Reverend Chris Alar recently visited the Philippines once again. From July 28 to August 7, 2023, he met with thousands of the faithful in Metro Manila, Baguio (Northern Luzon) and El Salvador City (Misamis Oriental) to share the message of Divine Mercy. Here is the text of the interview prepared by the staff of the Association of Marian Helpers.
Fr. Chris Alar, Superior of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the American Province, who also serves as director of the Association of Marian Helpers in the USA, was interviewed by Maciej Talar.
What was your path to the priesthood?
I led a life away from the Church, although I grew up in a Catholic family. We went to Mass on Sundays, but that was all our religiosity boiled down to. We were Catholic for one hour a week. God, however, worked.
In what way?
I needed a tragedy to wake up. That tragedy that shook me was my grandmother’s suicide. When she took her own life, I began to question the Church’s teaching on the posthumous fate of her soul. I couldn’t believe that she was condemned. I was told that this is what the Catholic Church teaches, but after learning about the Catholic faith, I learned that this is not the true teaching of the Church. Such a soul can still be saved depending on certain circumstances. When I learned that God’s mercy is greater than even such a sin as suicide, I appreciated the importance of this message.
How did you become a Marian Priest?
The main motivation for me was the role played by the Marian Fathers in spreading the message of Divine Mercy proclaimed by St. Faustina. Here I am referring specifically to the actions of Fr. Joseph Jarzębowski, MIC, in bringing this message from Poland to the United States and then around the world. All this was happening at a time when Jesus said that God’s mercy was humanity’s last hope for salvation. I realized very quickly that this was something special. As you know, Jesus said in the Diary that from Poland would come the spark that would prepare the world for His final coming. I believed in what John Paul II taught, that we are to be apostles of Divine Mercy. I was also deeply moved when I learned that the charism of the Marian Fathers is to preach the Immaculate Conception, Divine Mercy and prayers for the dead. No religious community in the world combines these very important contents.
How many members does the Association of Marian Helpers in the United States have?
In the Association of Marian Helpers we have about one and a half million Marian Helpers, of which about a quarter of a million are active. This means that they have actively participated in our work in some way recently, whether by helping us spread the message of Divine Mercy, or by supporting our ministry through donations, or by purchasing religious articles.
What is the history of the establishment of AMH in the United States?
When the message of Divine Mercy reached the United States through the efforts of Fr. Joseph Jarzębowski, MIC, we were already a permanent presence in the US as Marians. One of our houses was in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. There was a young priest there, Fr. Władysław Pełczyński, MIC, who, in accordance with the Marian charism and the teachings of Blessed George, wanted to involve the lay faithful more in evangelization. Fr. Wladyslaw purchased 350 acres of land in western Massachusetts for this purpose. In the 1940s, he created the Association of Marian Helpers and, as its director, took his name from the first provincial in the US, Fr. Joseph Luniewski, MIC. Today it is an honorary title of every director of the Association. I, too, have the honor of serving as “Father Joseph.” I have been doing so for nine years. At the same time, I am one of the three directors with the longest tenure in the Association.
What is the daily operation of the American Association of Marian Helpers?
The daily activities of the AMH focus on spreading the message of Divine Mercy, since we were called by Pope John Paul II to become apostles of Divine Mercy. We also live the message of Blessed George to work with the laity so that we can share our love for the Divine Mother. Our role is to share our charism with the world, which is, of course, the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, devotion and prayer for the souls in Purgatory, and to go where the need is greatest. These three charisms are really under the umbrella of the Divine Mercy apostolate. Our task in the Association is also to give Marian priests the support they need when they go on parish missions.
What does this support look like?
We provide materials to priests and laity, for example, by sharing recordings of lectures, printing books from our publishing house Marian Press, our online activities to share the message of Divine Mercy and Mary digitally. We are helped by the fact that our headquarters are located in Eden Hill, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on the grounds of the National Shrine of Divine Mercy. Our team is made up of people who are very aware of the importance of God’s mercy to the world and share a common goal of bringing people to Christ.
Do you face any obstacles in proclaiming your mission?
Some people say, “If God is going to prevail at the end of time anyway, why do you bother?” My answer is always the same: “Yes, God will win the war, but we are to minimize our sacrifices along the way.” Our job is to minimize the sacrifices of souls that are lost because of atheistic culture and the loss of the sense of sin. Our task is to awaken the faithful to return to their faith, to receive the sacraments, not to be lost.
How else do you spread the message of Divine Mercy besides the ways you mentioned?
Among other things, we do it through the largest American Catholic television station EWTN. We now have a new program there called “Living Divine Mercy,” which is aired weekly. We also hold conferences and participate in various events. I recently spoke in Dublin, Ireland, at the largest conference on Divine Mercy in Europe. We conduct trainings. We conduct a lot of catechesis online. Every week on Saturday mornings, I give a lecture over the Internet, in which I teach the principles of our faith. You can find it on YouTube. We have podcasts by great priests such as Fr. Joe Roesch and Fr. Dan Cambra on the saints. Fr. Joe uses the Diary of St. Faustina. There are wonderful sources available that we Marians use to proclaim the message contained therein. We also have Marian priests who speak publicly, such as Fr. Don Calloway and Fr. David Gunther. Many other priests are also spreading the message. We run parishes in the Chicago and Wisconsin area, where we also preach this charism.
How is the message of Divine Mercy received in the United States?
Well, the message is very well received, but still not enough people know about it, so our work is endless. We pray the Divine Mercy chaplet every day at the shrine at 3 pm, which is broadcast by EWTN.
People from all over the United States, and even from around the world, come to join us.
Why is it so important to remind people of Divine Mercy?
Because the world needs Mercy today more than ever. Take, for example, the problem of suicide. I’ve heard that there weren’t many suicides in Poland, and now you’re seeing a big increase in this issue. In the United States, there is a sharp increase in calls to so-called hotlines from potential suicidal people asking for help. Together with Br. Jason Lewis, I wrote a book several years ago entitled: “After Suicide: There is hope for them and for you.” This book unfortunately sells more now than it used to, because the pandemic has brought a lot of pain and suffering to people. So let’s do our best to spread the message of God’s mercy, because very many people are waiting for it.
Books written by Fr. Chris Alar are available for purchase at Catholic bookstores and directly from the Marian Helpers, Philippines office in Quezon City
Please Call : 09209722140