For at least the last two months, the coronavirus pandemic has been an all-consuming preoccupation around the world.
And nowhere more so than in New York state, where the virus and the disease that it causes, COVID-19, has taken an especially heavy toll—with the numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths the highest in the nation.
Although we’re heartened by the daily reports that lately have seen our state’s numbers steadily decline, we cannot erase the tragedy of deaths and severe illnesses that have already occurred.
Even the great majority of New Yorkers who have not contracted the virus are nevertheless touched by it.
With schools, churches and businesses shut down except for essential services, most of us have been staying home, separated from our friends and loved ones and wondering how, or if, we’ll be able to catch up when things reopen.
Many of us also are unnerved at how our fast-paced New York lifestyles came to a screeching halt. Sometimes we don’t even know what day it is.
Still, we can get through this and come out better for it at the end.
Without the demands of work, classes and social life to distract us we might try taking the opportunity to focus on things we told ourselves we were “too busy” to do before.
There’s time now for projects like dipping into the long historical biography you’ve been meaning to read, or to plan and plant a garden, or paint the bedroom, for instance.
There’s also a golden opportunity to reflect on our interior lives, to become closer to God by prayer and reading Scripture. We’re still in the Easter season, after all, and approaching Pentecost Sunday, which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the fearful and isolated apostles, empowering them to go forth and build the Christian Church.
We can pray that the end of our own isolation will allow us to go forth and build our own communities in a stronger, smarter and more caring manner.
Even now, many of our archdiocesan parishes and agencies have been working in unique ways to start building a community of caring, and some of their stories are told in these pages in a special section on the archdiocesan response to the current reality.
There’s Father Fredy Patino Montoya, pastor of St. Joseph and St. Mary Immaculate on Staten Island, a parish hit hard by the virus, who reminds his parishioners that “our faith teaches that the greatest tragedy that humanity has ever seen, the crucifixion of Christ” was not the end but the beginning.
There’s the Catholic Charities mentoring program Bigs & Littles, whose volunteer mentors shifted seamlessly from in-person contacts with the young people they serve to FaceTime, Zoom and other video chat programs to maintain their connections. It’s not perfect, but it helps keep the bond strong.
Those stories and more are featured in a special section and gathered under the title “In Faith & Hope,” which is exactly what we need to guide us through these new and uncertain times.