Mayhew Lake parishioners post stories on ‘Wall of Grace and Mercy’

Using a newly created “Wall of Grace and Mercy” at Annunciation Church in Mayhew Lake, parishioners shared their brief written stories of faith during Lent. The wall was fashioned by Jackie Popp, a member of the One in Christ ACC Discipleship Committee. One in Christ ACC also includes parishes in St. Stephen, Sauk Rapids and Sartell.

Barb and Tom Brand, members of Annunciation Parish in Mayhew Lake, pin a card to the Wall of Grace and Mercy near the entrance of the church. (Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

“Last summer, when members of our committee discussed our evangelism goals, we realized how hard it is to tell our own stories of faith,” Popp said. “Some people even hesitate to make eye contact when those topics arise. Perhaps we Catholics have gotten out of the habit of sharing why our faith matters. However, as disciples, we want to be knowledgeable and comfortable in communicating our core values.”

The Discipleship Committee knew parishioners experienced “God moments” and searched for a tangible opportunity for all ages to express their deep feelings. They’d heard of ideas like Walls of Grace, but no one had specifics or a template to follow.

Popp invented her own, using the purple of Lent to cut out letters and adding them to yards of cream-colored fabric. She hung the Wall of Grace and Mercy on a wall that people walked past on their way to Mass. Notecards and pens were available nearby. She included brief instructions for writing and attaching the cards with gold safety pins.

Annunciation’s Wall of Grace and Mercy went up Ash Wednesday and she presented the project at church.

“I didn’t need to teach. We simply offered this space and invited others to contribute,” Popp said. “When I asked people to recall those ways they’d felt or shared God’s grace and mercy, their eyes lit up. Before writing, people might take private time to pray and ponder. They might take cards home to relate the events exactly as they wanted. After they’d safety-pinned their cards to the wall, others could read those stories.”

Faith formation teachers stepped up to help, encouraging students to describe their own times of grace and mercy.

“The first notecards with stories trickled in. People lingered reading them, and probably more anecdotes of faith were recalled on the car ride home. Over the weeks, more notecards were added, but the number didn’t matter, and whether someone signed their name didn’t matter. Our hope was that this would help parishioners to visit about important faith matters — and they did. They stayed around after Mass to check out what others had written,” she said.

“Even when someone hesitated to reveal their memory, they were at least reading others’ cards and thinking about them. We knew it could be hard, but some of the littlest children found it easy.”

A few examples:

  • “My story of faith is myself saying sorry to my brother when I was mean to him.”
  • “Confirmation has brought me closer to God because I see him more often in my day-to-day life.”
  • “My moment of Grace is being blessed with my Grand Kids.”
  • “I had the anointing of the sick and was healed from anger and hatred …”
  • “My God moment was when I crashed my four-wheeler, I rolled it and woke up in a creek with my head above
    the water.”

After Annunciation’s wall came down prior to the Easter Vigil, Popp grouped the notecards and typed them for the pastoral council. They had embraced and adopted the discipleship committee’s goal and will consider what was learned and what happens next.

“Our goal was getting people to talk about the ‘God moments’ they’ve experienced. Our community of faith is richer than we know. We just wanted to share in it. Instead of repeating the Wall of Grace and Mercy another season or year, we might seek different ways for people to become comfortable with these topics,” she said.

“We want our parishioners to be ready to respond when new people come to Mass with lots of questions about what our Catholic teachings are about. Being able to better explain our own faith will help us listen and welcome them.”

Author: Nikki Rajala

Nikki Rajala is a writer/copy editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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