Like many of you, these days of quarantine look very different than my usual schedule. During the past month of staying home, I have learned Zoom and Facebook Live to help me stay connected and to allow me to celebrate Mass for the Diocese in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. Additionally, I am taking advantage of this time to pray for each of you. What a blessing to pray for the hundreds of intentions I’ve received since this crisis began; be assured I am reading them all and praying for each one personally. If you would like me to pray for a specific intention, please send me your special prayer requests.
Diocese Services Continue
While the Diocese of Fall River staff does their part to stay home and flatten the curve, they continue to work to serve our diocese. Catholic Social Services has been meeting the challenge of feeding and housing in their many shelters, relying on donations to cover the extra expenses this unprecedented time has brought. Please consider offering your support through online giving — here on their website.
The Pro-Life Apostolate office remains available to assist and asks that you continue to keep in prayer all the youth, mothers experiencing a crisis pregnancy, and families as we pray for a quick end to this pandemic. If you or anyone you know is in need of any assistance during this time, please do not hesitate to contact their office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. You can also access further resources on ways to be pro-life during this time at the Pro-Life Apostolate office website — prolifefallriver.org.
The New Strategic and Pastoral Planning Website
In the midst of this pandemic and while waiting to return to our public celebration of the Sacraments, I share with you the good news of another milestone the diocese has reached. The goals of our Strategic and Pastoral Planning developed over many hours by volunteers from across the diocese in response to my Pastoral Letter, Rebuilding in Faith and Hope, are all now available on the recently launched, Pastoral Planning Website.
The website includes more about the important and ongoing work of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, a Planning Scorecard, a call to join us in prayer, and a detailed outline of the Diocesan Strategic Plan. Please spend some time looking over this new site; I will return to discussing the ten points in my Reflections on Five Years: Continuing the Mission pastoral letter in the coming week.
I would be remiss not to acknowledge the incredibly difficult decision made last week to close Coyle and Cassidy Middle School and High School in Taunton and St. Margaret Primary School in Buzzards Bay. A heavy-hearted choice made in light of the continued decline in enrollment and the adverse impact that this coronavirus crisis has had on the Diocese’s finances. The Diocese has spent nearly $3 million to cover budget shortfalls for the two schools over the past three years, and the projected enrollment for next year for the Coyle and Cassidy High School was 115 students and for St. Margaret’s, 60. The Diocese is committed to helping students and families during this transition, whose timing we acknowledge, amid the uncertainty of this pandemic, places an additional strain. Please know of my continued prayers and close contact with the Catholic School Alliance as we navigate these difficult days together. Sadly, this situation is not unique to us. I learned last week of six other Catholic schools across the country that will close because of the same challenges.
These days are different and continue to provide trials for each of us; however, we must not lose sight that these days are now taking place in the Easter Season. As Pope St. John Paul II said, “We are an Easter people,” a people who live in hope. When we get to the other side of this crisis, if we use this time to grow in faith, hope, and love, we will be renewed and will emerge better people. I hope, pray, and wish we all use this opportunity as a learning experience a time of reflection and conversion and change so we can build a better world after this. Build a world that is more loving, caring, forgiving, compassionate, and just. I invite you, my brothers and sisters, to see this Easter as a special gift and opportunity that God has given to us — to renew ourselves and to change the world.
Bishop da Cunha