This Saturday, I was pleased to participate in the 4th Annual Fall River Diocese Women and Men’s Conference on the campus of Stonehill Campus. This year’s theme, “As I Have Done You Must Also Do” (Jn 13:15). The success of the day says volumes to the planning and preparation of the dedicated conference committee. This week, I would like to share with you some of my opening thoughts and remarks given to those present. I believe these words are as pertinent to all the faithful, especially during this particularly challenging Lenten season.
During the Morning Prayer, we sang together, “The Eyes and Hands of Christ,” and these words particularly moved me,
“By name we are called, from the water we are sent: to become the eyes and hands of Christ…
Filled with the Spirit, every hunger is satisfied. Christ is the center of our lives.”
During events like a women and men’s conference, we are fed, nourished, and refreshed. Through the presentations, the celebration of the sacraments, and the power of the Word of God—our faith is rekindled in our hearts.
It is so important that every Catholic make time daily in prayer to reflect on their faith and the love and mercy of Christ in our lives. We are called by name and sent, fed, strengthened, enlightened, and refreshed in that time of prayer. To do what? To go where? To do what Jesus did—share the Good News and go make disciples. This is no small task and as crazy as we may see the world today, the time in which Jesus lived was not a whole lot different. Jesus was tempted; he faced resistance. Yes, the challenges He faced were not exactly the same as ours; of course, he did not have the technology and distractions we have today. Yet, he most certainly faced powerful resistance, enormous obstacles; and he persevered through them all to make a difference, to change the world, to save the world.
During my opening remarks, I asked how many in attendance had participated in any of the previous three conferences. The vast number of returning attendees is a great witness to the worthwhile experience of the annual conference. This event is purposely held during Lent to offer faithful of the diocese access to a local, spiritually enriching way to brighten their Lenten practices, rekindle their faith, and provide much needed time of prayer and reflection. Unfortunately, in our busy lives, we often miss the opportunity to take advantage of the blessing these days can be.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we need these times of prayer and reflection to have more of a sense of our mission in the world: God calling each of us to foster spiritual growth and sanctification in our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, friendships, communities, and parishes. When we make time to pray, we are all better people, and our roles and responsibilities in the mission God has for us is made clear.
Thank you to those who said yes to the invitation to spend a day dedicated to prayer, reflection, and catechesis, who were nourished and enlightened at the conference. Thank you to you who remain dedicated to growing in faith and hope who were unable to join us on Saturday; may your personal prayer and reflection time be blessed. Let us all continue to ask for the grace to be a sign of hope, light, and faith to the world—broken and divided with such a great need of holiness and peace. Remember, we are all called to be instruments of those precious things in our world, strengthened by our discipleship, we will be empowered to go forth and do as Jesus did and make disciples.
As we continue on our Lenten journey and look ahead to April, we rightly anticipate celebrating the joy of Christ’s resurrection. I want to bring your attention to another important focus of that month. April is both Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We cannot ignore and must acknowledge the sins and mistakes of the past and our responsibility in the suffering this has caused. We continue to ask for forgiveness and for healing for those harmed. I will celebrate the Mass of Atonement and Healing on Saturday, April 18, at 4:00 pm at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption in Fall River. You will hear from our guest speaker who will speak of his journey as a survivor of clergy abuse and meet some of our new staff in the Office of Safe Environment who are dedicated to the protection of the faithful and pastoral outreach to victims. I invite all to join us for this important liturgy.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha