Whew. It’s been more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and it’s been tough.
A year ago (March 23, 2020), the front page of the St. Louis Review contained only words. In large bold type, it read “Public Masses Suspended.” Inside, the news story reported that the public celebration of Mass was temporarily halted to slow the spread of COVID-19. Catholic school buildings were closed and extracurricular activities curtailed. Catholic agencies responded to heightened needs. Catholic health care workers began a major battle to test and care for people infected with the virus.
The newspaper had articles urging people to use the lockdown to contribute to the common good and focus on personal growth. We were warned that it would be difficult, especially since God created us to be in community.
Looking back at the yearlong pandemic, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee issued a pastoral message March 9. The bishops reiterated how the pandemic dramatically changed life in our country and ushered in immense suffering — sickness, death, mourning, a lack of food, unstable housing, loss of work and income, struggles with education, separation, abuse, isolation, depression and anxiety. “Yet we know, as the Psalms remind us, that we find comfort in God’s promise that gives us life” (Psalm 119:50), the bishops stated.
Pope Francis reminded us in an address in St. Peter’s Square last year that we are not as powerful or as in control as we thought. “Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm,” Pope Francis said. “We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other.”
And that’s what’s happened.
“We saw countless acts of sacrifice by health care workers, first responders, chaplains, those who work in our soup kitchens and homeless shelters, mail carriers, agricultural and grocery store workers, friends and even strangers. Countless acts of kindness were offered by so many people, which served to remind us that we are all in this together,” the bishops said, adding praise for priests, deacons, religious, teachers, catechists and lay ecclesial ministers.
We’ve grown a lot during this time, and many of the changes we’ve seen will continue even after the pandemic ends. We still need, as always, to extend our kindness and keep God’s love alive in our hearts.