About 250 people gathered April 23 for a procession of the Blessed Sacrament to St. Faustina’s Chapel of Divine Mercy, a shrine located at St. Paul Church in Sauk Centre.
The day-long celebration also included adoration, confession, praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, consecration to the Divine Mercy, Mass and a shared meal.
“It is humbling to be a voice of Divine Mercy and it is immensely gratifying to see people responding to the mercy and grace of Christ,” said Father Greg Paffel, pastor of the parishes of St. Paul and Our Lady of Angels in Sauk Centre and St. Alexius in West Union.
This event marked the 35th anniversary of Divine Mercy Sunday celebrated at the church, a tradition that began long before St. John Paul II canonized St. Faustina — who had visions of Jesus as the Divine Mercy — in 2000 and announced that the Sunday after Easter would be celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday.
Many believe the construction of St. Paul’s was a providence of Divine Mercy. On Sunday, April 10, 1904, Bishop James Trobec blessed the cornerstone of the church and laid it upon the foundation. The blessing of the cornerstone was at 3 p.m., known as the Hour of Mercy because it was the hour of Jesus’ death.
Thirty-five years ago, a committee of four local men — Paul Theisen, Roman Kulzer, Vern Botz and Deacon Lawrence Kaas — took to heart the message of Sister Faustina and began to spread it.
Deacon Kaas carved an image of St. Faustina’s vision of Jesus, which now has a special place inside the shrine.
On April 18, 1982, the Sunday after Easter, Bishop George Speltz blessed the carving and dedicated the community along with the Diocese of St. Cloud to the Divine Mercy.
This year, Bishop Donald Kettler gave an imprimatur, or permission to print, a Consecration Prayer to Divine Mercy written by Father Paffel.
“After reading through Father Michael Gaitley’s book ‘33 days to Merciful Love’ and praying about it, I felt nudged at my computer to write this consecration,” Father Paffel said. “It is a personal consecration between an individual and God, done in a public manner, before a representative of the church.”
In the weeks preceding Divine Mercy Sunday, Father Paffel encouraged people to read Father Gaitley’s book and consider making the personal promise. More than 200 people made the verbal consecration April 23 before the carved image. Consecration cards were signed by Father Paffel and the individuals who committed to the devotion.
“Divine Mercy Sunday is a deeply personal experience with God’s love and great mercy,” said Carla Moritz, who attended the event. “The peace and serenity of the day is remarkable.”
“Mercy Sunday is always a day of complete spiritual connection to our divine Lord,” added Marjorie Roering, who also participated. “This Mercy Sunday was no different. I saw Jesus shining in all who attended. We all left with the ‘Son’ shining in our hearts. Jesus is so good to us.”
Father Paffel said the original mission of developing the Divine Mercy devotion was to increase it in the whole diocese.
“There was a time when we had people coming from all over the diocese for this Mass, filling this church,” he said.
“Today we have about half as many and we are thrilled because that means they are having Divine Mercy celebrations in their own parishes. We know the original mission of spreading the Divine Mercy message across the diocese is being fulfilled.”