Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,


Warm greetings on this cold, cold day. For those of you not in Saskatchewan as you listen to this message, I just want to let you know that life in the midst of a polar vortex has its challenges. For days on end now, the temperatures dip down to the -30’s, nearing -40, with windchills in the -40’s nearing -50. It will not last forever, and the days are getting longer, and warmer days can’t come soon enough… Perseverance, everybody.


It has been a while since I produced a video message, and I want to pass on three things in this one. First, as the Catholic Church marks the World Day of the Sick, I want to offer a word of encouragement to all of us in that regard. Secondly, I would like to give you an update on conversations between faith leaders and our government-appointed liaison team about directives for faith communities during the pandemic. And thirdly, I want to let you know about Lenten resources forthcoming as we prepare to hear the Lenten invitation to conversion and transformation.


Every year on February 11th, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, we mark the World Day of the Sick, and are reminded of the importance – not just on that day, but whenever we can – to reach out to the sick and to those who provide them with assistance and care, both in healthcare institutions and within families and communities. This year, of course, we remember in particular those who are affected by the pandemic; those infected with the covid virus, and those whose systems of support have been derailed because of pandemic restrictions.


These days, it is fairly easy to feel overwhelmed. I have struggled with having more people to call, more emails, phone calls or letters to respond to, more requests and tasks awaiting my attention, events to organize and people to meet than I can possibly manage. And sometimes it feels as though there is a person who needs care and attention at the end of each of those tasks, and well, it’s overwhelming. And it’s tempting to just throw in the towel and say I can’t do it.


I was reminded recently of the story of the starfish, which you probably know, but which offers a perspective that I certainly need to hear, and perhaps you do too. It’s the story of an old man who would go walking by the ocean each morning. Early one morning, walking along the shore after a big storm, he saw that the vast beach was littered with starfish as far as the eye could see. Then he saw a child, also walking along the shoreline, occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. As the child came closer, the fellow said, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?” The child replied, “throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves. When the sun gets high, they will die, unless they find their way back into the water.” The old fellow replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.” The child bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”


Now people are not starfish, and the sick are not needing to be flung back into the ocean, but the wisdom of the story holds. We can’t do everything to respond to everyone’s needs, but if we reach out where we can, lend a helping hand, give a phone call, knock on a neighbour’s door, to the extent that we can, it does indeed make a difference. A recent CCCB publication on “The Co-responsibility of the Lay Faithful in the Church and the World” noted that “we can't speak of responsibilities of the lay faithful without concentrating on the needs of the sick, the chronically ill, the elderly and others who live in solitude, and the dying. We are called to bring them not only material help but also the assurance that they are not alone.” This is needed more than ever right now. So, let’s persevere in reaching . to the sick, to caregivers, to those in need around us, and let’s not lose heart just because we can’t do it all.


Secondly, I want to relate that the conversations between our group of faith leaders and our government liaison team continues. While wanting to do our part to stop the spread of the virus, we have untiringly asked that the restrictions on faith communities be commensurate with those on businesses and stores. We have asked that instead of a hard cap of 30 persons, we be allowed to work with a percentage of capacity which would allow us to maintain safe distance, as we continue to keep all the other protocols requested of us. And we have expressed frustration when faith communities are highlighted as places where the virus has spread, because we have so much collective evidence that our efforts to protect our people attending services have been effective, and that despite occasions where someone who was unknowingly carrying the virus has attended a service, there is every indication that our churches have not been places where the virus has spread. As we approach the Lenten season, we don’t want to relive what happened last year, and hope that directives indicating a percentage of capacity will soon be instituted. What we have to offer in terms of helping people to cope with the pandemic is of great importance to many, and we want to be able to offer that help.


Finally, a word about the Lenten season which is soon upon us. As in Advent, I will offer a weekly message through Lent, this time focusing on a prayer from our tradition that will hopefully help us to live the season well. We are also offering a weekly email that would provide people with access to resources and materials that we hope will inspire and challenge you. What we are calling our RENEW Lent weekly newsletter will be launched on Ash Wednesday, now only a few days away. You can find details on signing up on our website, on Facebook, Instagram, or in your parish bulletin.


The Lord God is always inviting us to renewal, to a greater holiness, a deeper joy, a more hope-filled and generous way of living the lives we have been given. Weary or frustrated or angry or discouraged that we may be, let us open ourselves to God’s transforming grace. Jesus wants to accompany us on this Lenten journey. Let’s take up his invitation an partake anew in the adventure and mission of being a part of the community of his disciples.


Rich blessings!

Watch Bishop Don's Video Message HERE

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