Who
We Are

Faith, so that God can act.

OUR RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY

FAITH, SO THAT GOD CAN ACT

We are a small Roman Catholic monastic community formed in the Archdiocese of San Antonio in 2001. Being a young and still very small community, our official canonical status is that of a private association of the faithful with juridic personality. Our primary purpose is to be faithful servants of God’s will and to bring His message of mercy to our suffering world. The charism of our community is: Faith, so that God can act.

Our community is made up of priests, men and women religious, consecrated lay men and women, and a lay branch known as
Amici Christi.

As a monastic community our first apostolate is that of prayer. We invite the public to share in our public prayer times, community Masses and Holy Hours of Eucharistic Adoration. Our apostolate also includes various retreats; in particular, two silent retreats known as Encounter With Jesus (EWJ) and Cor Jesu. Several members of our Community are bi-lingual and we make an effort to offer our activities in English and Spanish.

Community Members

FATHER JOHN MARY

Founder and Guardian of MDM. Born in Morgantown, WV in 1960. Entered the Congregation of St. John (CSJ) in France in 1981. Studied at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Ordained a priest in 1987 in Corpus Christi, TX. Founded the Mission of Divine Mercy in 2001 in the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

MOTHER MAGDALENE

Born in Morgantown, WV in 1950. (She is Fr. John Mary’s older sister.) Entered religious life in 1973. Received her MA in Church History at Catholic University of America. In 2001 she was among the founding members of MDM. She holds the position of Mother Superior of the women’s community.

SISTER AMAPOLA DE JESUS

Born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1977. Attended the University of Monterrey where she studied architecture for five semesters. Moved to Catholic Solitudes in Hebbronville, TX in 1997 to join a small group living there. This group would become the nucleus of MDM. Sr. Amapola is a founding member of MDM.

FATHER JOHN MARY

Founder and Guardian of MDM. Born in Morgantown, WV in 1960. Entered the Congregation of St. John (CSJ) in France in 1981. Studied at the University of Freiburg in Germany. Ordained a priest in 1987 in Corpus Christi, TX. Founded the Mission of Divine Mercy in 2001 in the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

MOTHER MAGDALENE

Born in Morgantown, WV in 1950. (She is Fr. John Mary’s older sister.) Entered religious life in 1973. Received her MA in Church History at Catholic University of America. In 2001 she was among the founding members of MDM. She holds the position of Mother Superior of the women’s community.

SISTER AMAPOLA DE JESUS

Born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1977. Attended the university of Monterrey where she studied architecture for five semesters. Moved to Catholic Solitudes in Hebbronville, TX in 1997 to join a small group living there. This group would become the nucleus of the new religious community. Sr. Amapola is a founding member of MDM.

BROTHER MIKAEL

Born in Wheeling, WV in 1988. Graduated from Wheeling Central Catholic High School in 2007, entered the St. Gabriel Institute at the Mission to discern a vocation to MDM in the fall of the same year. Made his First Profession in 2010. Currently working on his Bachelors in Pre-Theology through Holy Apostles College and Seminary online program. Bro. Mikael serves the Community in the role of Vicar.

BROTHER DANIEL

Born in San Antonio, TX in 1995. Graduated from Canyon High School in 2014. Entered the St. Gabriel Institute in the fall of 2015 and made his First Profession in 2018.

PETER OF THE HEART
OF JESUS AND MARY

Born in Willingboro, NJ in 1960. After graduation from high school, enlisted in the Navy and served as a nuclear engineer aboard a nuclear submarine. Graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Computer Science. Worked in the corporate world for 30 years. In 2016 he entered a period of discernment with MDM, and in 2019 made his First Profession as MDM’s first Consecrated Layman.

BROTHER MIKAEL

Born in Wheeling, WV in 1988. Graduated from Wheeling Central Catholic High School in 2007, entered the St. Gabriel Institute at the Mission to discern a vocation to MDM in the fall of the same year. Made his First Profession in 2010. Currently working on his Bachelors in Pre-Theology through Holy Apostles College and Seminary online program. Bro. Mikael serves the Community in the role of Vicar.

BROTHER DANIEL

Born in San Antonio, TX in 1995. Graduated from Canyon High School in 2014. Entered the St. Gabriel Institute in the fall of 2015 and made his First Profession in 2018.

