“Why Are You Afraid?”

Dear Friends,

Now two years since the start of the pandemic, my family and I can’t help but reflect.

Throughout these two years, the ministry of Catholic Leadership Institute has navigated the storm, stayed the course, and served more Church leaders than ever before. What a blessing!

In my message below, I invite you to share in two profound moments for my family and for a message to our spiritual fathers.

NOTE: read to the end if you are interested in learning one incredibly significant finding from our Disciple Maker Index survey about today’s Church versus our pre-COVID Church.

Here’s a hint: do not be afraid... Jesus is in the boat.

“Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with Him on board there will be no shipwreck.”

Pope Francis, Urbi et Orbi 2020

My family and I live in Richmond, VA. I am a father of six children, and my wife is a pediatric oncology nurse at the local Children’s Hospital. We have all experienced a lot in the past year and our own set of challenges in the new world. I experienced challenges as a father. I know our spiritual fathers have had their unique challenges, as have our parishes, workplaces, communities, families, and friends. Please know that Catholic Leadership Institute has been praying for you throughout this challenging time.

Two moments in particular have been poignant for our family – perhaps you experienced similar moments…

“Do You Not Have Faith?”

The first happened on March 27, 2020. In Virginia, we had been on lockdown for two weeks where we were changing clothes several times a day and washing our groceries before we brought them into the house. On that day, Pope Francis spoke to us through his Urbi et Orbi address. It was rainy and dark as Pope Francis emerged to an empty St. Peter’s Square with the Eucharist and monstrance. In that instant, we were changed as Pope Francis shared about our faith, the storm, and the boat.

He reflected on the phrase “Why are you afraid? Do you not have faith?” I still think about that message.

The Pope was calling us to something in this pandemic – at the time, we had no idea how long it would last. I’m certain some of you can recall alongside me when we imagined that this crisis might last a week or two weeks tops. But we had embarked upon a journey that continues even until today.

A Different-Looking Flock

The second moment that was poignant for myself and my family happened a couple months later on May 17. We went back to Mass for the first time, because our churches had been reopened for public access here. It was the first Mass that our pastor celebrated since the shutdown.

The moment that was particularly moving was when our pastor, who was 71 years old, walked out down the aisle, processed in, turned around, and looked out into his flock that had gathered. They looked a little bit different. Masks now. Socially distant and far away. My pastor began to weep, because of the great joy he experienced in seeing his flock together. While we looked different than what he expected, it was a moment in time that reminded us of just what calls us together as Catholics. It reminded us all of the loss that was experienced over those two months by not being able to gather in a particular way. It was our faith, gathering for a Sunday Mass as a community, that brought us hope.

Proud of & Praying for Priests

Throughout this pandemic, Catholic Leadership Institute has been more resolute than ever to our faith. In a special way, we have an empathetic and loving heart for our priests during this time.

Fathers, know that we at Catholic Leadership Institute pray for you, because these past two years have not been easy. You have been thrown different obstacles in your way and different hurdles to overcome that you have not been trained for and do not know how to navigate. You all – in many ways – have been caught in the middle. Please know, that we are all so grateful. Know of our prayers for you and your flock. Know of our prayers as we move through this together.

Tested. Strengthened.

Our innovative survey, the Disciple Maker Index, is the largest research endeavor in the Catholic Church. Today, the information captured is even more vital for pastors and parishes, who at this time are desiring a clear picture of who and where their flock is.

During COVID, one thing that has changed in our survey is this: personal beliefs and reliance upon our faith. At a time when our world has been tested, scores have shown that our faith has been strengthened. The data reveals that individuals’ beliefs in sacraments, Scripture as the Word of God, and the Real Presence of the Eucharist is deeper – people are going back to their faith and core beliefs in a stronger way through COVID and through this experience we have all had together.

Pope Francis asked: “Do you not have faith?” We have replied: yes, we do… and it is stronger.

Catholic Leadership Institute is proud to row alongside all of you in the boat. With the Lord as our Captain, we are not afraid. We have faith.

p.s. If you have interest in learning more about the Disciple Maker Index and how it can help your parish, please email Kyle Hatfield, Manager of Ministry Development at [email protected]

by Mike School

April 19, 2022

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