The Catholic Diocese of Salford in northern England is using a mobile confession unit this Lent in the form of the double-decker Mercy Bus.
During the 'Lenten Tour' the bus will travel through the diocese with a priest on board, offering the public the chance to go to confession on the go without attending a church. One of the driving forces behind the project is Father Frankie Mulgrew, son of famed Irish comedian Jimmy Cricket.
Just before the Mercy Bus set off on its Lenten campaign of penitence, Fr Mulgrew visited the Vatican where Pope Francis himself commended the endeavor and blessed photos of the bus.
The project itself was inspired by the current Pope and his efforts while a cardinal in Argentina to bring religion to the people, traveling to the poorest areas of his diocese where he would celebrate open-air Masses.
“The fact that Francis approaches ordinary people traveling to their workplaces or bringing their children to school, testifies to the love and the compassion of God,” said Fr. Mulgrew.
“It’s also an important commitment for evangelization which we seek to mirror though our bus”.
After Pope Francis declared the jubilee year, the Year of Mercy, last March, the diocese wished to do something more to join the Pope in celebrating the mercy of God and forgiveness of sins.
“The Mercy Bus is a way of reaching out to people who might not otherwise have contact with the Church,” Bishop John Arnold of Salford told the Catholic Herald. “We are going to them, rather than expecting them to come to us.”
Father Mulgrew will not be alone on the bus, however. He will be joined by two other priests from the diocese, Fr. Michael Cooke and Fr. Duncan McVicar. Fr. Mulgrew believes the trio are “following the example of Jesus who spoke in synagogues and also brought the gospel on the streets, on hilltops, at dinner in people’s homes.”
The Lenten Tour got under way on Saturday, Feb 6. The Mercy Bus will be traveling to a different area of the diocese every Saturday until Easter Sunday on March 27. Members of the public are invited to visit the bus where they can have a chat, talk to a priest, go to confession, or just find out about the current Year of Mercy. The bus will also being playing music and have volunteers outside handing out information and inviting people inside.
This is not the first time that Father Frankie Mulgrew has used an unusual method of getting in touch with the religious beliefs of the general public. Taking after his father’s obvious comic nature, he compiled a unique collection of anecdotes about laughter and humor in Christianity and published them in a book entitled “Does God LOL?” in 2013.
The book combines Mulgrew's own reflections on the question of laughter with famous quotes on the subject. It features contributions from UK funny people Jo Brand, Ricky Tomlinson, Frank Carson, Ken Dodd, and of course, his father, Jimmy Cricket.
If you live in the Greater Manchester and Lancashire area in the UK and would like to stop by the Mercy Bus, it will visit the following locations in the coming weeks:
- Saturday, February 20: Burnley
- Saturday, March 5: Tesco Car Park, Bury
- Saturday, March 12: Market Square, Ashton-under-Lyne Town Centre
- Saturday, March 19: North Manchester
- Tuesday, March 22: South Manchester