PETER OF THE HEART
OF JESUS AND MARY

Born in Willingboro, NJ in 1960. After graduation from high school, enlisted in the Navy and served as a nuclear engineer aboard a nuclear submarine. Graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Computer Science. Worked in the corporate world for 30 years. In 2016 he entered a period of discernment with MDM, and in 2019 made his First Profession as MDM’s first Consecrated Layman.

Members in Discernment

RAYMUNDO GÜEMES

A native of Monterrey, Mexico, Raymundo was born in 1960. He held a career as a civil engineer and university professor. The loud demolition work associated with his profession caused significant hearing loss. In 2000 Raymundo went to Catholic Solitudes to join the group of religious who had gathered there. In 2001, he left with the group that would found MDM. He returned to Mexico at the end of 2002, largely due to his difficulty learning English as a result of his significant hearing loss. He resumed his university career. In 2018, he rejoined MDM where he is currently a postulant.

In Memoriam

MARIA FELICITAS

Maria Felicitas was a founding member of MDM, and our first consecrated laywoman. She was largely responsible for hospitality at the Mission and conveyed this same warmth to those whom she met outside our gates.  She passed into eternal life on February 12, 2019.

Amici Christi

Amici Christi is Latin for “Friends of Christ.” Its members are the lay branch of MDM, the “legs and feet” that carry the Message of Mercy out into the world in which they live. They are called to the vocation of the lay faithful, which is distinct from that of priests or religious, but it is still a vocation, a call from the Holy Spirit.

As a group, the members of Amici Christi come together once a month to meet and pray with the Community. They also make a commitment to daily individual prayer. Their mission is to help extend God’s Mercy throughout the world by accepting the opportunity the Lord gives them in their particular circumstances of life.

SOMEONE WHO IS INTERESTED IN BECOMING A MEMBER OF AMICI CHRISTI SHOULD:

1. Feel drawn to the spiritual path of the Mission of Divine Mercy.

2. Have made an Encounter With Jesus retreat.

3. Make an appointment with the Coordinator (Deacon Bob Gorman) to discuss becoming a member.

Someone who feels called to the Amici Christi makes an application and then goes through a period of discernment. Those who request admission and are approved then go through a two-year novitiate. At the end of this they make a commitment that is renewed yearly at the Feast of Divine Mercy.

Our Charism

“Faith, so that God can act.”

First of all, what do we mean here by charism?

St. Paul speaks of the Church as a body (1 Cor. 12). In a body each member has its own particular function that contributes to the good of the whole body. In like manner, with the Church, the Holy Spirit gives each member particular graces or spiritual gifts, called “charisms” that are for the common good of the Church and her mission. This is also true with every religious community or congregation whose foundation the Holy Spirit inspires: He gives it a particular charism to fulfill it’s particular role in the Church.

MDM’s charism is: “Faith, so that God can act.” This was something that God revealed to us, not in a sudden flash of inspiration, but gradually, through prayer, suffering and discernment.

MDM began, not with some great plan or program, but simply with the desire to let God act — to not get in His way. Over time God impressed upon us that in order for Him to act, we had to first trust Him, to have that mustard seed of Faith. “Trust in the Lord, and He will act,” proclaims Psalm 37. And, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Lk. 7:50) Or in St. Faustina’s diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul: “The graces of My mercy are drawn by one vessel only, and that is—trust” (#1578).

This call to trust in God has been the message that God has instilled in our little Community from its very earliest days. But the discovery and understanding of our charism is something that He revealed to us over time. In order to be His co-workers, we had to first come to trust Him—to believe Him. We saw this as the particular way in which we were called to cooperate with Him in sharing His message of mercy with the wounded world.

OBEDIENCE OF FAITH

We had to learn that having simple faith means more that just believing in God, it means believing God. This means trusting Him enough to accept what He reveals and obey what He commands. St. Paul speaks of the “obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5; 16:26). We found in Abraham a great example of this obedience of faith, of one who “believed God” and set off from his fatherland. Abraham has been an important role model for MDM. And, of course, in our Blessed Mother we have the greatest example of this obedience of faith: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to Your word” (Lk. 1:38).

