In late March of last year, as the pandemic restrictions were just beginning, I recall various people making comments about finding the good in the midst of such challenging circumstances. Many people commented on how those restrictions made possible more time together as a family. Those hectic schedules that often defined the lives of families prior to the pandemic were no longer an issue, and families found themselves together in ways they had not before. Families commented on how they appreciated having the opportunity to have meals together and to spend time doing activities together with the free time that the pandemic had afforded them.
At the same time, our parish families really suffered as we were forced to suspend public masses and indeed all of our gatherings as a family. We had to settle for virtual community. It was something, but it was far from sufficient as our sense of being a part of a parish family was strained. In an attempt to foster some sense of parish family unity, we have used the pages of our Cathedral Weekly to focus on the Sacraments, in parallel with our families involved in our Family of Faith family catechesis program.
With much of our society returning to “normal”, it is my hope that our experiences, particularly with these two types of families, have left an impression upon us. For our physical families, many of the demanding schedules are returning. And while there may be some sense of relief in going back to some of those fulfilling experiences, it is my prayer that the time of togetherness during the pandemic has instilled a desire to make time as a family more a part of the new normal moving forward. Going back to “normal” where our lives are so hectic that we barely meet one another in the family is not out goal, but to create a new experience of family life that values time together in the midst of the lives we live.
As a parish family, it is my hope that our being deprived of being together has instilled a desire in us to place a higher priority on making our parish family an important part of our lives. Going back to “normal” parish family life as it existed before the pandemic is not our goal here. As positive as some of our experiences may have been, I think we can all admit that there was a lack of family unity in our parishes. This is something with which virtually every parish has experienced in recent decades. We want to move forward with a greater sense of belonging to this family, not just individuals who drop in and drop out, but who gather together joyfully as brothers and sisters united who long to be together as a family of love.
While we use the title Family of Faith for our family catechesis program, I hope we can see it in a broader sense as a phrase that describes our larger parish family. We are a family of faith, we are a family of hope, and we are a family of love. As we celebrate the perfect family of love in the Holy Trinity this Sunday, let us pray that our own families and our parish family will move forward renewed in our desire for greater unity in love with and for one another.