My dear brothers
and sisters in Christ Jesus:
As we continue to observe the protocols in place for our celebrations of the sacraments, I have been privileged to confirm our young people and adults during the month of August and continuing into this month of September. I am confident that God’s gift of the Holy Spirit will be a true strength and encouragement for those confirmed and be a genuine support in dealing with our present challenges in almost every area of life: health and well-being; tensions in society, especially addressing the causes of prejudices and racial inequalities; living with ongoing limitations necessitated by the coronavirus disease; and the loss of jobs resulting from the pandemic. It seems overwhelming because it is overwhelming!
In these days, which cry out to the heavens for a solution, our faith in God is so important. For this reason, to the extent possible, celebrations for the conferral of the sacrament of confirmation were scheduled. I fully understand why some have postponed their reception of confirmation and I unite with them in prayer and in hope that future confirmation ceremonies will be available. We live in a crucial moment when so many sacrifices are being made by you and so many others regionally, nationally and universally. While acknowledging the necessity for restrictions, I do find it sad that we have been unable to gather for parish celebrations that have either been postponed or cancelled – the shepherd needs his flock. But whenever possible, I have tried to be present to our parish and institutional communities.
During this month, our schools reopen with a number of accommodations being made to provide for the continuing education of our children and young adults. Our young people of all ages are being asked to make sacrifices and adjustments. Learning, studying and acquiring knowledge are serious exercises, but now this work is being carried out in such unusual circumstances.
I am so very grateful to our pastors, parochial administrators and pastoral administrators for cooperating with our dedicated teachers and administrators in our Catholic schools and religious-education programs. Many are working diligently to continue the human, spiritual and academic development of our children in these very stressful times. They deserve our support and our esteem. I have spoken with some of the principals in our Catholic schools, and I am quite impressed with all the safety precautions they have put into place.
I pray that legislators will appreciate the great value of our Catholic schools and offer appropriate support, especially for emergency funding for scholarship granting organizations as provided for in the School Choice Now Act (see U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Catholic Education) since many of our children come from financially struggling families. Our Catholic schools educate Catholics and non-Catholics, minorities, the children of refugee families, persons of different ethnic backgrounds and the poor –who all appreciate the virtues and Gospel values that motivate and sustain our Catholic schools and are all practiced in accordance with the command of Jesus: to love God and to love our neighbor. Our schools seek to reveal the person of Jesus: The Teacher, The Way, The Truth, The Life and Our Savior.
Even with the challenges that have surrounded the education of our children and young adults, high school graduations continued in modified ways, respecting established guidelines in place during the pandemic crisis. Our schools have supported graduates in the manner most feasible for each school. I was able to be present for the high school graduation ceremonies of Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women and of McQuaid Jesuit. While I prayed for these graduates, my prayers extended to those who have graduated from the Aquinas Institute, Bishop Kearney High School, Notre Dame High School and Tyburn Academy of Mary Immaculate, as well as those graduating from our public schools and other private schools. Let us keep these high school graduates in regular prayer as they enter another very important phase of their young lives, bringing them closer to vocational and career choices.
On September 7 we celebrate Labor Day, which provides an opportunity to thank so many individuals who are doing so much to address the many concerns associated with the coronavirus: medical and scientific personnel; first responders; the countless number of volunteers delivering food to the homebound; those making telephone calls to family and friends to ensure that no person is forgotten; certainly our parish and school staffs who are providing spiritual and pastoral outreach to parishioners and non-parishioners as well; and many others. As we are united in these good works, may our labors allow our faith to become more visible and our unity to grow stronger.
Invoking God’s blessings upon you through the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace, and of St. John Fisher, patron of our diocese, I remain
The Most Reverend Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester