Has there ever been a time when Lent and Easter have been more needed and indeed prescient than 2021? Perhaps yes, but not in my lifetime.
Many recent events in our beloved nation have been the fodder for my Lenten reflection this year. The ugliness of racism has sadly been metastasizing in so many areas of American life of late. This, together with working with my fearless colleagues at Catholic Charities of Louisville, who made confronting racism on the personal, institutional and national levels the key theme of our staff’s ongoing formation, has given me a real focus of my Lenten reflections.
It became obvious that I needed to expand my view of where I can be held culpable for sin to include things other than eating or “screening” too much to include my participation in social or systemic sin. Almost anyone who had the misfortune of hearing me preach during Lent surely heard me talk about systemic racism.
Charmein Weathers, communication coordinator for the Office of Multicultural Ministry, ably helps the staff at Catholic Charities confront our own participation in the sin of racism within ourselves and the wider community. Needless to say, it was at times uncomfortable, often eye-opening and vitally important.
So, what about Easter 2021? Let me backup a bit.
In the middle of our national distress — aka COVID-19 — I was asked to find work outside of a parish. Having worked in Phoenix for Catholic Charities as a social worker in the early 2000s, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
I moved to Louisville to join Catholic Charities in August of 2020 from San Diego where I had been working in parishes as a member of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary (The Eudists). We, the Eudists, were founded by St. John Eudes in 1643 in France to work in seminaries, do parish missions, assist diocesan priests and assist persons in need. Enter Catholic Charities.
For the most part, since moving to America in 1989 from Canada, I have been living in very warm places, including Florida, Arizona, California, Mexico and the Philippines. Winter in Louisville, which reminds me a bit of Toronto, thankfully gives way to spring! It’s been a long time since I have experienced spring blooming around me with its clear analogies to Easter.
One of the last winters I spent was in Chicago as an AmeriCorps volunteer while also experiencing my own “resurrection” through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and baptism as a new Christian in 1997. Let me tell you, spring is a welcome event in Chicago!
But one of my most vivid experiences of Easter resurrection must be the easing of the grip that COVID has had on all of us.
The deep gratitude that I’m experiencing right now is because of the sacrifices of thousands of frontline medical workers, first responders, volunteers working the vaccination site parking lots, the National Guard and FEMA, and so many other people who have helped pull our nation together as “One nation under God,” to help us all move toward a kind of resurrected American life, I am reminded of the mantra we often said during my RCIA: “He has risen — He has risen indeed!”
Father Lawrence Goodwin is the parish, schools and advocacy engagement coordinator for Catholic Charities of Louisville.