Five months into the pandemic of the COVID-19 Virus, we are experiencing the truth that “life has changed, not ended!” That phrase, often used in our Catholic funeral rites, has special meaning even for us who live and still breathe each day.
I remember well the rainy Lenten March day when Pope Francis stepped onto the balcony and proclaimed to the world through television, that this worldwide pandemic is not God’s judgement on humanity; he said it is God’s loving call to do what is important, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not, to get our priorities straight and to live differently.
So, how’s it going for you, dear friends? From experience with Conference life, and the special works of the SVDP stores, the Matchan Nutrition Food Program, and even our Ozanam Summer Camp for Kids, life as it was is certainly changed, but not ended!
In meetings by ZOOM, or by social distancing with masks in place, prayer, and reflection as well as opportunities to share with one another in friendship are still key elements in our lives as Vincentians. If we have just gone on to get the “business” done because we thought we were in a short-term pandemic, we need to put that thought to rest.
Has your opening prayer become just the rote exercise that leads into “the business” part of why you are meeting? Do eyes rolls when the President invites the Spiritual Reflection? If yes, it is time to try praying and reflecting differently! There is no doubt that Vincentians do wonderful and generous service in loving our neighbors, but our primary purpose is to grow in holiness and friendship as we love and serve our neighbors.
In future Conference Connection articles, I hope to suggest some practical ways this could happen. How about a coming Spiritual Reflection being a listening experience as each one is invited to share briefly what has been the blessing in this pandemic time. As each one finishes, all could respond, “Thanks be to God or Praise God!” Another time the reflection could be sharing what has been the burden, the challenge, or a great concern they have during this time? A prayer response could be something like, “Come Holy Spirit.” Be creative. If you have many folks in your meeting, invite some to share and ask the others to do their piece next time. (This heart sharing should not be a speech or discussion, just some brief thoughts from the heart that others may receive reverently.)
In prayer with you!
Sister Noreen Ellison, SC