Moving into the Future
It is more than a year since the announcement of the COVID-19 pandemic; over the past few months there has been a lot written and said about what our world, our society will be like going into the future. We hear terms like “the new normal”, “getting back to normal” and all sorts of variations on the theme. For many, there is a longing for a return to the way things were before the pandemic. For others, there is a desire for something new, something different. The reality is that we don’t really know what it will be like after the pandemic. Many businesses have closed, there is talk of vast changes in the way we work with more emphasis on working from home, with many employees and employers saying they don’t want to return to a physical workplace, great numbers of people have relocated and the future isn’t quite a certain looking as it once was. There is uncertainty and a sense of mystery about the future.
As a province community, we have experienced many changes in the past months. Our “Forward Together: Listening for the Spirit” process shifted from the original plan of district meetings to an online event for the whole membership – vowed Oblates and Associates together in a series of gatherings and small group sessions. In many of our parish ministries, some form of online ministry has developed. Many members, who a year ago couldn’t dream of using Zoom on a regular basis, have joined in and participated in our discernment process and other online events. There have been struggles to learn, to adjust, but we have adapted and moved forward. All through this year, in the midst of the stresses and fears associated with the pandemic, we have been graced.
These are some of the graces, the gifts I recognize in our community this year. As we reflect on our experience, I am confident that each of us will recognize other graces as well.
We have grown in our sense of belonging to OMI Lacombe Canada Province and have a deeper recognition and appreciation of the place and role of Associates in our province. Having to shift from district gatherings for our “Forward Together” process, members from across the province participated in the many sessions that were held. We met and got to know other Oblates and Associates that we had not interacted with before. We heard each other’s stories, our hopes and dreams. As we have expanded our Zoom gatherings beyond the discernment process and have gathered for prayer celebrations, for “getting to know you” sessions and other kinds of events, relationships have been built across the province. What started as a necessity has become part of our life and will enable us to remain more connected going into the future.
Along with the deeper sense of belonging, we have also come to a deeper sense of our relationships with one another within the province. We’ve discovered one another’s gifts, shared faith and experiences and have come to value more deeply the connections that we have. The isolation many of us experienced and the opportunities to connect online have underscored our need for community, connection and relationships. We have discovered new ways of connecting and sharing life and living the charism.
Using social media to continue our parish ministries has enabled us to go beyond our parish boundaries and membership and touch the lives of many people who have had no connection with church. What started as a means to remain in touch with our own parishioners has become another way in which we can live out the charism of bringing the Good News to those on the margins. While in the past we may have struggled to identify the “poor with their many faces” and to reach out to them we have (perhaps inadvertently) discovered a valuable tool for evangelization.
As we continue on this journey through the pandemic, as we see hope for the end of this time of isolation and change, I believe we are called to continue to reflect on the graces of this time and to come to a deeper sense of our relationships with one another as part of OMI Lacombe, with society around us, especially those marginalized because of poverty, race, mental or physical disability, belief, sexual orientation, etc. and with creation itself. May we be continually blessed as we journey together into a new future.
By Richard Beaudette, OMI