One local priest from the Diocese of Orlando will be among the 700 priests from around the world who will meet with Pope Francis on Feb. 9 and 10 to prepare for a special mission from the Holy Father.
These priests have been appointed “Missionaries of Mercy” and in a special way they are asked to preach and teach about God’s mercy during the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Our local Missionary of Mercy is Franciscan Father Anthony Aarons and he is one of only 125 priests from the United States who was chosen by Pope Francis. The Holy Father will meet with Father Aarons and the missionaries on February 9 for a time of instruction and preparation. The missionaries will then personally receive a mandate from Pope Francis during the Ash Wednesday Mass on February 10. Father Aarons is originally from Jamaica and he serves at the San Pedro Spiritual Development Center in Winter Park and Bishop Moore Catholic High School in Orlando as school chaplain.
“I am looking forward to concelebrating Mass with the Holy Father on Ash Wednesday,” said Father Aarons. “I’m excited about being a Missionary of Mercy. Showing mercy is something to which we’ve all been called but in a special way I will be trying to be that face of mercy.”
Father Aarons applied to be a Missionary of Mercy at the invitation of Bishop John Noonan. The original plan was to have just 800 missionaries globally, however, the number of requests was so great, 1071 priests were chosen (not all will be in Rome for the events with the Holy Father). These priests are to be a living sign of the Father’s welcome to all those in search of his forgiveness and serve as a powerful witness to others. They are available to give missions and retreats and to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Holy Father will grant these missionaries the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See.
“The mercy of God being proclaimed is about renewal,” explained Fr. Aarons. “This is about hope.”