As we journey towards Pentecost, Fr. Peter Hughes, Columban Director in Britain, compares the anxieties and stresses of the coronavirus pandemic with the Easter season and the fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost when the apostles feared for their lives and remained in isolation. But he reminds us there is hope, the gift of the Holy Spirit gave the apostles strength to share the Good News of Christ.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
How are you? This question feels like the only way to begin this letter and one that has been ever present in our minds since the ‘lockdown’ began on 23rd March and we have all had to adapt to a new reality. For Columban missionaries here and around the world, most of us confined to our houses, we quickly began to miss the daily contact we have with the communities we serve and with you, our partners and companions in mission. We pray each day for your needs and welfare.
The anxiety and stress that such uncertain times cause brings to mind the Easter season and the fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost. The initial response of the apostles to Jesus’ resurrection was not unbridled joy, but self-isolation. They feared for their lives and not even the promise of resurrection gave them the courage to emerge readily from their hiding places. It was the first Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit that confirmed in them strength to overcome their fears and to share with conviction the Good News of Jesus Christ with others.
The Acts of the Apostles tells us of how the ‘many miracles and signs worked through the apostles made a deep impression on everyone’ (Acts 2:43) and we can see today many ‘miracles and signs’ in the way individuals and communities are responding to those who are sick and in need. A heartening community spirit has emerged in response to COVID-19 from the exercise of our God-given gifts; a concern for our neighbours and a sharing of our ‘goods and possessions’ for the common good. We are Easter people and these are our ways – how is God calling you and your community to respond?
It feels like a relief to send you the Far East magazine and to share with you once more the story of Columban mission today. We hope you enjoy reading this issue. We know that your first concern at this time is the local needs of your family and your community. Columban missionaries, like Fr. Ed O’Connell in Peru and Fr. Andrei Paz in the Philippines¹, have identified that ‘lockdown’ restrictions in the communities they serve have cut off the poorest people from work and their only source of income. Access to food and basic supplies is the main priority and they are doing what they can to assist. We are grateful for your prayers and for whatever support you feel able to give as Columban missionaries strive to continue their mission in these challenging times.²
To respect the health and well-being of Columbans and staff, we currently have limited capacity in our Mission Office to handle and respond to your letters and telephone calls. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Nonetheless, we are ‘open’ and look forward to receiving your letters and calls, which give us great encouragement. Donations can be made online via www.columbans.co.uk/ donate and you can also contact us by email to email@example.com
May Almighty God bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Yours in the peace of Christ,
Fr. Peter Hughes SSC
Columban Director in Britain