Over the years our Community has been led by God to a greater understanding of our particular obedience of faith. Believing God also means trusting in the Holy Spirit, present and active today in His Church. This includes a prudent openness to the charisms that He may give, especially those given to individuals whom the world regards as little and ignorant, such as St. Juan Diego or St. Faustina Kowalska. “Every soul believing and trusting in My mercy will obtain it” (#420).

“I give you thanks, Father…that you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned and revealed them to the little children” (Mt.11:25).

Our Community has tried to be open from its beginning, to the different ways in which God speaks to His children, in particular through prophetic graces. We, the members of MDM, believe that God continues to speak to, and act, among His people today in many ways, both ordinary and extraordinary.

We are painfully aware of our unworthiness and incapacities. But we place our trust in Him, sensing that He wants to work marvels of mercy today, as He indicated to St. Faustina, and that He is asking for our cooperation. We simply try to be His humble co-workers, seeking His will through prayer, and carrying it out in our personal lives and apostolates.

Bethany Association

Friends of the Mission

The Bethany Association is open to anyone who considers himself or herself to be a friend of the Mission. It is an association of people who have extended their friendship to the MDM Community through their presence, their prayer, their interest, volunteer time or financial support. By the simple action of entering their name into the Bethany Association, a person lets our Community know that he or she considers themselves to be a friend, and that is a great joy to us.

There are no meetings or dues. Membership does not require that someone live close by; in fact some Bethany members have never set foot on our property. But even if the structure is simple, we wanted the bonds of friendship joining us to be strong. Creating the Bethany Association was our way of strengthening those bonds.

Because our fellowship with God and with each other grows stronger in a special way during Mass, and indeed, any time that we pray together, or for each other, Bethany Associates and their intentions are remembered in our daily prayers as a Community, and as the particular intention of our Mass every Sunday. As a visible sign and reminder, we have placed the Bethany Members Book next to the Altar in the Chapel of the Most Blessed Sacrament. And finally, at Christmas, as a special gift, we offer a novena of Masses from Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day for our Bethany friends.

The choice of the name “Bethany” comes from the fact that Bethany was the home of Martha, Mary Magdalene and their brother Lazarus. These people were not just Jesus’ disciples, they were His friends. They welcomed Jesus and wanted Him to feel at home at Bethany. MDM wanted to acknowledge that there are many people who have extended friendship to the Community. Many are the people who made us feel at home here when we first arrived. Others are of more recent acquaintance. Still others are people who know us through our Meditations and on-line presence and say that they feel drawn to pray for the Mission. We want all these people to feel part of the Mission, to be joined to us through prayer and friendship, no matter where they live.

The Birth of MDM

THE FIRST TWO DECADES

Arrival in New Braunfels

In November 2001, the religious community known as Mission of Divine Mercy (MDM) was “born” when six individuals came to the Parish of Sts. Peter and Paul in New Braunfels, Texas at the invitation of the pastor, Monsignor O’Callaghan. Soon after they were also received by Archbishop Flores of San Antonio.

These six individuals were a varied group. Three of the original members were born in the United States: the Founder, Fr. John Mary Foster, formerly a member of the Community of St. John (CSJ), an order begun in France, had been ordained in 1987; Sr. Magdalene Foster (Fr. John Mary’s sister) had started her religious life in the Dominican Order; Br. Tony Pillari had also been a member of the CSJ. The other half of the original six members were all newer to religious life and hailed from Monterrey, Mexico: Sr. Amapola Granados, Br. Juan Pablo Guemes and Maria Felicitas Bortoni, a consecrated laywoman. (Br. Juan Pablo returned to Mexico after a year in New Braunfels. He had a hearing loss which made learning English very difficult.)

Prior to their arrival in New Braunfels, these individuals had been living for several years, along with others, at Catholic Solitudes at Rancho Maria, a rustic contemplative community in the south Texas desert founded by a former CSJ priest. It was during these years at Rancho Maria that Fr. John Mary began to feel that God was calling him to start a new community. As he tells it:

I was reluctantly coming to accept that, if I was to follow the call I was sensing, I was going to have to set off on my own, and start something new myself. I dreaded doing that. I’ve often read of founders of religious communities who had great enthusiasm and a passion for something. I, at that point, was feeling tired physically and exhausted interiorly. With all the different struggles that were going on around me, I certainly didn’t have the energy or drive to launch a new community.

Also, I didn’t feel the grace to be starting something. I’m more of a disciple than a leader, more careful than bold. I was very reluctant and I was resisting this step. But eventually I felt that if I kept resisting it, I was resisting the Lord. As I would say to Him when the road of MDM was difficult: “Remember, Lord, this was Your idea. I didn’t want to do this…”

That was in January of 2001, providentially at the beginning of the New Millennium. They had originally wanted to begin in Monterrey, Mexico, but when that door was closed, they waited for direction from the Lord. Around that time, some men from the ACTS retreat team at Sts. Peter and Paul came to make an Encounter With Jesus retreat at Rancho Maria. From that contact bonds began to be formed with Sts. Peter and Paul. And from this came the invitation to come to the parish.

Thus, ten months after the project was conceived, the little group arrived in New Braunfels, where by the grace of God, the help of Msgr. O’Callaghan and many lay friends at Sts. Peter and Paul, the Mission of Divine Mercy began to take root in this corner of the Texas Hill Country.

The Community assisted in the regular life of the parish, and at the request of Msgr. O’Callaghan, also began to offer special spiritual activities to promote a deeper awareness of and reverence for the Eucharist, as well as some youth ministries.

When they had first arrived in New Braunfels, it was with the sense that this would be a temporary location. However, the warm reception by the people of the area, and an invitation to stay seemed to the Community a sign from the Lord that He was planting them here. But the way forward still held obstacles. For instance they would eventually need their own property to carry out the ministry to which they felt called.

Monastery, Sanctuary and Retreat Center

In 2004, with the blessing of Msgr. O’Callaghan and the Archbishop, the Community made a down payment on 126 acres of land on the outskirts of New Braunfels. Though they were now property owners, it would be several years before they could actually live on the property. During those interim years they continued to live in housing provided by some generous parishioners. But little by little they began to develop their new property to serve a triple purpose: monastery, sanctuary, and retreat center.

In March 2005, on the Feast of St. Joseph, work began on a simple structure — basically a roof on stilts—that would provide shelter for the regular weekend Masses that had already begun at the Mission. This structure was christened “St. Joseph’s Chapel.” After Mass, if the weather was poor, people gathered to socialize in the tiny ramshackle camp house, or in better weather, under a large second-hand tent.

Another “first” in 2005 was the formation of a lay branch of the Community that would come to be known as the Amici Christi (Friends of Christ). This lay branch was for those who wanted to commit themselves to real membership in MDM by living the spirituality of the Community according to their particular situation in the world. The Amici Christi would help to carry the message and their experience of God’s mercy into other larger circles.

With increasing requests for more spiritual activities for youth and adults, the need for some sort of meeting space at the Mission grew more pressing. This resulted in the construction of the multi-purpose St. Michael’s Hall in 2006, and then the construction of St. Raphael’s in 2008 to provide much needed offices and additional meeting space.

During the early years the Community offered a variety of retreats and spiritual activities at the Mission. Programs were also initiated for the spiritual development of young men –the St. Michael Squadron-– and young women –The Queen of Peace.

However, the Encounter With Jesus retreats, which are unique to MDM, had to be held at other locations throughout the archdiocese, since there weren’t adequate facilities to house and feed the retreat- ants at the Mission. Over the years, securing these locations became more and more difficult, and for a time the EWJ was suspended.

With the opening of 2012, the Community was still living in its “temporary” quarters in New Braunfels. But there was a growing sense among the members that in order to develop a stronger spiritual program at the Mission, it was necessary to live there.  However, two monasteries –one for men and one for women– was a huge financial undertaking for the small group that existed on donations and without any regular source of income. But just as they were set to begin a big capital campaign to raise money for the monasteries, God seemed to open a side door—some houses adjacent to the property became available. The Community purchased these to serve as immediate living quarters until actual monasteries could be constructed at some future date.

The Community moved into their new quarters at the end of 2012. And very soon a schedule of regular weekday Masses and Holy Hours at the Mission were opened to the public. Now our Lord in His Eucharistic Presence could be dwelling there. This was a significant step in the growing spiritual presence of the Mission.

