Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
May the grace and peace of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ be with us always!
In Jesus’ time, shepherds used wooden staffs to protect their flocks from wolves and other threats. They used the hook of their staffs to gently bring into unity those sheep who wandered off. During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are doing the same thing. We are protecting each other from the grave threat of a deadly virus, and we are doing our collective best to keep ourselves united together as the people of God in the Spirit and prayer.
We are following all of the good, solid medical counsel that has been given to us by experts. We are also following the mandates from our civil authorities that help us adhere to the medical advice. Temporary social distancing and staying at home, together with restrictions on gathering and travel, are the best way for us to protect human life during this global pandemic. These mandates require us to make many sacrifices in just about every aspect of our daily lives, including our spiritual lives.
As you know, Catholics believe in the sanctity and protection of human life from conception until natural death. The right to life is first among all of the human rights. We work for the legal protection of the unborn and an end to abortion. We respect the life and dignity of every human person. During this time of pandemic, I want to thank each of you for all of the sacrifices that you make to ensure that this virus will affect far fewer people—thereby protecting human life.
During this time of uncertainty and threat, much is being asked of us, and personal sacrifices are necessary. The spiritual attitude in which we address these significant challenges are as important as the sacrifices themselves. We can be resentful for what we may see as things that are being taken away from us. Or, we can be grateful for the opportunity to attack this virus head on, and to discover new ways to remain united in the Spirit and prayer during this temporary separation. A friend’s mother who passed away several years ago, used to say that in every situation, good and bad, it is possible to have “the attitude of gratitude”.
I reviewed the May issue of the Anchor before it went to print, and I must say that I was deeply moved by the stories within its pages. The more I read, the more I was filled with gratitude. As I have stated publicly before, I am deeply grateful for all of the doctors and nurses, health care providers, first responders, essential workers, and government officials. The May issue of the Anchor focuses upon the many creative efforts and ministry of our priests, deacons, teachers, directors of faith formation and youth ministry, associates of Catholic Social Services, among many others. These men and women continue to find ways to serve us in the midst of separation and uncertainty. I am deeply grateful for them.
I also want to call our attention to the most vulnerable people in our community. As I obey the state and local mandates to stay at home, I am painfully aware that there are many in our society who do not have a home, and others whose homes are not as safe as we would hope. I want to commend Catholic Social Services and all those charities that continue to minister, treat, and care for our cherished brothers and sisters who suffer from homelessness, addictions, and health challenges.
I ask of you all to please continue to follow the mandates from our civil authorities as well as my own directives. These temporary measures are in place for the common good. We will all gather again as soon as it is safe to do so. And, it will be with lessons learned, new innovations created, and a deeper love and appreciation for each other.
We have nothing to fear. As Saint Paul declares in Romans, chapter 8, verses 38-39: For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things – nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M.