Monday, December 7, 2015

Year of Mercy

Brother John Kiesler, OFM is a member of the facility of the Franciscan School of Theology in California. Brother John is a member of the Formation Facility for long-term missionaries through Mission Doctors and presents at the Annual Retreat Seminar on the theology of mission. Additionally he serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Mission Doctors Association.

We recently asked him: "How can we speak about the Year of Mercy in light of our work?" 

His answer:
As you may recall from Old Testament studies, one feature of early Israelite society was the Jubilee time every seven years- a time to re-balance life and society. This took very concrete forms: fields were to lie fallow for a year; debts were forgiven; and land sold after the previous Jubilee was returned to the original owners. The scriptural foundation for this practice is found in the Book of Leviticus Chapter 25. Additionally, there was a major Jubilee year every 50 years.

The Church historically took up this idea, not in terms of social re-adjustments, but in declaring every 50 years a Holy Year, a year of Jubilee, marked by special indulgences, special penance services and a time for reflection on God's mercy.

In more recent times this Jubilee year has continued every fifty years but additionally some popes have declared special Jubilee years to encourage penance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

So what about the 'year of mercy'? On April 11 of this year Pope Francis in a bull of indiction declared the period from December 8, 2015 until November 20, 2016 (the Feast of Christ the King!) to be an extraordinary year of Jubilee (meaning that it does not fall in the normal 50 year cycle[verses. 4-5]). In the document Misericoriae Vultus the Pope picked December 8 in order to point to Mary as Mother of Mercy as well as a celebration of the fifty years since the close of the Second Vatican Council.

In Misericoriae Vultus the Pope calls for this year to be a time of repentance, pilgrimage and the granting of special indulgences to sinners in order to remind us of God’s great mercy (verses 12-14; 22). It also calls for the faithful to pay special attention to the poor and marginalized: "In this Holy Year we look forward to the experience of opening our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society; fringes which the modern society creates." (verse 15). It is the hope that Catholics would re-awaken a sense of mercy as well as "...Reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty." (verse 15). This concern is more than a new awareness of the poor but a call for action as Pope Francis says: "Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy.... (verse 15). Finally, there is a discussion on need for confessors, “ missionaries of mercy” and a communal Church to witness of mercy.

As you can see this fits very well with a call for Catholics to be mindful of our brothers and sisters in need of medical care in poorer parts of the world!

The document in its entirety (only 21 pages) can be found on line at 

I hope that this helps and if you have any other questions please ask.
Brother John Kiesler,OFM

Friday, October 23, 2015

Sometimes in our lives we are fortunate enough to meet a saint, then there are days when you can meet two!

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles White Mass (named for the white coats worn by health professionals) is co-sponsored by the Archdiocese Department of Health Affairs and Mission Doctors Association and takes place near the feast of St Luke each year.

This year Bishop Clark was the main celebrant and he offered a moving homily on how service can transform a life. Two of the other celebrants were also the recipients of Mission Doctors Catholic Doctor of the Year award, and I only wish everyone could have spent time with them.

Fr. Jack MacCarthy. MD and Fr. Maurice Schroeider, MD are priest physicians who have served together for 30 years in the Amazon Basin of Peru caring for the indigenous people in 100 villages up and down the Napo river.  We heard story after story of faith and healing, we laughed, we were moved, I was overwhelmed by the humility and dedication of these two men... In their eyes I think I can see a wish that this was the first day and thirty years lay ahead of them... Yet they are not done,  Padre Jack is making plans to return to Peru in January, and Padre Moe has a full schedule in Ottawa to strive to make Santa Clotilde Hospital self sustaining

You can read more about them and the award on the Tidings page.
Fr. Jack and Fr. Mo receiving the Catholic Doctor of the Year Awards

Friday, June 19, 2015

Father's Day

Love.  Dedication. Hardworking. (A bit goofy).  Poet.

These are the words I think of when I think of my own father. He was hard working grocery store manager, a dedicated husband, and veteran of WWII - a bit of a show off - with the heart of a poet.

Fathers around the world like my father, George, support their families, care for their children and give everything they have for their families and spouses.  They sacrifice much to ensure that their children will be able to achieve to their abilities.

Dr. Brian Medernach, a mission doctor serving in Peru, and a father to young Charlie, wrote a beautiful blog post for Father’s day that I want to share.

