Mission to Support Priests
In this week’s Building Faith blog, I wish to discuss the third activity from my Pastoral Letter: Reflections on Five Years – Continuing the Mission — strengthening and supporting our priests now and for the future.
As I state in the pastoral letter, we are so fortunate in the Diocese of Fall River to have such a dedicated and gifted clergy who serve God and His people with fervor and distinction. Now, more than ever, our priests are overburdened and unable to be the priests they desire to be because so much of their day is caught up with administrative responsibilities; with the COVID-19 crisis adding new issues and obstacles.
One of the most important responsibilities of a bishop is to care for his priests. Without these generous priestly collaborators, no bishop can effectively teach, sanctify and shepherd the people of a Diocese entrusted to him.
As outlined in my pastoral letter, I have offered many things to support the priests of our Diocese:
- I have met with them individually, in small groups, by different regions or deaneries, and as a presbyterate (group of priests) in convocations, study days, and days of recollection.
- We have inaugurated a program of renewal with the Jesuits of Boston College, focusing on their spiritual, psychological, and physical wellbeing.
- We established a cohort of the acclaimed Good Leaders, Good Shepherds program from the Catholic Leadership Institute, which helps priests better manage their administrative tasks.
- We launched a program called Better Brothers so that priests could confidentially share their hopes and fears in a way that could build priestly spirit and morale.
- Our staff at the Diocesan headquarters is always ready to help our priests as much as possible to lighten at least some of their administrative tasks, like care for properties and human resources issues.
- We hired someone who has the specific responsibility to meet with priests to address whatever health issues they have in a more effective way.
- We continue to offer retreats and days of recollection.
When the current crisis passes and we learn what new needs and issues we are facing, I will again be available and ready to meet, encourage, and care for the priests of our diocese. While we wait for that day, we continue to communicate, check with each, and support one another using electronic communication.
Month of Mary
Our Blessed Mother, especially under the title of Our Lady of Fall River given by Bishop Cassidy to accompany the special image painted by artist Feodor Zukharov in 1943, plays a significant role in the life of our diocese. During these difficult days, and as a daily devotion for many of the faithful, the Rosary has been a great source of comfort and strength. In fact, realizing the power of this prayer, the Chancery staff connect virtually every Wednesday to pray the Rosary together.
Pope Francis, in his Letter Of His Holiness Pope Francis To The Faithful For The Month Of May 2020 stressed,
“The month of May is approaching, a time when the People of God express with particular intensity their love and devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is traditional in this month to pray the Rosary at home within the family. The restrictions of the pandemic have made us come to appreciate all the more this “family” aspect, also from a spiritual point of view.
For this reason, I want to encourage everyone to rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home in the month of May. This can be done either as a group or individually; you can decide according to your own situation, making the most of both opportunities. The key to doing this is always simplicity, and it is easy also on the internet to find good models of prayers to follow.
I am also providing two prayers to Our Lady that you can recite at the end of the Rosary, and that I myself will pray in the month of May, in spiritual union with all of you. I include them with this letter so that they are available to everyone.”
The remainder of Pope Francis’ letter and those two poignant prayers can be found — here.
Catholic School Update
On Friday, March 13th, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker decided to close all schools and move to remote learning. By Monday, March 16th, the Diocese of Fall River Catholic schools were able to shift to an online platform quickly for older grades, and a blend of online and home packets for younger grades.
The COVID-19 response continues to be uncertain and ever-changing. However, I am proud of the ability of the Diocese of Fall River Catholic schools’ preparation and willingness to meet the needs of our Catholic school students and families. To stay informed to the Catholic School Alliance updates and response, please visit catholicschoolsalliance.org.
Bishop da Cunha