Sunday August 15, the beginning of a new week, one in which we find all of New South Wales in lockdown, in an attempt to quell the infection rate from COVID–19. Our news broadcasts are saturated with daily infection numbers, numbers of tests, new restrictions, vaccination information and how to stay safe.
In the Diocese, since early last year, there have been very regular meetings of the Critical Incident Management Team (CIMT) with people from across all aspects of diocesan life – parishes, schools, CatholicCare, Early Education, OOSH, Shared Services, the Office of Safeguarding, Pastoral Ministries and the Bishop’s Office. Today, Sunday, about twenty people joined the CIMT meeting at 11.30am to discuss the many aspects of diocesan life and the impact of the new orders which are being amended each day. We provide so many services to so many people, and the key question in our meetings is: “How do we continue our core functions, while keeping people safe?”
I am sure similar meetings are also being held in parishes and in all of our agencies, ensuring the many aspects of our work and ministries continue. I find this to be quite draining because every day is different, and our plans are being formed in response to a new and emerging situation. Our prime purpose and responsibility is to serve people and in doing that we are exercising the ministry of Jesus Christ, being present, if only by phone, email, zoom, teams, Instagram, twitter etc. In working from home, my screen eyes are glad to welcome the relief of sleep at the end of each day. And I count my blessings to have a home and a warm bed to end each day.
On Saturday, I read the funeral notices of two really active and engaged parishioners from two of our parishes. I was not only saddened to read of their deaths but also disappointed that I cannot gather with their respective families and communities to pray for them, bid them farewell and support those who are grieving. And this is the story the world over. Our need to gather for rituals that mark significant aspects of life has been curtailed for so long. We have been waiting for months to baptise Levi, our grandson, who was born in January. My daughter wants all of the family to gather for this very important occasion. We are the family and the Christian community who will grow him up in our faith. As a community, we are missing important events such as births, deaths, marriages, birthdays, accompanying people in sickness, catching up with family and friends, holidaying, picnics, graduations, concerts, etc.
Next Sunday, 22 August, I invite you to consider connecting in with the National Day of Prayer. It has been arranged by the National Council of Churches Australia, to pray for our local, national and global communities experiencing great need and distress caused by COVID – 19.
“But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.” Psalm 86:15.
‘LORD HAVE MERCY’
Please look for the resources on their website, www.ncca.org.au. It also provides a link to the World Council of Churches (WCC) website and their resources on the COVID – 19 pandemic.
I came across this prayer card, below, on the WCC website. There are lots to be found there. It reminded me of Mary’s Solemnity of the Assumption which we celebrated today (Sunday). She was certainly unaware of what God, through the angel Gabriel, was asking of her and yet she said ‘yes’ and continued to respond throughout her life, trusting with the words:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
For those wanting to go deeper on this National Day of Prayer and commit additional time or individual participation there are a number of opportunities, via online gatherings, available via the NCCA website.
I am very conscious that as Christians, how important it is for us to gather in community, to pray together, to pastorally accompany and nourish each other physically, spiritually and emotionally. I don’t find ‘viewing’ Mass online, from an almost empty Cathedral, while sitting in my loungeroom, provides me an encounter with the Mystery, that being physically present does. Humans are such tangible creatures, and it is through other humans that we experience something of the person we name God.
This reminds me of the CatholicCare August Appeal that is part of this week’s Dio Update. The funds raised will be used to support the various community programs which are offered by CatholicCare across our diocese, such as community kitchens, the Refugee Hub, programs to support those experiencing hardship etc. Please consider if you are able to assist financially or with time.
During the weeks ahead, I hope you are able to spend some time feeling the lovely warmth of the sun, as we approach spring. In our recent drive up north, the wattle that forms a guard of honour on the Pacific Highway, was truly beautiful. In our own garden, the roses are beginning to bud and the daffodils and jonquils are starting to flower. Oh, how much we need this spring to lift our spirits and to hope for new life.
Director Pastoral Ministries
17 August 2021