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Words of gratitude as we approach a new year

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

January 6, 2021

One of the many lessons that the pandemic of 2020 has taught me which I hope to take with me as I greet 2021 is to never take people for granted. Undoubtedly, these anxious months have given me a renewed sense of gratitude for my neighbor, the one I know and the one I have never met. So many individuals have sacrificed much and continue to give of themselves during this public health crisis. The charitable spirit of the many who lend a hand to help those in need has been truly inspiring.

Words of gratitude go out to all our health care workers and first responders whose tender care and loving hearts continue to assist us. Those who work behind the scenes, such as in the labs, those who test for the virus and those who meticulously searched for an effective vaccine to combat COVID-19, deserve our thanks.

School administrators, teachers and staff have extended themselves tirelessly so that our students’ education might not suffer during the pandemic. We appreciate the understanding and flexibility of our parents whose support and cooperation have been crucial in providing safe classroom environments for their children. We are gratified by the cooperative spirit of our students and for the creative ways in which we have honored those who graduated this past year and saw their school’s graduation traditions severely limited.

I thank God for a wonderful diocesan staff, for our priests, deacons, consecrated religious and parishioners who have extended themselves in seeking ways to creatively tend to the spiritual and material needs of our parish families. Parish pastoral outreach continues to meet the needs of many whose current circumstances give us an opportunity to lend them a helping hand. Our pastors and their staffs have been most creative and supportive as they have implemented extraordinary health protocols in our parishes during this crisis. Their pastoral sensitivity for all their parishioners reflects the hearts of good shepherds. We express gratitude to the catechetical staff who continue to provide for the faith formation of our young.

I am grateful to the many parishioners who sanitize and clean pews and surfaces after parish liturgies so that parishioners can arrive for the next liturgy with a sense of assurance that the sacred space meets health protocols. I thank God for all our parishioners who wear facial coverings as we take to heart St. Paul’s words to the Philippians (2:4): “let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

We remember all those who have suffered the death of a loved one this past year. I am grateful to grieving family members who have understood and followed the special funeral protocols that, in some cases, have limited our ability for extended family and friends to attend Funeral Masses.

Clearly, 2020 brought us much anxiety and suffering that continue in this New Year. The seas have been rough and sometimes we felt that we were taking on water. As our attentiveness to all health protocols continues, I pray that more of the faithful will return to our parish churches for Mass. Having been nourished with the Eucharist, the food so necessary for our journey here on earth, we can be a source of confident hope and joy for our struggling neighbor.

Yes, the waters have been turbulent, exposing our weaknesses and vulnerabilities. The scene in Mark’s Gospel (4:35-41), reminds us that in the storm, even the wind and the sea obey the One born among us. In this time of trial and testing, we ask the Mother of Jesus to teach all of us to love one another and to be patient and kind that we may bring the peace and healing Presence of Jesus to our land and to our hearts. Good St. Joseph pray for us. Blessed New Year to you and your loved ones!

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