Among the signs of hope this Easter, I would like to share just two of so many in our own diocese. The first is the planned expansion of the Thomas Merton Family Center, a program of Catholic Charities, to a new location on State Street in Bridgeport. I was honored to join many area leaders and volunteers at a recent groundbreaking and blessing. Merton Center, in its love for the stranger, is the Church’s mission lived at its very best.
With the arrival of the spring solstice, our days are infused with new light that we welcome into our lives. At the same time, each Easter, Christians celebrate“Lumen Christi,” the Light of Christ that dispels the spiritual darkness of our lives and celebrates Christ’s triumph over sin and death; the true light that has come into our world and our lives.
As we gather this Easter in our parishes with joy and hope, we cannot forget that we have come to this glorious day through the way of the Cross — a journey we have taken this Lent. Many of us commemorated our Lord’s suffering and death on Good Friday by participating in the Stations of the Cross and outdoor processions through the streets of Bridgeport and Stamford. We recalled the price paid by Christ for our salvation.
We don’t have to look for suffering in life; it will find us. Of course, the temptation is to shy away from the sufferings we will have to endure to be faithful to Jesus — to find the places where we are comfortable and stay there. However, you and I know that if we are going to love, we are inevitably going to have to sacrifice. We know that there are times when we will have to suffer, to tell the truth, to challenge people; to love them with their true good in mind — not cheap love, not love the world wants, but the love that Jesus teaches us.
Likewise, we cannot turn our backs on those who suffer in our midst, particularly the innocent and most vulnerable. Our Christian love requires us to work for justice and have compassion when we witness the suffering of others: those afflicted by serious illness, the epidemic of gun violence, the criminal and brutal war in Ukraine, the parade of natural disasters that disrupt millions of lives with increasing frequency and power; the lingering anxiety, isolation and disorientation that so many experience in the aftermath of Covid.
Yet, even in the midst of our doubts, we must never forget the gift of hope and new life that comes from Easter! Despite the suffering and evil in the world, we who wish to follow Christ can receive the gift of Easter joy, which our Father in Heaven will give to each of us. With such joy, rooted in our unwavering belief that love will conquer all evil, sin and even death itself, we will be able to confront any challenge or difficulty, because God will lead us every step of the way.
Among the signs of hope this Easter, I would like to share just two of so many in our own diocese. The first is the planned expansion of the Thomas Merton Family Center, a program of Catholic Charities, to a new location on State Street in Bridgeport. I was honored to join many area leaders and volunteers at a recent groundbreaking and blessing. Merton Center, in its love for the stranger, is the Church’s mission lived at its very best. Day after day for almost 50 years, staff and volunteers have left the comfort of their own homes — even on Easter Sunday — to feed the hungry and homeless of all faiths, to have the courage to walk with Jesus, and to love those the world would say are not worth loving — the sick, the afflicted, the immigrant, the poor, the formerly incarcerated. Everyone who comes to Merton Center is respected for who he or she is in their uniqueness and even in their struggles.
These past three months, I have grown ever more encouraged as I have met with more than 2,000 catechists, parish leaders, synod delegates and others to discuss the renewal of the diocese by creating a culture of engagement that will offer a variety of opportunities to encounter the love and grace of the Lord Jesus in ordinary and extraordinary ways. I believe a fundamental challenge for the church — and perhaps other religions — in the 21st century is finding new ways to effectively pass on the gift of faith to the next generation, as more people fail to see its relevance or connection to their lives. As we begin this movement of renewal in our diocese, we will be planting spiritual seeds that will provide opportunities for anyone to encounter the life of Christ and be invited into vibrant and supportive faith communities that nurture accompaniment and support. For if we walk with Christ united as sisters and brothers in faith, there is no challenge that we cannot face, no evil that the Risen Christ cannot conquer through you and me.
This Easter I am more convinced than ever that our mission must be to become living bridges to people who have left faith out of indifference or anger, or out of a sense of being unwanted or uninvited. Ultimately, our Easter faith compels us to face enduring questions of the heart; the wounds, the sufferings, the deep desires and spiritual longings that people have, not simply to be heard but also to belong, to have a clear purpose and to come to know love and serve the Lord Jesus. That is what we truly celebrate at Easter; the one calling to “Go Forth” and share the Easter Christ with a broken and troubled world.