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Pastoral Letter from Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick

September 8, 2021
Feast of the Birth of Mary

 

My Dear People,

We hope that September will bring greater freedom if we enter Phase 5 later this month and yet clearly, we continue to struggle with the uncertainties of COVID-19.  We need to remain vigilant.  We extend greetings to people of Polish descent as we say happy Nova Scotia Polish Heritage Month.  September 21 marks the 100th anniversary that the Sisters of St. Martha moved from the College to Bethany. Bethany Centennial Garden will officially open on this same day.  The 52nd International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest that had been delayed due to COVID-19 opened on September 6th.

 

Reflections on the Twenty-Third Sunday Year B – Jesus calls us to be open to him.

The prophet Isaiah in our first reading this past Sunday instructs us, say to those of fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God…He will come and save you.”  God is still alive and working within us and among us.  What a universal and timeless message for us this past Sunday.

We have so many issues that cause us to be anxious today. We are concerned about all the people who suffer from the wild fires, flooding, tropical storms and earthquakes.  We are concerned about the people of Afghanistan. We are concerned about the implications of our own political elections. We are concerned about the new school year and about the on-going and ever-changing variants of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are concerned about all the personal worries and health concerns that threaten to overwhelm us.

We all have challenging issues to face as individuals and as a faith community. It is very tempting to just look away, to shut down, to close our hearts to those situations.  What Jesus said to the deaf mute in the gospel, what James wrote to the early Christians about welcoming the poor are the words Jesus addresses to us today, ‘Ephphatha’ be opened.

All of us are a little deaf and speechless, maybe not exactly the same as the man presented to Jesus in the gospel.  Yet often enough we fail to listen and grasp the real meaning of what is happening around us. We may hear people speak, but we fail to listen to what they are saying. By touching the man’s ear first, perhaps Jesus was teaching us to listen before we speak. This message fits in well with the synodal process, outlined below. 

 

The Mission of the Baptized

By his words and deeds, Jesus demonstrates that he is the fulfillment of the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah. Clearly, Jesus came to touch our lives and help us break through the barriers that separate us from one another.  He offers us the same words he offered to the deaf man in the gospel: “Be opened!”  This miracle has been incorporated into the baptismal liturgy in the ‘Ephphatha’ prayer. This prayer is offered at the conclusion of the baptismal rite. “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.” Jesus came to liberate us, to “open” us, to enable us to fully live our relationship with God and with others. That is why this word, “Ephphatha – Be opened,” sums up the entire mission of Jesus Christ.

Many concerns and issues are before us as we continue to deal with COVID-19 and as we enter into a new school year with our educational and faith formation programs before us. It promises to be a challenging year as we address many seemingly diverse concerns.  I think they can be all tied together by focusing on how we live out our baptismal call. The sacrament of baptism empowers us to be ambassadors for Christ. With this sacrament, we put on Christ and take up the mission of the Gospel. Through the waters of baptism, we are empowered to live the radical lifestyle modeled by Jesus Christ. The second reading this past Sunday cautions us about treating others according to a double standard. Jesus challenges us to open our senses, recognize the plight of those around us, and courageously do whatever we can to assist them and correct the social ills, even within the Church. Be opened.

 

Indian Residential Schools

As a faith community, I hope we can begin to address and better understand our church’s role with Indian Residential Schools.  Instead of promoting a culture that values and cherishes every life, we somehow supported and enabled a system that separated children from their families, culture and way of life and put them in place where they were often underfed, neglected and abused. This a “teachable moment” for all of us and we must learn from it.  October 1 is Treaty Day in our province. Now September 30th has been declared “Truth and Reconciliation Day” in Canada.  This day will become an annual federal statutory holiday to help educate us by focusing our awareness across our nation. Each province will determine how they will honour this day.  We must determine what we can do to promote “Truth and Reconciliation” not only on one day, but throughout the year.

We are inspired by the gospel to do our best to see the whole picture, hear the entire story and speak the complete truth, no matter how difficult, challenging or disconcerting it may be. Jesus challenges us to open our senses and do what is necessary to assist; in short to offer hope. Be opened.

 

Worldpriest Award to Canada

To offer prayer and support for our priests, in 2002 St. John Paul II designated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart to be a World Day of Prayer for Priests. The aim was to invite all the clergy and all the faithful of the Church to join in prayer for the sanctification of priests.

In 2010, Worldpriest began an Annual Rosary Relay on this feast day. Worldpriest is a global lay organization devoted to affirming and supporting the priesthood through ministry and prayer, especially with their Annual Global Rosary Relay.  Supported by Pope Francis, this is a day to encircle the world in prayer for all priests. Each of the participating prayer locations in over seventy countries pray a particular mystery of the Rosary on the feast day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in thanksgiving to God for our priests and to implore the protection and loving care of Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the Mother of all priests.  As we celebrate the Birth of Mary, we are reminded of her openness at the Annunciation. God’s eternal plan began in time because of Mary’s consent to be the mother of Jesus. May we be as open so that Christ may live in and through us.

Worldpriest selects and presents a country with the award of Outstanding Participation and Promotion in the Global Rosary Relay. This year, Canada was selected for the award since in just two years Canada more than doubled its participation to include every province and all of the Northwest Territories.  This year a record number of people gathered in individual parishes throughout Canada to pray for priests on June 12.  I note this date, since it was more than two weeks after news about the unmarked burial sites at the Kamloops Indian Residential School came to light. 

The Diocese of Antigonish was selected to receive this award on behalf of the Church of Canada since Isabel Gillis, the Worldpriest Representative for Canada is a member of our Diocese. We decided that this award be presented on our diocesan feast day.  A plaque will be placed in St. Ninian Cathedral.   Further information about Worldpriest is available on their website: https://www.worldpriest.com/

Feast of St. Ninian, Our Diocesan Patron Saint September 16

The presentation of the Worldpriest plaque will take place at the Cathedral as we gather to celebrate Mass on the feast of St. Ninian on Thursday, September 16 at 12 noon.  Worldpriest have requested that this Mass will be videoed so that it may be shared worldwide. I am inviting you to attend but there is limited seating due to the COVID restrictions.

 

Awaiting COVID-19 Update

Speaking of COVID restrictions, once the province reaches 75% full vaccination, we hope to enter into Phase Five in mid September.  We are not sure what this will mean given the rise of the more infectious Delta variant and now the Mu variant found in 39 countries including South America and Europe. Most likely, we will required to wear masks for indoor gatherings for the foreseeable future.   https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2021-08/pope-francis-appeal-covid-19-vaccines-act-of-love.html

 

World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

Instituted by Pope Francis in 2015 after the release of his environmental encyclical “Laudato Si,” the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation takes place each year on Sept. 1.  This Day of Prayer is in keeping with themes expressed in the encyclical, and is also seen as a sign of unity with the Orthodox Church, which established September 1 as a day to celebrate creation in 1989.

Beginning on September 1st, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which continues until October 4th, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the faithful of the world are encouraged to renew the relationship with our Creator and all of creation through this celebration.  It is a time for to consider making concrete changes to our lifestyle. The theme this year is “A Home for All? Renewing God’s oikos.”  Oikos is a Greek word for home or household.  Clearly, we are witnessing the effects of climate change in our world with the extreme temperatures, droughts, wildfires and floods. We must do whatever we can, however insignificant, to help reverse climate change. Be opened.

 

XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2023

Pope Francis will open the upcoming Synod on 9-10 October 2021, in Rome.  The following Sunday, 17 October 2021, each Bishop is invited to open the Synod in his respective diocese.  The synodal journey is divided into three phases, diocesan, continental and universal, culminating with the General Ordinary Assembly in October 2023.

The Synod of Bishops was established in 1965 by Pope Paul VI, who hoped that the synod would encourage close union between the pope and the world’s bishops, and “ensure that direct and real information is provided on questions and situations touching upon the internal action of the Church and its necessary activity in the world of today.”

Pope Francis reminds us that, “a synodal Church is a Church that listens, which realizes that listening is ‘more than simply hearing’.  It is a listening in which everyone has something to learn. The faithful people, the college of bishops, the Bishop of Rome: all listening to each other and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the ‘Spirit of truth’.  It is a time of walking together, a time to open up, to listen to one another carefully, to interpret the signs of the times in the world around us in light of the gospel. 

The theme of this upcoming synod is “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.”  The first stage of the synodal process consists in consulting the People of God, in order to listen “to what the Spirit is saying to the Church.” The bishop opens the Synod in his diocese, to initiate and guide the consultation, and to preside over the pre-synodal meeting that closes the diocesan phase, by gathering all the responses to questionnaire and sending them to the C.C.C.B.  The Preparatory Document and the Vademecum for the Synod were just presented in Rome.  We need to plan and prepare for our participation in this synod. We want people of every parish to be involved in this process. Be opened.  Stay safe and keep well.

 

https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2021-09/the-synod-listening-to-the-faithful-preparatory-document.html

https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2021/09/07/0540/01156.html#INGLESEOK

https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2021/09/07/0541/01166.html

 

Fraternally yours,

+ Wayne Kirkpatrick

Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick

Communications Officer, Diocese of Antigonish

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