|His Mercy: The History of His Mercy|
A Brief History of Our Lady of His Mercy Apostolate
The Apostolate was born May 13th, on The Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, in 1992, after a nine month period of discernment in prayer, listening and waiting. It celebrated it's seventh birthday this year. On that day, Fred Schubert, originally from Cambridge Ontario, answered a call to begin this storefront apostolate of street evangelization called, Our Lady of His Mercy Ministries, at 1097 Somerset Street, in the west end of Ottawa. As a work of faith, Fred felt specially guided by the hand of The Mother of God and his spiritual mentor, Catherine Doherty, of Combermere, where he spent two years in formation and vocational discernment with the Madonna House community. Therefore The Blessed Virgin Mary and Catherine are the apostolate's co-foundresses and special patrons, along with St. Joseph and Blessed Sr. Faustina, (messenger of The Divine Mercy Devotion). Fred like the members of Madonna House attempt to live the challenge of the Gospel so simply and beautiful summarized in the words by Catherine, in her "Little Mandate". The storefront was patterned after Catherine Doherty's first lay Apostolate called, "Friendship House", which she began in Toronto in the '20s.
Like Catherine, Fred too lived a Franciscan lifestyle of poverty and could only afford to give his prospective landlord fifty dollars that day in May, as a down-payment for the storefront. By month's end Fred had begged enough money for the first month's rent of 700 dollars and everything that was needed to set up and begin the Apostolate began arriving from all directions. There are countless stories of God's miraculous providence and even to this day God provides for all the needs of the Apostolate in each of it's three locations from month to month.
Fred made the storefront both his home on the street and his living quarters. In a small hall adjoining the storefront, he built himself a loft and a little kitchenette. There was only one sink in the bathroom and it would serve the drop-in as well. He had no shower and would have to do so elsewhere. He lived two years in these conditions, before moving to his present location on Wellington St.
His Mercy's first storefront on Somerset was initially blessed and consecrated to Our Lady, shortly before it's opening, by Fr. Rheal, a Capuchin Father, who was the associate pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Church, just down the street. The blue door of His Mercy Friendship Center was opened for ministry on June 29th, on the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul -The two founding apostles of evangelization in the Catholic Church. Fred chose the name "His Mercy" from the words of Our Lady's Magnificat; Mary's canticle of praise to the mercy of God. Fred's friend, Bill McEachern, whom He met while working at The Shepherd's of Good Hope (A Catholic lay apostolate to the poor here in the market lower town of Ottawa), was a tremendous support and encouragement to Fred in those initial days of setting-up the Somerset St. storefront. By invitation from Fred and out of a driving desire to live and preach the gospel with his life, Bill too, would committed himself to this new work of evangelization. Bill, just a couple of months later would open His Mercy's second center in Vanier, on Beechwood Avenue. After two years at the Beechwood location, Bill was lead his present location on Durocher St. Much hard work went into set-up the center on Durocher as many people rallied around Bill to help renovate and build this center out of an empty warehouse space.
Within two months, the two His Mercy friendship centers were opened in two areas where the poor lived, east and west of Ottawa/Vanier. Amid the spiritual and material poverty of these areas, The Lord and His Mother would begin to direct this work and manifest Their many miracles of love and mercy. It was God's desire that the spiritual works of mercy especially be offered to the poor in the market-place, as witness to His love and through His 'Church in the street'.
Volunteers and benefactors began to arrive wanting to serve and feeling sent to help-out. In time many would respond to this daily evangelization on the street and they generously offered their time and talents and resources to serve the Lord and His poor. There would be no Apostolate, if it were not for the many volunteers and benefactors and their countless sacrifices. They continue to sustained the work by their generous giving of themselves and their resources. And in most cases it's the poor, those with limited means who are serving the poor. There are of course, to many people to mention. So, in the spirit of Christian giving and for fear of leaving someone out, their names will not be mentioned here. God knows precisely who they are.
By 1994, two years after the Apostolate began, both centers were relocated to their present locations on Wellington St. and Durocher St. As a ministry of evangelization, hospitality, availability, presence, listening and the various works of mercy, it has grown now to serve a great many in the city, always with it's goal of service being, God's personal love ministered personally to each person who comes through the door. Amid the harsher realities of poverty, crime, drugs, violence, prostitution and homelessness, His Mercy Centers have become known as safe and peaceful havens to meet others, have a good meal and belong. The Centers have now become a home for "the homeless of heart", a true experience of family -a new family in God.
A His Mercy Center was briefly opened in Kempville, on Prescott St., through the efforts of Joseph Sparling. It operated for approximately a year and a half and also served as a food bank in the Kempville in the downtown area. Due to the relocation of Joseph's family textile business out of the downtown area it unfortunately had to be closed. However, a new third, His Mercy Center, was recently opened in Lebanon last year (1999). Faousi Choufani, affectionately known as "Mamma Maria", a volunteer for two years at the Wellington St. Center, felt called to take this work to her native country. Exciting things happening there. It is called, His Mercy's - "Holy Family" Friendship Center. It is located in a poor neighborhood southeast of Beirut, that is half Christian and half Muslim and conversions have even begun among Muslims.
Father Joseph Kane OMI of Ottawa, is the spiritual director of His Mercy Apostolate and invites others to become spiritual co-missionaries of prayer with himself for the people and needs of His Mercy. As a missionary priest for over fourty years in the Oblate missions here in Canada and in Peru, Fr. Joe's heart is always with God's poor and with those who minister to them. He is also a very popular Retreat Master. Teamed up on many occasions with his sister Gemma O'Sullivan and Fred, he has conducted countless conferences, focusing particularily on the various aspects of "inner healing, deliverence and spiritual warfare". Fr Joe is an approved Exorcist in The Archdiocese of Ottawa and has written an important book on this subject called "Your Light Shines In My Darkness", by Salvator Mundi Publishers, in Navan,Ontario.
THE LITTLE MANDATE
by Catherine Doherty
Arise - go! Sell all you possess.
Give it directly, personally to the poor.
Take up My cross (their cross) and follow Me,
going to the poor, being poor,
being one with them, one with Me.
Little- be always little!... simple, poor, child-like.
Preach the Gospel with your life- WITHOUT COMPROMISE!
Listen to The Spirit. He will lead you.
Do little things exceedingly well for love of Me.
Love ...Love ....Love, never counting the cost.
Go into the marketplace and stay with Me.
Pray, fast. Pray always, fast.
Be hidden . Be a light to your neighbor's feet.
Go without fears into the depth of men's hearts.
I shall be with you. Pray always.
I WILL BE YOUR REST