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 | By Mary D. Dillard

Most Merciful Jesus Catholic Church

All parishes have a history of their founding: some in distant memory and some in recent. The history of Most Merciful Jesus Catholic Church in Madison began just a short 15 years ago. In 2009, three priests and a bishop met at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Madison to mull over the growing Catholic population in the area. Nothing immediate resulted out of the gathering, yet a seed was planted: could the area benefit from a new parish?

After three years of research, in June 2012, the Diocese of Birmingham purchased 25 acres of land on Segers Road in Madison. With the land secured, the next step was to find the right priest. The Priest Personnel Board approached Father Joy Chalissery in February 2015 and asked him to consider putting his name in the pool of priests willing to take on the role of founding pastor. Five months later, Father Joy was leaving his parish of 13 years, Our Lady, Queen of the Universe in Huntsville, to begin his one-year assignment as associate pastor of St. John the Baptist, the epicenter of the new parish efforts.

In October of that same year, Father Phil O’Kennedy, then pastor of St. John the Baptist, and Father Joy officially announced to the congregation the plans for the new parish. While the fact that a local farmer was still cultivating soybeans on the 25-acre property didn’t damper the enthusiasm for what was to come, an integral part was missing: the parish’s name.

Providentially, on Dec. 8, 2015, Pope Francis declared the opening of the Extraordinary Holy Year: The Jubilee of Mercy. After submitting three names for consideration, on Dec. 28, 2015, which happened to be Father Joy’s 25th anniversary of priestly ordination, then Bishop Robert J. Baker issued the Decree of Canonical Establishment, naming the new parish as Most Merciful Jesus.

In terms of “Church time,” what followed next took place at lightning speed: a Parish Coordinating Committee was formed, an inaugural Mass was celebrated, a rectory was purchased, a website was created, parishioners registered, and ground was broken on the new parish’s multi-purpose hall, all by August 2016. As the hall was being constructed, parishioners attended daily Mass in the rectory’s converted garage and weekend Mass in the cafeteria of Mill Creek Elementary School. Nine, short months later, on April 1, 2017, Bishop Baker, then Bishop Emeritus David E. Foley, and 11 priests of the diocese participated in the dedication of the multi-purpose hall, which would serve as a temporary sanctuary, space for social gathering, and storage. In August 2020, amidst the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the parish live-streamed the mortgage burning of all its property.

Today, Mercy Parish, as it is lovingly referred to, has become a staple of the community, boasting 48 active ministries. Parish registration tops 545 families, and that number is expected to increase as the area continues to experience exponential growth. Needless to say, the parish has outgrown its multi-purpose building, leading to the need for a larger campus, which will ultimately include a new church, chapel, columbarium, education building, recreational field, and rectory. The parish is tackling the project with the same amount of dedication and enthusiasm it displayed at its inception.

“Trusting in God’s providence,” stated Father Joy, “we are marching forward happily, knowing that we are all part of a very special mission of building a merciful parish family.”

And marching forward they are. Mercy Parish selected Ellis Architects and completed a final review in mid-2023. A site master plan with 10 phases was created with detailed conceptual drawings, architectural renderings, and detailed cost estimates.

With the parish being 100 percent volunteer-led, the parish is doing all in its power to keep cost down and raise funds for the initial phase, which includes site work and construction of the main level of the two-level design church and chapel. The parish has an aggressive goal to raise half of the $20 million estimated cost in three years. Keep Most Merciful Jesus Parish in your prayers as they enter a new, exciting chapter, striving to live by their motto of being “merciful like the Father” to the faithful in the Madison area.

In addition to prayers, anyone wishing to attend any of the parish’s fundraisers or to learn more about the parish’s building plan, please visit or e-mail In the words of Father Joy, “May the Most Merciful Jesus bless you!”