My dear sisters and brothers,
One of the challenges of communicating during times of crisis or strife is that it seems before we complete a thought, circumstances and information changes. I have written before about such a challenge with The Western Kentucky Catholic in that its articles are often completed at least a week before publication. Please bear that in mind when reading my following letter, as the situation may have changed after this went to press.
With the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic it seems clear enough that we will all be struggling our way through this for weeks and even months to come. Now what that means about business closures; stay-at-home orders; quarantining; and so close to our hearts, the suspension of public Masses – can change quickly. Of course we are all hoping and praying that many of these restrictions change much sooner rather than later.
I am hearing, and all of our pastors are hearing, of the great loss people are experiencing being unable to come to Mass and receive the sacraments. Holy Week and Easter were especially hard. Phenomenal numbers are accessing local Masses through live-streaming. But no one feels this is the same.
Many are hoping that this tremendous hunger that we are seeing will indicate that when the restrictions are lifted, there might be a reawakening of religious fervor and commitment to join in common worship. Perhaps we will come to see how important so many things are that we have taken for granted.
In the Diocese of Owensboro, and in most of the United States, Catholics enjoy easy access to their churches and convenient schedules of Masses. It is not that way everywhere in the world.
The hunger and thirst we are experiencing is most common in many places. As Americans we did not take much note last year of the Special Synod on the Catholic Church of the Amazon, a vast area of South America crossing the borders of several countries. Of great concern was the reality that hundreds of thousands of the people of this region only have Mass a few times a year because of the shortage of priests. Baptisms, weddings, confirmations, and funerals are delayed by months.
In our diocese today, few people are more than a few miles from the next closest Catholic church. And in our diocese today, one in every three parishes has a pastor who was not born in the United States. Many of these priests are immigrants who will remain a part of our diocese. Others will serve a time and then return to their home countries.
So perhaps among the many things we might offer thanks for during these difficult times, we might thank these and all of our priests. We might appreciate and better support the nations and cultures from which they come.
We are all one body. The Body of Christ.
Most Reverend William F. Medley
Diocese of Owensboro
Originally printed in the May 2020 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.
Copyright © 2020 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic