As I mentioned, for the next few months, I’ll be highlighting sections of my Reflections on Five Years — Continuing the Mission pastoral letter. As we continue to work together to find a rhythm in our ever-changing circumstances, we can continue to be assured in our never-changing Lord. As Holy Week approaches, please know, we are working to provide opportunities to enter into this time prayerfully and united. We continue to work to keep the Diocese of Fall River website resources updated, including many links to online Masses, Adoration, and prayer services.
My First Five Years
A bishop’s work, as a disciple and successor to the Apostles, is to try to continue Jesus’ work and help His Kingdom come more fully alive. Given this mission and the needs that are unique to our Diocese, I have prioritized ten activities. I’m sharing these activities with you now to showcase the good work that has been accomplished and where I hope we can build moving forward.
The ten activities include:
- Unleashing the gifts God has given to all of the faithful of the Diocese;
- Renewing and revitalizing our parishes;
- Strengthening and supporting our priests now and for the future;
- Promoting priestly vocations;
- Renewing Diocesan ministries to serve better the needs of the faithful;
- Caring with Christ-like love for those in need;
- Bolstering Catholic schools;
- Forming life-long disciples;
- Supporting parents and families;
- Carrying out our mission to spread the faith.
Unleashing God’s Gifts
My biggest priority has been to harness the particular gifts God has given to the faithful of our Diocese. We have seen the great blessing of people working and sharing their gifts throughout this crisis, whether finding innovative ways to educate our children, celebrate liturgies, or service those in need. In this unprecedented time, we have seen the creativity and ingenuity of parishes in finding ways to keep connected and continue worshipping. Many, including myself, have discovered talents and skills we did not realize we possessed as we learn to work with technology to stay connected.
The coming together for the greater good of providing the best faith opportunities, the sacrifices of so many, along with the loving commitment to persevere through the difficult challenges, reminded me of the nearly 400 people who participated in the Strategic Planning Committee meetings.
As I stated in my pastoral letter regarding the committee volunteers, “They took time off of work. They arranged for babysitters. They came in from the Islands or the end of the Cape. They paid for hotels to stay overnight. They did this multiple times. I couldn’t help but be astounded at their level of loving commitment. They came from so many different backgrounds, with different talents, experiences, expertise, all wanting to share those gifts with the Church.”
I am happy to share that working with the Diocesan Pastoral Council and my staff, many recommendations made during the strategic planning process have already been implemented. Within the next week, we are launching a website that will introduce strategic planning to those not familiar with the process and will provide a status update on the recommendations. I hope that you view this as an opportunity to celebrate our progress during this challenging time.
The Pope’s Special Blessing
Last Friday, Pope Francis streamed his Urbi et Orbi address and blessing to the world. This blessing, usually reserved for Easter and Christmas, however, the Holy Father offered it now as a beacon of hope for the world reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. I wished to share with you a message from Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding this blessing.
“Along with my brother bishops of the United States, I am grateful for Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi message today. We join with him in asking God to bless the world and to deliver us from the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think we all understand that we took part today in something historic, as the whole world was gathered together through communications media by the successor of St. Peter, united in one prayer before the living presence of Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist.
“It was a moving and emotional moment, and I urge my fellow Catholics, and every person of good will, to read and reread Pope Francis’ beautiful meditation.. . .
“In his message, the Holy Father reminds us that this time of the coronavirus is a call to courage, a call to faith. And as he says, faith does not mean simply agreeing with a set of ideas. Faith means making a decision to entrust our lives to Jesus Christ and to follow his path, to embrace his cross.
“The Holy Father tells us today that this pandemic is a time for conversion, a time for us to make choices about what truly matters in our lives, a time for us to change the priorities of our societies. It is a time to turn to God and to recognize that no matter how advanced our civilization and technology, we cannot save ourselves. We need God.
“In this moment saints are being made, the Holy Father tells us, pointing to the quiet heroism of ordinary people carrying out their daily duties in extraordinary times, serving one another with kindness and patience. ‘How many people pray, offer and intercede for the good of all,’ our Holy Father observes. ‘Prayer and silent service: these are our winning weapons.’
“So, let us continue to unite with Pope Francis in asking the Lord, through the intercession of Mary our Blessed Mother, to bless our world and to give us the courage to love and serve our brothers and sisters in this time of trial.”
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha