A Message from the Pastor : Fr. Pedro DeOliveira
March 30, 2020
It has been a strange Lent for all of us, brought to us, by the Coronavirus Pandemic. Without a doubt, we have truly entered the desert of Lent, that social distancing has brought to us. During these challenging times, we have been asked to take a stance of social distancing, in order, to avoid a potential health disaster.
My dear people, let us be careful in our social distancing, to not become alienated from one another, and only seek our own health and preservation. Instead, let us be mindful, that the social distancing stance, which we have been asked to obey, that we embrace it, with the sense of solidarity and connectedness for the well-being of the common good.
So, let us be careful to use this lock down time well: to pray more intensely, to reach out and to take care of each other, especially by reaching out to those in need, the elderly and the most vulnerable.
So, during these challenging times, we’ve all heard some ask: “If God exists” He wouldn’t have allowed this Pandemic to happen? Or, will our Faith become compromised, or wither and fade due to this Coronavirus Pandemic? My short response would be: No.
Now my longer response is: Although it is true, that even those who have a strong faith in God can also be susceptible and at risk, and even infected by the Coronavirus, since, the Virus knows no borders. Nevertheless, I believe, this doesn’t mean that we should be in a crisis of Faith; I believe the opposite can happen, that in times like these, although people may experience many challenging times, and feel this Coronavirus is beyond our control and capacity to bring it to an end, and that these difficult times, can even cause fear in each of us, about the uncertainty of the future. Nonetheless, I believe that these are also times, that we can open ourselves to what really is essential and important in our lives. It is a time, when we look for what is most profound and meaningful to our mortal existence, that being our relationship and Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is our anchor of Faith and Security, especially when everything else, that surrounds us, seems to be collapsing and wavering.
To the people that ask “ if God existed, He wouldn’t have allowed this Pandemic to happen.” Or, “that God is allowing this evil to happen, as a means of punishment, for a sinful world.”
My response is that the Church does not desire to enter these types of conversations. I dare say that, even the phrasing of the question, “if God exists?” is not the right question, because, I believe that God is not an Insurance Company, that guarantees that no evil will ever happen in our lives. God is a life’s Companion, God is personal, He has a face and a name, He is Jesus the Christ, our best loving Companion we have in our pilgrim way, Who is always journeying by our side, assisting and guiding us to make choices that are always life giving, and constantly offering us strength and courage through His Grace, in those difficult moments of our Life’s journey, especially when, we may find ourselves weak and faltering. God is always Our dependable Companion, so that in these difficult moments, we may not despair and become despondent, but that we may regain Strength and Courage to continue to move forward, on our life’s pilgrimage. So, let us see this lock down during these times, as an invitation from God, to renew our intimacy with Him, so that we might strengthen the faith and Hope in one another.
So my dear Parents and Children in both our School and our Religious Education programs, I assure you that all of us friars miss you and your teachers and staff; We also urge you to be careful, to use this time well, to pray, to read and to study well. This sudden change of life’s pace during these challenging times, requires a lot of self-discipline, let us use it wisely and not waste precious time.
Beloved people of St. Peters, although we friars cannot celebrate public masses with you at this time, because we wish to follow the directives of our Government for the safety and well being of the common good, we friars want to assure all of you, that we are offering daily masses for all of you and that all the mass intentions from our Parish mass book are being satisfied up to date. You are spiritually united in these masses in which we pray for both the living and for the dead. Remember Fr. Marek and I can be contacted during this time, in the case of an emergency of life or death, or for the Sacrament of Reconciliation through our Parish emergency phone number which can be found on our website below.
We are going to try to use social media internet to stream Holy Week masses and Services as a means of sharing communication and evangelization efforts to our parishioners. Please look for the updated schedule for these celebrations in our new parish website under the column entitled Holy week 2020. We friars are grateful for Dr. Andrew Presti and Mr. Joseph Dalton for their preparation for the live streaming of these Sacred Liturgies.
We friars are also grateful for our Principal Mrs. Tracey Kobrin and our School teachers for all their efforts with our Catholic School, to provide on-going online classroom teaching during these challenging circumstances.
Please remember that both our Parish and school communities continue to depend on our offertory collections and our School tuition, and that we will need your ongoing support moving forward, to continue the crucial work and mission of St. Peters. We thank you for whatever sacrifices you have already made and will continue to make during these challenging times.
The truth is, the Coronavirus is a Lent that none of us would have chosen, but in God’s Divine Providence, this experience can be our 40 days with Christ in the desert, to increase our prayer life, to fast from our normal activities, and make sacrifices to reach out to those in need, and to become Spiritually stronger, through God’s Grace, to resist temptations. Let us discover what God is calling us to, during this lock down. Somehow all of this, is an opportunity to draw Closer to God and to One Another, and to re-prioritize of what is most important in life.
After this past Friday’s beautiful Urbi et Orbi message and prayer service to the World by his Holiness, Pope Francis, we have awakened, the very next day, reinvigorated in our renewed Faith and hope in the Lord and in our future. Just in case you missed the Pope’s message, we’ve asked Dr. Presti to place the link to his holiness’ message, here below.
So, when the Coronavirus makes you feel frustrated, bored or lonely, please remember that we Franciscan Friars are praying for you and for your protection and well-being.
I pray that you find some strength and renewed hope in St. Teresa of Avila’s words of Wisdom, that I leave for your spiritual nourishment, throughout this week:
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
all things are passing,
God only is changeless,
Patience gains all things,
Whoever has God wants nothing,
God alone suffices!
We Friars continue to ask you for your prayerful support,
as well, I am yours Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Pedro de Oliveira, OFM Conv.