A comedian turned priest, Fr. Frankie Mulgrew is touring across the north of England during this Lenten season in a ‘confession bus’ blessed by the Holy Father.
Fr. Frankie Mulgrew ordained to the priesthood in July 2013 decided to abandon his career in showbiz for the work of God. He is the son of Irish comedian Jimmy Cricket.
Diocese of Salford’s double-decker Mercy Bus, also a church on wheels will travel round offering confessions on the go as well as have a number of priests available for a chat or blessing.
The Mercy Bus follows the example of Jesus who ‘brought the gospel on the streets, on hilltops, at dinner in people’s homes’, says Fr Frankie Mulgrew
The Mercy Bus parks up in town and city centers, shopping centers and soon will travel to a prison. Outside the bus, we have young adult volunteers playing live music and offering people free gifts blessed by Pope Francis.
Fr Frankie Mulgrew, when asked how people have been responding said, “During our first two stops, we had around 400 visitors. We seem to be having a constant steam of people coming on-board currently. We gave up 1500 miraculous medals that have been blessed by the Pope. The feedback has been great and really positive.”
“We are saying: ‘If you have got any burdens, come on the bus and be free from them. If you are going through any struggles right now — a family feud, financial problems, a broken relationship — come on board the bus and experience God’s mercy,’” he said.
“We are trying to reconnect people to faith and provide a place of welcome for them, and acceptance, and a place where they are going to encounter God’s mercy in a tangible way in their lives,” Fr Mulgrew said.
“It is going out joyfully,” he added. “It’s trying to show the church in all its beauty and all its joy.”
When asked what inspired him to create the Mercy Bus, Fr Mulgrew said, “the inspiration came from Pope Francis, who, whilst he was Cardinal of Buenos Aires, used to hold outdoor Masses in some of the poorest slums in the city.”
“I also drew inspiration from a time in my life when I was going through a low point, struggling with low moods and I went to confession and I had a profound encounter with God’s mercy. So the idea was hatched to create a Mercy Bus – a church out on the streets, offering mercy on the move,” he said.
The large bus adorned with logos was hired from an Accrington-based company called Moving People which cost $330 per day. Initally the plan was to use the bus each Saturday a month but with people have shown surprising interest in the initiative that diocesan officials said they plan to retain the vehicle until the end of the holy year in November
The sides of bus show images of Pope Francis and priests hearing confessions on either side of “Mercy Bus” in huge letters.
Pope Francis has given his personal blessing to the Diocese of Salford’s Mercy Bus and according to the former comedian “laughed spontaneously” when he presented him with pictures of the Mercy Bus.
“He gave me this great beaming smile which I took as a great encouragement and affirmation of what I was working toward,” Fr Mulgrew said.