My column this month is addressed to the young women and men who are preparing to graduate from high school and college.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The coronavirus pandemic will likely change the way you’re able to celebrate your graduation this year with family and friends. This comes after already dealing with the challenges of remote learning, social distancing from classmates and teachers, and the cancellation of sporting events and other school activities.
I know this situation has caused much fear, frustration and disappointment. The news reminds us every day of the wider impact the virus is having on people’s health, the economy and so many other aspects of life around the world. It has even prevented us, for a time, from worshipping together in our churches. I hope, however, that you have been keeping up on your prayer life and have taken time to reflect on the deeper impact of this pandemic. I believe there are important things to learn from this experience — lessons that will help you as you move into the next chapter of your lives:
- The small things in life are really the big things that we should never take for granted — the love of family, companionship of friends, the mentorship of good teachers. When circumstances force an unforeseen change of plans, when school and job responsibilities cause stress, and when something as serious as this current health crisis fosters anxiety and uncertainty, remember you have these sources of support. People and relationships are more important than things. Invest in them with love, compassion, patience and kindness.
- Sacrificial acts are life-giving. Your time away from school during this pandemic has helped to ensure that more people aren’t exposed to the virus — particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. I truly believe that this has helped save lives and has complemented the efforts of health care professionals and other workers who are making incredible sacrifices to ensure everyone’s well-being. When we put the needs of others ahead of our own through service and sacrifice, we grow closer to Christ and to others.
- God is always with you, no matter what. About a month ago, Pope Francis presided over a special moment of prayer at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, seeking God’s blessing for the world in this time of trial. He reminded us of Jesus’ words, “Do not be afraid,” and about the hope we embrace this Easter season that nothing can separate us from the redeeming love of God. Not the coronavirus. Not a closed church building. Not even death itself. Continue to foster your relationship with God. Talk to him in prayer about whatever is on your mind. He will never abandon you. Stay connected to a parish or campus ministry wherever you are headed next; they will help you stay on the right path in your faith journey.
I will pray for you during these last weeks of the school year, and I ask you to pray for me.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Donald J. Kettler