope closes the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica.
• In the July 17 issue, several organizations that clothe the naked were featured in The Witness, including St. Vincent De Paul Society branches in Dubuque, Waterloo and Cedar Rapids. The North Linn Cluster of parishes was also highlighted for its contributions to an ecumenical clothes closet. Sacred Heart Parish in Maquoketa was featured for its role in collecting clothes and other items for babies. St. Anthony Parish in Dubuque also held a Christmas in July event to collect clothes, shoes and other items.
• Queen of Peace Parish in Waterloo held a house warming party for the Catholic Worker Houses in the area to celebrate their 34th anniversary in the city helping clothe, feed and shelter those in need. • Members of the St. Elizabeth Pastorate based in Peosta delivered clothing and household items to a charity in Kentucky.
• Three parishes from the archdiocese were featured in the Aug. 14 issue of The Witness in a story about their effort to pay for the medical school education of a Haitian student who visited Cedar Rapids this summer. • St. Athanasius in Jesup sponsored a clothes give away.
• St. Cecilia School students in Ames raised awareness of the Year of Mercy by designing banners on the works of mercy that were hung on the school and parish grounds. They later received a letter from the Vatican recognizing their effort.
• Kevin Schwendinger of the Cathedral Parish in Dubuque completed a bicycling trek of about 600 miles to raise money and awareness for his parish’s partner parish in El Salvador.
• Deacon Paul Peckosh was featured in The Witness in the Sept. 4 issue after he marked the graves of his ancestors, which had not been marked for many decades, an act consistent with the call to bury the dead as a work of mercy.
• A member of St. Ludmila Parish in Cedar Rapids led a project to raise funds for children battling cancer at the University of Iowa’s Children’s Hospital. Members of St. Patrick Parish in Anamosa prepared meals for families of sick children staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Cedar Rapids.
• Students at Sacred Heart School in Waterloo held an all-school service project to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
• Students from Immaculate Conception in Charles City visited the sick and elderly at a nursing home in their community, performing songs for and chatting with residents.
• Holy Family of the Bluffs linked parishes sponsored a pilgrimage to Catholic holy sites in Dubuque County.
• In the Nov. 13 issue of The Witness, those engaged in burying the dead, including those who work for Catholic cemeteries in the archdiocese were featured.
PHOTO: Pope Francis talks with a woman during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)