I am regularly inspired by a couple of generations of Americans who formed a strength of character and a level of resolve in the face of two tremendous challenges, the Great Depression and WWII. I am in touch with their legacy because I am remembering them as I preside at their funerals. I have a certain amount of sadness because the generation is literally dying. They forged lasting traits of heart and soul that formed the backbone of tremendous worldwide advancements in almost every industry following World War II. They grew up quickly and they survived a lot to flourish.
From challenge, violence, hopelessness, despair and conflict they brought about new life. From suffering and death came accomplishment, innovation, growth and success. From a lot of death came new and newer life.
We are in the midst of a challenge. It is a worldwide pandemic that has disrupted almost every aspect of our lives. It has caused death and many concerns. It has brought about fear and anxiety and, most significantly, a persistent uncertainty that we all wallow in.
In the midst of this challenge, the previous generations give us examples of resolve and unity. The comparison of our challenges with theirs is certainly not accurate on many levels, but needing the inspiration of new life is.
We here at Holy Family have a dramatic symbol that hangs in our sanctuary reminding us of new life. Perhaps because your presence at church has been limited you might not appreciate it or use it as a focus as much these days, but I write today to remind you of the hope of new life that our beautiful cross calls us to.
Here are some examples of the positive, new life already manifest in our community despite a great challenge:
• We have an unbelievably dedicated reopening team that has worked really hard at implementing procedures in compliance with State and Archdiocesan directives for health and safety. We sought your feedback regarding our live Masses and received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Comments included feeling safe and appreciating our diligence in such a public gathering. There exists now a different form of sanctity. Mass is more deliberate which brings about a different form of the sacred. There is a more intentional nature to our prayer now and it doesn’t appear as rote. Making reservations also makes a statement of your desire to come and pray together.
• I have noticed that eye contact at the time of receiving communion is stronger and more genuine. I appreciate that so many of you do, in fact, make your own flat little altar with your hands upon which the consecrated host can be placed by us Eucharistic Ministers in a reverent and healthy manner. There is a deeper appreciation for the Eucharist simply because it is not as available.
• We are in a strong financial position as we begin a new fiscal year and your generosity has made this a reality. Our Easter collection reached budget, despite the fact that we didn’t have Masses. We have seen an increase in electronic givers because some more of you realize how significant and efficient this form of giving is. Please continue to support us as our expenses will rise now that we are opening the building regularly for Mass, baptisms, weddings, funerals, adoration, reconciliation and private prayer.
• Our Operations team has cut expenses much more than expected, and in the process learned about future procedures to continue expense reduction.
• The virtual Spirit Camp was a lot of work for our Family & Teen Faith staff but turned out to be a huge success. 170 families participated from Holy Family alone and we collaborated with several other parishes.
• Kid Church has actually grown in participation thanks to some creative and inspiring virtual presentations.
• Holy Family Catholic Academy has truly distinguished us in our e-learning curriculum in a very innovative manner.
• Our SCC’s are more involved than ever and groups report meeting more than usual via Zoom.
• Many of our teens meet every Thursday evening to share “What’s on Your Mind.”
We are seeing that our ministry can be done in other ways and, in general, this challenge has stimulated some very creative adaptations and additions to what we continue to offer as a community.
In general, many of you have expressed a deeper appreciation for Holy Family because of restricted access on a number of levels. In a challenge, new life is certainly appearing.