Dear Salesian Sisters and Brothers,
Today, Holy Thursday, I returned to the Provincial House after my 14 days of quarantine. I came back on time to join the provincial community for their Holy Thursday Mass and dinner.
I wish to thank Fr. Jospeh Mathew Paradayil, Pastor and Director of the St. Francis Salesian Community and the entire Watsonville Salesian community for their very kind and warm hospitality. I thank Br. Mike Herbers for preparing a wonderful space for me to spend the last 16 days and delivering the care packages sent by the community. I am grateful for the Salesians’ care and visiting me (from afar) and all the small kindnesses which made my stay more enjoyable. Although mostly isolated from people, I did have a chance to keep in touch with many people through phone calls or internet communication. I had the privilege of being able to take long walks on the camp property, around the neighborhood and down on the beach. The scenery and beautiful sunsets were very impressive and easily inspired moments of prayer and reflection. I thank God for this powerful time and experience!
I have had two zoom meetings with the provincial council and one with the Directors and Pastors of the Province. While these meetings have not been long (an hour to two), it has been good to connect and see how everyone is doing. The Provincial Council plans to connect through zoom every week, if needed. We will try to connect with the Directors and Pastors again in a few weeks. We will try to include community members who wish to participate. The Youth Ministry Department, under the guidance of Br. Al Vu and with help of Gina Robles and Andres Neria, have also been able to keep in communication with young adults and CYMS. They have prepared a Triduum retreat which you can access online.
I would like to thank all of our provincial leadership, whether lay or SDB, for their dedication and accompaniment of those in their charge, especially, the young. All of our schools are doing distance education or learning and seem to be doing a great job. I have only heard positive feedback. Some have offered other resources for spiritual accompaniment which are quite impressive. Fr. Thien Nguyen mentioned to me that he was doing distance oratory with the young people of St. Francis. I know it has been a challenge and has taken a great effort to set up adequate communication mechanisms, but it seems to be working and the young people are responding in a positive way. THANK YOU and CONGRATULATIONS!
I wish to thank our Pastors and their associates for setting up daily live-streaming services. I am impressed how every parish is stepping up to accompany their flock and be present to them during these trying times. Different parishes have tried different options to offer not only the Eucharist through the internet but also Lenten and Holy Week retreats, resources which offer hope, strength and spiritual growth. Most of you are also offering the Triduum Services! THANK YOU!
Today we have begun the Sacred Triduum, the three most holy days for us Christians. Our Jewish sisters and brothers are also celebrating Passover and our Muslim brethren celebrate Ramadan at the end of this month. All three religions celebrate significant feasts which require crowds and groups to gather. This year, perhaps, like never before in our life time, have we been challenged to celebrate these days with a minimum amount of people and through the internet. Our Easter meal gatherings will be limited to our communities. Families are opting to celebrate with only those living in the same household. But, already we hear stories of people connecting and celebrating via the internet.
As we celebrate these significant days which have meant so much to us, let us connect with each other in prayer. Our Heavenly Father sent Jesus, his son and our brother, to show us how to be truly human and at the same time, divine. Jesus came to show us primarily the face of our compassionate God and how to love. The washing of the disciples feet was more an act of love than an act of teaching us humility. Jesus loved and because he loved, he was willing to stoop down and humble himself. To humble oneself without love is an empty gesture. Christ even loved Judas who betrayed him, and offered him forgiveness and hope. That is the good news. Jesus’ Crucifixion was another act of love and an example of how to respond in love to acts of violence and ignorance, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” In the midst of hatred, fear, jealousy and the insecurity of losing power, which we read about in the Gospels, Jesus shows forgiveness, patience and strength, which came from his rootedness to God, his merciful Father. In the end, that which seemed hopeless and dark, that which gave the impression of death and failure, was transformed, through the power of God, to new life, light and Resurrection! These holy days are meant to lead us into a deeper reflection on how we live our lives. These days, if celebrated with devotion and honesty, will also lead us to new life and hope. Even in the midst of our darkness and fear, God is there to show us his faithfulness and his power over death. We do not always know how that will happen in our lives or how it will be experienced. Hopefully, the weeks after Easter will give us all a chance to tell those stories of hope and resurrection.
In the name of the province and all our Salesians brothers, I wish all of you a very Holy and Blessed Easter! May you experience moments of resurrection and new life. May you and your families be blessed and graced with God’s love and protection. Be assured of our prayers, especially, during the Easter Season. And, may we soon be able to gather in large groups as we did before and share stories of hope, resurrection and new life graced by our living and faithful God.