Appleton, WI

June 12/13: Day by Day with Father Bill – Weekend Edition

In Joy & Sorrow

I don’t know about you, but for me, the lifting of some of our COVID safety protocols here at St Mary Parish has been a source of great joy!

I am so thankful to all of you for hanging in there over the course of these last fifteen months. From the beginning, way back in March of last year, it was the single hearted desire of the Senior Leadership Team to keep everyone safe and we did not waver from that commitment. That consistency at the start of the lockdown served us well. I heard horror stories in parishes where there was a constant tug-of-war between folks who wanted things one way and those who wanted things another way. What we did throughout was motivated by a love for one another and a desire to lessen the spread of the coronavirus. If our protocols prevented even one person from getting sick, we were all happy to stay the course.

I was happy to learn that Kurt Eggebrecht, our Health Officer for the Appleton Health Department, on Wednesday (6/2) encouraged those who have been fully vaccinated to return to a normal life. “Do everything you used to do before the pandemic!”

I remember back in February, when I received my vaccinations. I was never so happy to be poked with a needle. Our researchers have given us these great gifts of vaccines that were developed in record time and whose safe use has been verified. If you have not been vaccinated, I would encourage you to pray about the possibility of receiving the vaccine.

On Friday morning (6.4), at the Funeral Mass for our dear Emmett Clark, our choir, with Tom Walter at the organ, sang for the first time. The glorious voices of thirty or so people filled our church, with the organ accompanying them. The music brought tears to my eyes! Emmett, who was a faithful choir member, probably was accompanying them from the heavenly choir of the communion of saints!

And last weekend was our first weekend together as an assembly where wearing a mask was optional for fully vaccinated folks. It is so good to see one another’s whole faces again – to see smiles matching twinkling eyes. It was so hard for me to recognize some masked folks and to hear what people were saying through their face coverings. Just a gentle reminder: if you have health issues that put you at risk or are not vaccinated, I encourage you to continue wearing your mask.

David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times, addressed the Class of 2021 of Boston College on Monday, May 24, their graduation day. It was a very insightful address so the entire talk is worth looking up. I would like to just share a couple of Mr. Brooks’ thoughts in regard to the great “unmasking” that is going on in our society.

“…we don’t only wear physical masks, but also psychological ones. Productivity is a mask. I’m too busy to stop and see you. Meritocracy is a mask. I judge you by what school you went to and what job you got. Essentialism is a mask. I can make all sorts of assumptions about you based on what racial or ethnic groups you’re in. Fear is a mask. I don’t show you myself because I’m afraid you won’t like me. Emotional avoidance is a mask. I hide parts of myself because I’m afraid to confront my own feelings.”

“Worst and most serious of all, distrust is a mask. I wall myself in because I’m suspicious you will hurt me. Distrust is at record levels in America today. It is the cancer eating away at our relationships, our politics and society. And I have to admit a lot of this distrust is earned distrust. People feel betrayed because they have been betrayed. But distrust breeds distrust. When somebody is distrusting of me, I am distrusting toward them and we spiral into a distrust doom loop. This is the state we are in now. This is how nations fail, families fail, organizations fail.”

“One of my goals in the months ahead is to try to undo what COVID tried to do to me. COVID tried to distance me, isolate me, and it did the same to you. I hope to show I wasn’t broken by this hard season of life, I was broken open; that social distance will be replaced by social closeness and social courage.”

How will our survival of COVID make us different as members of our families, work places, communities and parishes? What have we learned from this experience and how will it reorganize our priorities? Some things to pray and think about on these beautiful summer days for sure!