Religious leaders reflect on Lent after two years of COVID | faith matters

Lent is upon us again. Ash Wednesday, March 2, will usher in a period of 40 days, excluding Sundays, of sacrifice and self-denial.

But isn’t that what we’re experiencing thanks to COVID? It’s almost as if we had a two-year period of Lent.

“Over the past two years of the pandemic, for so many people, homes have also become workplaces, and family relationships may have changed as parents became teachers, the house or apartment became a office or a studio or a workshop, and the families felt a physical closeness, unlike before,” said Bishop Gregory Studerus, Catholic Episcopal Vicar of Hudson County.

So even as we seem to be slowly heading towards some sort of post-COVID world – a recent headline read, “More virus rules fall as CDC hints at better times ahead” – what the Lent 2022?

The county’s religious leaders have imagined how we can live this Lent differently.

“Because COVID has forced most of us to make so many sacrifices, perhaps we can use this season of Lent as a time to ‘undertake’ acts of compassion,” said Reverend Laurie Wurm, Rector of Grace Church Van Vorst in downtown Jersey. Town. “In the wake of the pandemic, listening to a lonely neighbor, letting go of the false idol of pride by asking and offering forgiveness, and practicing praying for our enemies remembering that God loves them could be disciplines of Lent more meaningful than the familiar practice of giving up something.

Carmel Galasso of Bayonne — who leads the hospitality ministry and sings in the choir at St. Aedan, the parish of St. Peter’s University in Jersey City — agrees.

“Last Lent, we were a people living in desolation and isolation, perhaps thinking of our own demise,” she said. “This Lent, we can give a ministry of presence to others. We can have a desire for hope and personal growth, emptying the baggage that weighs us down.

“Lent invites us to swim beyond the breakers to focus on self-care, caring for others, especially those living on the margins of society, as well as caring for our environment.”

Studerus made connections between the experience of the pandemic and normal Lent.

“The pandemic touched our hearts as we saw the suffering around us, and perhaps ourselves,” he said. “Lent calls us to let our hearts be touched by the lives of others.”

Monsignor Gregory Studerus, pastor of St. Joseph of the Palisades in western New York, has been appointed auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Newark.EJA

The former pastor of St. Joseph’s of the Palisades in West New York, one of the tallest in the Archdiocese of Newark, added, “The pandemic has forced us to change our routines, the daily practices of our personal lives. ; to rethink how we will meet the fundamental challenges of each day. Lent invites us to reconsider our daily habits as they not only affect our health and well-being, but also others.

Yet Jesuit seminarian Kieran Halloran sees this Lent through the experience of a dedicated religious.

“I think, even though things are affected by COVID, Lent in many ways remains the same,” he said. “Perhaps it is worth taking a broader lens to remember that this is not the first time that we as a church and as people of faith have had to struggle with different sufferings of this world through all the liturgical seasons and Lent still remains a season of preparation and grace.”

Halloran taught religion to St. Peter’s Prep students in Jersey City for two years, then chose to spend his third year of apostolic ministry at the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Mexico. He witnessed the enormous suffering of migrants who simply want a better life for themselves and their children.

“Physical acts of penance and atonement are meant to be more than just physical disciplines,” he said. “Instead, they’re meant to be tools that help us get to some heart movement.”

Now he is truly Jesuitical: “As in so many practices in a religious life, physical actions only take on their true meaning and meaning when they are accompanied also by an inner movement.”

It is also a focus on God.

Reverend Laurie Wurm

Reverend Laurie Wurm of Grace Church Van Vorst speaks at an anti-violence press conference held by 30 pastors who gather at the intersection of Old Bergen Avenue and Neptune Avenue to speak out against recent violence as a “crisis”. December 2, 2015. Jesse Brothers | The Jersey Journal EJAEJA

“Lent challenges us to face the changes in life that come our way with confidence in God’s loving will, and that with his grace we can do his will,” Wurm explained.

And Halloran offered insight into the atonement:

“We embrace the idea that an act of atonement must involve some sort of self-imposed burden. But we can consider the word more carefully, ‘unification’. The main purpose of the atonement is to restore this state of union in a fractured or strained relationship. This Lent, we can truly enter a season of atonement in which the ultimate goal is to become one with God.

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