Father Igor Simonovis was a diocesan priest in Concordia-Pordenone in northern Italy, near the Austrian border. For about ten years He was a pastor of four parishes in the mountain region Val d’Arzino, and in one of his parishes the first community of Brothers of Merciful Jesus came into being.
At the beginning of the year 2000 a young Argentine man named Julián met Fr. Igor on a Marian pilgrimage. Julian asked Fr. Igor to help him discern God’s will. Fr. Igor promised to pray for Julian that he would find what God wanted of him, when he returned to Italy. Julian said he would travel to Italy soon and visit Fr. Igor. After some time in prayer, the young man decided he was being directed by the Lord to join the Priesthood, but got no direction as to the order he was to join.
The week before his trip to Italy, during Eucharistic Adoration, and whilst praying the chaplet of Divine Mercy it came very strongly to him that God desired him to join a community of men who had the charisma of living out and spreading Devotion to the Divine Mercy in the form revealed to St. Faustina Kowalska and continued by Fr. Sopocko. But his enquiries led him to find that there was no such community in the Church. When he arrived in Italy he went straight to Fr. Igor and explained what he felt the Lord wanted of him. He asked Father Igor if he would help him start this order.
Fr. Igor’s reply was to say that he would not have the time, he would have to leave his work in the parish to start something like this and the parish priest would never agree to allow him leave.But Julian persisted in coming back many times telling Fr. Igor he felt he was to be involved. Fr. Igor was at the stage where he even told Julian if he didn’t stop pestering him he call the police. But Julian kept coming and telling him it was God’s will.
After a year and a half of prayer and study of the message of Divine Mercy Fr. Igor could see that the Lord did indeed ask for a male religious community as well as a female religious community to spend their lives praying for Divine Mercy for the world. The power of divine grace led him to the conviction that maybe all of this was truly God’s will. Fr. Igor’s Spiritual Director, was Fr. Oreste Marcato (Superior of the community of the Franciscan brothers at the Shrine of Frassino in Verona), Fr. Marcato encouraged him to believe that Jesus in His Divine Mercy would enlighten him and give him to understand everything.
When he finally spoke to the parish priest he said he did not want him to leave, but he would not stand in the way. Then suddenly he had an opportunity to speak to Cardinal Backis, Archbishop of Vilnius on a visit of the Cardinal to the parish. To his amazement the Cardinal approved of the idea of this new community. Fr. Igor decided that the best way to proceed was to seek approval for this new community from the Vatican, and that would be the proof that he was to be involved if it was approved. The official approval of the Community came through on July 11th 2005. Fr. Igor and Julian became the first members of the new community, The Brothers of The Merciful Jesus”.
Today the members of the community are, Brother Julian Mary from Buenos Aires, Argentina; Brother Mariusz Mary from Lodz, Poland; Brother John Mary from Pozzolengo, Italy; Brother Gregory Mary from Sosnowiec, Poland and Brother Henry Mary from Byelorussia. They began a common life of prayer and study, took up theological studies at the Major Institute of Religious Studies in Portogruaro, near Venice.
This was all a time of formation to prepare them for the consecrated life and a time of broadening their experience of the various aspects of the spirituality of Divine Mercy. In this way the first community of Brothers of Merciful Jesus was born. The community has now established itself in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Since they arrived, the newly born Community is living the spirituality of Divine Mercy in Vilnius, a place highly favoured by Jesus the Divine Mercy, a place where the holy image of Merciful Jesus was first painted and exposed to the public, where Saint Faustina received the chaplet of Mercy and where for centuries the icon of Mary Mother of Divine Mercy has been venerated and honoured.
The place where Jesus first asked Saint Faustina to establish these communities, and the place where the original Image is now exposed in the new international shrine recently consecrated there by Cardinal Backis.
They community are at present working on an old building given to them by the Archbishop, which will become their new home. They hope to work with homeless children, and when they do our foundation H.U.D.T “Divine Mercy in Action” will be supporting them in this work.
“We trust,” said Fr. Igor on behalf of his community, “that the God of infinite Divine Mercy will continue to work through our new community and strengthen us in all of the works He has already begun through us. The Brothers of Merciful Jesus are united in prayer with the “Sisters of Merciful Jesus”, and with all of the numerous spiritual children of their founder Father Michael Sopocko, in asking God for his speedy beatification.
Many signs that Divine Providence is at work here has helped Fr. Igor to understand that the real inspiration of this community comes from the spirit of Father Michael Sopocko. In order to know Divine Mercy one has to experience it. This Community came together and was formed by six young men who have experienced Divine Mercy in their lives, and learn to know about mercy by growing in the awareness of the goodness of God.
But to know God’s Mercy is not an intellectual action, it is a lived experience. For this reason the fraternity life has a crucial role in the life of the poor Community they live among: growing in brotherly love, humbly welcoming their role to take on other’s miseries for the love of God and His Church, thereby helping to grow in the knowledge of all that is Divine Mercy.
The brothers of the Community strongly feel that in showing this love for others, they live as reconciled people, whose work is also to reconcile others. He who experiences Divine Mercy feels the need to communicate such love to others.
It is in this way that the Brothers of Merciful Jesus call on the hearts of others so that he or she can discover and live this love. All of this begins with a commitment to prayer, in fact the brothers pray at every opportunity that everybody may get to know God’s infinite Mercy.
Preaching the Mercy of God offering catechism, spiritual exercises, and spiritual workshops has all become part of their day so that people get to know Him better. One very important aspect of the Community rule is teaching awareness of the sacraments, especially Reconciliation, and Anointing of the Sick. The pastoral area in which a brother can offer his service is vast.
Their hope is that where there are moral miseries there would always be a brother, but most especially they will make themselves present to desperate souls so that with the grace of God they may grow in trusting Him, helping them to repeat again and again Jesus, I trust in you!
A particular commitment of the community is to take care of orphan children, especially those in moral and spiritual danger. Divine Providence has entrusted to the brothers an old house and an old church which we are helping them presently to refurbish and which they are all working on, in order to have a base to carry out their work of mercy. The building is located near the main train station, in Vilnius, a place considered to be one of the most physically and morally impoverished areas of the city. This will be their vinyard.