It is almost twenty months since Covid-19 changed nearly everything in the world. Schools closed. Churches closed. Many big businesses shut down temporarily while others closed indefinitely. Still, several small businesses died a painful death. Amid all these, people’s social life is stifled to death as humanity, especially the sick and the elderly, continues to suffocate in social isolation.
While things are easing off gradually, people are almost getting used to the new lifestyle of social insulation imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. One can hardly deny the possible emotional and psychological consequences of this new lifestyle. People are getting used to being ALONE. Some of us are becoming comfortable with lonely life so much that attending any social events and making physical contacts and connections with other people are gradually becoming undesirable.
To address this social conundrum, last Wednesday, August 11th, we had a fun-full parish event – “Fishing with Father Alford.” This event, the first time in our Cathedral parish, took place at the Villa Maria Retreat Center shore of Springfield Lake. The “Fishing with Father Alford” was intended to help our people have a fun social time with one another and their priests after these loooooong months of isolation and social distancing. That goal was met with about thirty parishioners and friends gathering for nearly three hours of fishing, snacking, and chatting. There were also joyful shouts whenever someone catches a fish.
Personally, the highlight of the fishing last week was seeing Julia, one of our youngest parishioners at the event, smile and take pictures with the fishes before they were thrown back to the lake. The joy in her face and in the faces of the other children that evening was deeply Christlike! Their presence and the fun we all had reenacted a friendship and camaraderie so deep to be captured with words. I am sure that Julia and others who were part of the event will agree with me.
In these times of uncertainty with a lingering pandemic, we need to make intentional efforts to stay socially and spiritually connected to maintain our sanity. Attending Masses and other parish and community events are important if we must survive these unusual times and maintain healthy emotional and spiritual lives.
For an added opportunity, this time for a more spiritual encounter with one another and with our Lord Jesus Christ, I am inviting everyone to a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, in October. I plan on this to be a time of short retreat and spiritual renewal for everyone. We will also have a holy time to pray together, listen to a reflection, have a tour of the Shrine, do a Holy Hour of Adoration and Benediction, and celebrate the sacraments in that beautiful Shrine of Our Blessed Mother.
The registration for this pilgrimage is ongoing and will end on Monday, August 30, 2021. Please, call Bill Vogt or Lisa Duffey at the parish office at 217-522-3342 to register. For any questions about the pilgrimage, call me at the parish office or through email at [email protected].