The Mission was developing as a spiritual resource for the San Antonio Archdiocese, but also attracting people from beyond the Archdiocese. Saturday mini-retreats on different topics of spirituality and spiritual development were attended by individuals, parish groups, cenacles, prayer groups, and ACTS teams, among others. The annual Triduum Retreat drew many people to participate in the powerful liturgical celebrations of Holy Week, including Good Friday’s Walking Way of the Cross, and Holy Saturday’s Rosary of the Sorrowful Mother. But the largest crowd of the year assembled on the Sunday after Easter—Divine Mercy Sunday. On that day tents were added to both sides of St. Joseph’s Chapel to handle the large turnout.

Meanwhile, it had been years since MDM had been able to offer its Encounter With Jesus retreat. This was a problem. People were asking for it. But retreat space around the archdiocese was at a premium due to the success of the ACTS program, and weekends had to be reserved years in advance. There was also a strong sense among the Community that the EWJs were best when held at the Mission—for several reasons, including the benefit of the Mission’s serene natural surroundings. So in 2013 a capital campaign was initiated to build a facility for the EWJ.

The Monsignor O’Callaghan Divine Mercy Center was dedicated in June 2015. This facility provided kitchen, dining, and conference room space. Though sleeping accommodations still consisted of a large dorm-style room in St. Michael’s Hall, the O’Callaghan Center allowed the Community to begin holding the EWJ retreats regularly throughout the year, and also initiate the Cor Jesu retreats which are a follow-up to the EWJ.

For most of the year, St. Joseph’s Chapel continued to accommodate the growing number of people who liked to occasionally visit the Mission and attend Mass. However, for certain special Masses and events, such as Divine Mercy Sunday, a larger space was needed.

In 2017, the Community felt a call from the Lord to begin work on a new outdoor sanctuary. The hill on which the sanctuary would be built was named Tepeyac, after the hillside where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego. The sanctuary itself is called the Teocalli, a native word meaning “House of God.” It was the word Our Lady used to indicate to Juan Diego the type of structure she wished to have built on the hillside. The first Mass celebrated at the Teocalli was on October 13, 2017, the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima.

Community Members

While the Mission’s development as a spiritual sanctuary and retreat center has been rewarding, the Community has remained small.

Br. Mikael entered the novitiate on Divine Mercy Sunday 2008 and Bro. Daniel entered the novitiate on Pentecost 2016. In December 2016, Fr. Moses (formerly Br. Tony), one of only two MDM priests, left the Community and went to Europe to pursue a degree in Canon Law and his call to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass. Peter Roderique joined the Community in October of 2016 and made promises as the Community’s first Consecrated Layman on Pentecost 2017. And happily, in the fall of 2018, Raymundo Guemes, who as Br. Juan Pablo, had been among the founding six but who had returned due to a hearing problem, re-entered the Community as a postulant.

In February of 2019, MDM experienced the first passing of one of its members. Maria Felicitas was born into eternal life on February 12 after a long struggle with cancer. She was buried in the newly created MDM cemetery adjacent to St. Joseph Chapel.

One branch of the Community that has experienced a sustained growth is the Amici Christi. As of the Autumn of 2019 membership, including those in the four-year formation process, hovered at approximately 110 people. Amici Christi members meet monthly at the Mission for prayer, fellowship and spiritual instruction that encourages them in living out the spirituality of MDM in their daily lives.

Going Forward

In reflecting on why God has called this Community into existence, Fr. John Mary often makes reference to the true story of a priest who sensed the Blessed Mother was entrusting a special mission to him.

He asked Her, “Why did you choose me? Certainly there is someone better.”

And She replied, “My son, I have chosen you because you are the least apt instrument; thus no one will say that this is your work…[It] must be My work alone. Through your weakness I will manifest my strength; through your nothingness I will manifest my power.”

Fr. John Mary would be the first to describe the history of MDM as one of modest accomplishments, humanly speaking.

“We struggle along, feeling that the Lord is calling MDM to be a little instrument of His Mercy in the Paschal Times that our world is living. We believe that He has plans for MDM that will be fulfilled in His Time.”

The Mission of Divine Mercy desires to help others draw closer to God and to trust in His Mercy. That is their apostolate.

But their first goal is to believe God and be obedient to His Will. To the degree that the Community can live out it’s charism, “Faith, so that God can act,” in faith, humility and obedience, then they are fulfilling God’s will for them. That is always first and foremost.

Jesus, we trust in You.