By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
“As 2020 dawned, few of us could have imagined the testing times that lay ahead”, opens the pastoral letter read in every parish on Sunday in the Diocese of Shrewsbury headed by the Rt Rev Mark Davies.
The Bishop also recounted the initiatives that nurtured the faithful: priests who “devotedly ministered to the dying”, “livestreaming of Masses” which allowed tens of thousands to participate in the Holy Week liturgies alone. “We did not forget the poor”, the Bishop wrote.
Parishioners then heard the gratitude of their Bishop expressed on behalf of the entire Diocese for “the work of clergy and parish volunteers together with diocesan officers that enabled us to return with joy to the Holy Eucharist.”
On Sunday, the Bishop entrusted the people of the Diocese and a full recovery “from this testing time” to St Joseph. Bishop Mark Davies explains in his Pastoral Letter that he chose St Joseph because it was to him that the “Eternal Father entrusted the care of His only Begotten Son”, that the whole Church is entrusted to his protection, and he is the one we look to as a “guide in the life of prayer”.
In an interview on Monday morning with Vatican News, Bishop Davies further explains the inspiration behind his choice of St Joseph, some of the pastoral needs people have confided in him, and the feedback he has received since the reading of yesterday’s pastoral letter in the parishes.
Joseph can show us how to live through trial
“Joseph is someone who shows us how to live through times of trial and to see and discern the finger of God tracing out a greater plan and purpose in the midst of so many distressing circumstances and contradictions.”
This is the figure of Joseph we find in the Gospel, Bishop Davies continues. That's why he is holding St Joseph out to his people as the one who can help them as they discern “how best to respond in this crisis”.
Pastoral needs of the people
Bishop Davies named a few “pastoral issues, which have been so prominent for us” in these “times we've never lived through before”.
One trial for the faithful in his Diocese “has been the prolonged period away from the Mass”, Bishop Davies says. Even although those live streaming options were available, and many made use of them, “there was a real sense of the absence” of live participation in the Mass.
Many people in the Diocese are still isolated and alone. Bishop Davies says that they are still searching for ways to support people “in that solitude which the pandemic has brought”.
Then, he said, “many families are facing financial difficulties and financial worries about the securities of the future”.
Since the reading of the Pastoral Letter on Sunday, some people have written Bishop Davies messages. “People have found encouragement in this message, I would say above all a supernatural perspective for this time”. It is precisely this “supernatural perspective” that is needed when individuals, parishes and other communities need to make decisions in view of “autumn and winter and to find the best ways that we can go forward as the Church”.
About the Diocese
The Diocese of Shrewsbury is located in the west of England and covers the parts of Merseyside south of the River Mersey, the southern parts of Greater Manchester, parts of Derbyshire, almost all of Cheshire and all of Shropshire. Catholics number about 191,000 in an overall population af about 1,937,000; about 150 priests serve in 92 parishes.