By Caitlin Reidy
What does mercy have in common with frigid water?
Elizabeth Cotrupi, director of the diocesan youth ministry office, is encouraging some eye-catching responses to the pope’s call to act mercifully. She’s likening her Year of Mercy campaign to the popular Ice Bucket Challenge that garnered mass participation a couple summers ago.
Wristbands that have gone out-of-state, a service trip to Haiti and suggestions for interacting with local people in need – instead of just donating to them – are all part of the Mercy Challenge she initiated.
To broaden its reach, she’s encouraging participants to share what they’re doing via social media, like people did with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014.
That challenge picked up international publicity when it went viral on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It became a worldwide campaign to raise money for Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and yielded more than $200 million.
Basically, people were encouraged to spread awareness of the disease by donating money to the cause and suggesting that their social media friends do so as well. However, there was a catch. Not only were people nominated to make a donation to the ALS Association – they were also challenged to post videos of themselves pouring icy water on their heads.
Mrs. Cotrupi, director of the NEW Office (New Evangelization Worcester for Youth and Young Adults), isn’t looking to stun anyone with a bucket of cold water. However, she is striving to inspire people to “go the extra mile” in incorporating the corporal and spiritual works of mercy into their daily lives.
During Lent she’s posting a challenge on her office’s Facebook page each day. One challenge is to give some of your possessions to agencies which help the less fortunate. Another is to pray all week for someone you struggle with.
Mrs. Cotrupi is also promoting the challenge by distributing 50-cent red wristbands that say #Mercychallenge. So far nearly 1,000 have been ordered from her office, she said this week. Most requests have come from parishes, schools and individuals in the Worcester Diocese.
However, the wristbands have also gone beyond the diocese. Bishop England High School in South Carolina ordered 200 of them, and they were given to students who completed the school’s personal challenge to be merciful, Mrs. Cotrupi said. She said she hopes this sort of momentum reaches farther and also takes a stronghold in the Worcester Diocese.
One local school that has taken up the challenge is St. Leo Elementary in Leominster. On the NEW Facebook page are photos of the school’s “mercy tree” sporting leaves that tell of merciful acts performed.
It would be great to see others posting stories and videos about their acts of mercy on social media and challenging friends to do the same, Mrs. Cotrupi said. She is encouraging all involved to use the hashtag (#Mercychallenge) on each post to help others realize why they’re posting these things and to inspire more people to participate in the Mercy Challenge.
Even if there isn’t always the opportunity to post acts of mercy on social media, Mrs. Cotrupi said that there are many ways to “go the extra mile” and incorporate the corporal and spiritual works of mercy into daily life. For example, she said, she often interacts with destitute folks on her way home from work and tells them that she’s praying for them and hopes they have a good day.
She said that others can do similar things by continuously striving to do more. For example, instead of just preparing food baskets for those in need, they could “go the extra mile” by meeting and greeting the recipients of the baskets.
Mrs. Cotrupi and two other older adults and a young adult just did something similar outside the country. Feb. 15-20 they did evangelization and works of mercy in Haiti, praying with people, visiting prisoners and building buildings, she said.
It isn’t often that the pope calls a Jubilee year, and Mrs. Cotrupi emphasized that “it’s important to not let this special year of mercy slip by.”