All Mission Doctors sacrifice their efforts, their time, resources and comfort.  This Father's Day please join me in remembering and holding up in prayer our Mission Doctor fathers who have served, and who are serving around the world today.  May our loving Father be their strength, may St. Joseph be their model, and may they be rewarded for all they do for their children.

PS - In the Newsletter that will be coming out in July 1st - I invite you to read another article by Brian about the tremendous dedication of a father on the Napo river who paddled 6 hours to bring his critically ill son to Santa Clotilde Mission

Monday, June 1, 2015

Global Day of Parents

Today, June 1, is the Global Day of Parents.

The United Nations set aside this day in 2012 to recognized and honor parents around the world.

When I first heard about this holiday I immediately thought about the parents I visit when I travel for Mission Doctors.  Both the Mission Doctors who are parents themselves, and the parents I meet sitting at the bedside of a child in a hospital.

Sacrifice is the universal language of parenthood – not a sacrifice the is laden with obligation but sacrifice filled with joy. It doesn’t make it easy to get up with an infant who hasn’t slept well for a week but when gazing at the sleeping child most mothers will say their (sleepy) hearts fill to overflowing.

Every parent wants the same thing for their child.  We want our children to be happy, to be health, to reach their potential.

Circumstances make this very hard for so many.  For the parents waking today in a refugee camp; for those who lack a permanent home; for parents who aren’t sure if they will be able to feed their children today – or if their child will survive the night….

My children and grandchildren are well. I am grateful.

My prayer is that all parents everywhere will have the opportunity to share this joy.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Martha's Commissioning

God, Our Father
we stand in this holy assembly
of which we have been a part.

We wish to answer your call
and that of the church
to serve people of different cultures
in other lands.

May we fan into flame
the gifts that you have given to us,
so that strong and wise,
we may love your people.

Then by the Good News we share,
all will know that:
“We are God’s helpers!”

We ask this through Jesus,
who sent forth His disciples,
and in the Spirit,
who strengthened them on their way.

Amen, Alleluia!

Yesterday was the commissioning of Mission Doctor Martha Franz.
In July, she is going to start a three year mission to St. Martin de Porres Hospital in rural Njinikom, Cameroon. And, this is the prayer she shared yesterday before our missionary family and the community of St. John the Evangelist.

I remember when Tom and I were commissioned in 1978 -  feeling called to serve, feeling sent by God, and feeling truly connected to those who had gone before us...
There was also another feeling, the anxiety that comes with such a major life change.
Moving to another country and culture so different from my own, we knew and had been prepared for the challenges that lay ahead.

Please join me in praying for Martha as packs her bags and makes all of the final arrangements for her life in Cameroon.

As a doctor, the unique challenges she will face can be a heavy burden, but can also present the greatest blessings.  Welcoming new life, being part of the process of restoring people to health, and the inevitable suffering and seeing people as they leave this life for the next.  There will be days that will be heavy.  There will be days that are only filled with obvious blessings.

My prayer for Martha and for every missionary is that on balance we can all reflect on our experience as life giving, life changing and an experience that we will carry forward for the rest of our lives.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Mother's Day

This coming Sunday is Mother's Day here in the US.  We may think of greeting cards, flowers, breakfast in bed, dinner at a nice restaurant, all opportunities to say thank you to mom, grandmothers and those who have given the kind of love most often associated with a loving mother.  Many of us remember mothers who are no longer with us, a time of bittersweet joy - we remember them with love, laughter - and feel again the twinge of pain of the loss no matter how many years have passed.
Personally - as a mother of four - and grandmother of two - I love Mother's Day but not just because I will see my own gang - The day always makes me think of all the Mothers and Grandmothers like myself around the world.

Over the years, as I have visited our Mission Doctors in Africa and Latin America - I have witnessed both the struggles mothers face in rural Africa and Latin America and feel a bond with them in their overwhelming love for their children and grandchildren. Mothers travel long distances on foot, wait hours for their children to be seen and then stay at their bedside - days, weeks or even months - providing meals, bathing their child and waiting anxiously for the opportunity to take them home. 

This Mother's Day please join me in praying for our own mothers and for all mothers around the world facing the  day with a child who is ill or injured.   May they find comfort in their faith and in the witness of our Blessed Mother whose sacrificial love unites us all.

Dear Blessed Mary, mother of us all, intercede for all mothers. May they find daily strength to say yes to the call to the sacrificial love - the very heart of the vocation of motherhood. May their love and witness be a source of great inspiration for all of us called to follow your Son.

On this Mothers day, Mother of the Word Incarnate, pray for us who have recourse to you.
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.