MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Rev. Bruce Nieli, a Catholic priest who Pope Francis named a "Missionary of Mercy," last month, will lead a prayerful procession starting at noon on Good Friday, March 25 beginning at St. Patrick Church at 277 South Fourth Street near FedExForum.
"Since the neighborhood around St. Patrick's is so rich culturally, spiritually and politically, it's the perfect venue for the Stations of the Cross," said Fr. Nieli, who started leading the Good Friday procession through South Memphis in 1998.
The Stations of the Cross commemorate Christ's last day on earth as a man, starting with his condemnation. While the tradition is a Catholic one, Fr. Nieli says all people are welcome to join the prayerful march, which will stop for prayers and hymns fourteen times, including at the National Civil Right Museum, the site of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination on April 4, 1968.
"Since Dr. King was so Christ-centered and such a good shepherd of his people himself, it's a perfect focus," said the priest.
Nieli, a native New Yorker, was based at St. Patrick parish in Memphis for 15 years before being transferred to Austin, Texas. The 14 stop tour of St. Patrick's neighborhood includes world famous Beale Street, home of the Blues.
"Blues music came from Spirituals so it makes sense," Nieli says of including the bar lined street on the Good Friday procession.
Nieli was among the hundreds of priests worldwide summoned to the Vatican in February after being named a "Missionary of Mercy."
Pope Francis declared a "Jubilee Year of Mercy" and sent forth 1,142 special emissaries worldwide to extend God's forgiveness starting on Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season.
Nieli says the Pope's secretary asked each of the missionaries to e-mail what they're doing and the priest included the Memphis Good Friday procession in his report.
Also included in his summary to Pope Francis, Nieli says he'll let the Holy Father know of his visit to four convicts on Tennessee's death row. Nieli says he blessed the men with a stole given to him by Pope Francis as a Missionary of Mercy.
After the procession from St. Patrick's, Nieli will lead a special Good Friday Spanish language prayer service for families of patients at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital at Target House #2.