Jodi Marlin
December 30, 2020 // Bishop

Christ our light: hope for a fearful world

Jodi Marlin

Perhaps no liturgical season focuses more on hope than the season of Advent. But during the year 2020 — an unprecedented 12 months in the lives of the modern generations — the world’s attention turned to hope early on and has yet to permit an alternative focus.

In January, Catholic and non-Catholic citizens of the U.S. hoped the news they were hearing about a virulent virus originating in China would remain far-removed from their reality. In February, they hoped it would not spread beyond a few initial cases discovered in the U.S. In March, they hoped their cities and their livelihoods would be spared a hard hit by what had become a deadline pandemic. By May, hope had become the lifeline to which the entire country and the rest of the world clung.

An austere and dramatic “Urbi et Orbi” blessing given by Pope Francis to the world from St. Peter’s Square in March acknowledged the fear into which the world had been submerged. He encouraged the Catholics to turn over their fears to Jesus so that He could conquer them. In the midst of the storm, Pope Francis said, God was calling people to faith, which is not just believing God exists, but turning to Him and trusting Him. Prayer and quiet service, he said, “are our victorious weapons.”

As the particularly penitential Lent ticked by, an historic suspension of Masses challenged the ability of the Catholic faithful to win the war that had been declared against human life.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, in an Easter homily given to an empty Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne, noted that even once a vaccine had been developed for the novel coronavirus, it would not eliminate death; only, perhaps, death from this virus.

The only medicine to ensure immortality, he reminded, was baptism.

The risen Lord, he said, “gives us the love, peace and joy of Easter. The Risen One promises us a share in His Resurrection. This is the hope of Easter, the hope that does not disappoint. May we be witnesses of this hope during this crisis and witnesses to the love that destroys sin and is stronger even than death.”

Liturgies were streamed online for home viewing, phone calls, online connections and distanced “hellos” replaced the normal practice of the faith. They were no substitute for true fraternal accompaniment, but diocesan Catholics opted to embrace them so that they would become those witnesses of hope.

When racial injustices provoked yet another widespread challenge to complacency and indifference, Christian concern for the dignity of all – as inscribed in Catholic social teaching – was also given an opportunity for diffusion.

Joys were found in new places this year, too. Among the moments celebrated in the diocese this year were:

  • The diocese observed the 10th anniversary of ordination of its shepherd, Bishop Rhoades
  • The Light Is On For You, an evening of reconciliation that took place across the diocese, reunited thousands of Catholic with the mercy of Christ
  • The remains of more than 2,000 babies aborted by Ulrich Klopfer were entrusted to the Lord during a burial service in South Bend
  • Rekindle the Fire carried out its 10th year of the Rekindle the Fire conference, encouraging men to aspire to holiness
  • St. Patrick Parish in Walkerton dedicated a new altar during a celebration of its 150th anniversary in March
  • Because public Masses were suspended for a time, new and effective tools for evangelization and faith formation were incorporated into the skill set of clergy and laypeople
  • Six fervent young seminarians were ordained to the diaconate for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend: Deacon Logan Parrish, Deacon Augustine Onuoha, Deacon Michael Ammer, Deacon Benjamin Landrigan, Deacon Keeton Lockwood and Deacon Paolo Degasperi
  • At that same Mass in May, the Holy Spirit was called down by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on Father Stephen Felicichia to equip him for a lifetime of service as a priest serving the Catholic faithful of the diocese
  • Father Eric A. Zimmer was appointed president of the University of Saint Francis by Bishop Rhoades: He served his first day in the position July 1. Following 27 years of capable and humble leadership, Sister Elise Kriss retired. Following a sabbatical, she will return to the Sisters of St. Francis provincial house in Mishawaka
  • By coming together to provide for others’ basic needs, Catholic schools and social service organizations fed thousands of students and families whose livelihoods had been impacted by the pandemic with food drives
  • In August, Catholic schools of the diocese, which had closed early due to the pandemic, reopened and incorporated virus mitigation strategies
  • Amid nationwide and local protests against racial injustice, Catholics were reminded — as Bishop Rhoades said during a September prayer service at Bishop Luers High School, Fort Wayne — that racism is a pro-life issue, and that every human being possesses the inherent dignity given him or her by God
  • Walking with Moms in Need, an initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, launched nationwide
  • A Catholic court of appeals judge and University of Notre Dame professor, Amy Coney Barrett became a member of the Supreme Court
  • Father Chuck Herman, a priest of the diocese, was welcomed into eternal life

University of Saint Francis

Today’s Catholic file photo

Ann Carey

CNS photo/Tom Brenner, Reuters

Molly Gettinger


CNS photo/Philip Toscano, PA Wire via Reuters

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