A Pastoral Letter for Lent 2021 – Walking Together in Hope
The facts as they are now.
We are enduring a longer lockdown at home; working or not working, home-schooling or alone, in hospital or nursing home. It is difficult hearing news of the high level of positive cases of Covid-19 and sadly of more deaths – our sympathies are with the grieving families. The roll-out of the vaccines is welcome and offers hope.
In the midst of suffering due to the pandemic, it is important that we take account of the recent reports of the Mother and Baby Homes and listen from the heart to the pain endured by mothers and their children. As Church, we ask forgiveness and resolve to always act in accord with the compassion of Jesus Christ. We must begin again in a spirit of repentance trusting in the merciful love of the Good Lord.
What is important now?
As a People of God, we are called to reach out to others. We can be visible to each other in taking our necessary physical exercise outdoors on our streets and our roads to offer encouragement to each other in these difficult times. With less possibilities of meeting with extended family and friends, going for a walk may be just the opportunity for some much-needed social interaction by way of a nod, a smile, a greeting, or a brief chat at a safe distance. Our healthcare and frontline personnel have become our sources of inspiration in this regard. Also, a phone call to those who cannot be outdoors makes all the difference. Covid-19 is teaching us an appreciation of each other and of the usefulness of online communication technology.
It is encouraging that an increasing number of parishes have had webcam and radio links installed as parishioners value keeping in touch with their own faith community. Also, there is greater contact between the older more vulnerable generation, thanks to the technological ‘know-how’ of our younger generation. While we cannot be present to each other as we would like and we do feel isolated, yet online platforms are ways of keeping in contact with each other as well as with our faith being celebrated at home.
What can we be doing now?
We are about to begin our Lenten journey of accompanying Jesus on His forty days of isolation in the desert wilderness. In this current lockdown, we find ourselves isolated from normal social interaction and in the midst again of a kind of wilderness experience. Covid-19 is becoming our teacher. We are being called again to take time to consider and to contemplate what is most important in life. During Lent we are invited to journey with Jesus to feel His suffering which He endured on our behalf. On that spiritual journey we can come to a realisation of how Jesus is with us in our struggling with this ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
As we are living through exceptional times, we will celebrate Lent differently this year. We will begin on Ash Wednesday, 17th February with specially prepared prayers and rituals for use at home which have a focus upon actions for Lent. These resources for use at home or guided by parishes, where it is possible, will be available online via diocesan/parish websites or for collection in churches beforehand and in your local newspapers – see Ash Wednesday 2021, a Resource for Families.
This year, our Trocaire Lenten Campaign invites us to walk with two women, Awat and Ajak, brought together by the horror of war in South Sudan and whose families are now sharing their lives with love and kindness. Your practical support for the Trocaire campaign of social justice is much needed and appreciated. Every effort will be made by parishes to ensure the availability of the Trocaire boxes for collection in a safe way.
Finally, I invite you to gather around the Gospels of the Sundays of Lent amid living with Covid-19 to break open the Word of God and to share your insights with each other. In staying on the Lenten journey, we can come to Holy Week with a deeper appreciation of the story of Jesus and experience the joy and hope of new life, of the Resurrection which we will celebrate at Easter. In being nourished at the level of the spiritual we are sustained and made resilient in our reaching out to others.
Yours in Christ.
+ Martin Hayes
Bishop of Kilmore.