In January of 2019, the Mercedarian Friars of the U.S. Vicariate accepted the gracious invitation of Bishop Felipe J. Estévez and began to minister in many of the prisons in his Northeastern Florida Diocese. In addition to this most important ministry to the captives, friars have been named pastors to two of the parishes nearest the majority of these prisons. Father Richard Rasch, O. de M. is pastor of St. Mary, Mother of Mercy Parish located in Macclenny, Florida and Father Michael Donovan, O. de M. is pastor of Saint Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Starke, Florida. The Friars live in community together at the parish house in Macclenny.
Father Daniel Bowen, O. de M., Vocation Director of the Mercedarian Friars USA, attending the annual Eucharistic Congress held in March, recently visited this new Mercedarian initiative. "This is very exciting for us," Father Daniel said. "It is a new opportunity to directly engage our Mercedarian Charism of Redemption specifically for the incarcerated. I was surprised to learn while I was here that inmates presently have to wait nearly a year, just to have their Confession heard by a priest. No doubt the need is great, and we can bring hope to so many here in this part of Florida."
This is the second community for the Mercedarian Friars in the State of Florida. Saint Peter Nolasco Residence in Saint Petersburg, Florida established in 1992 is the first.