2020 in Review
We have been through so much this year, yet we come to our annual celebration of Christmas. This year, let us recall the reality of Christ's Incarnation, his coming as man. In innocence and poverty he descended from the royal realms of heaven to change the course of human history. In these months, we have been all too aware of human frailty and mortality. And think that Christ, the Son of God, decided to take on our frailty and mortality so that we might have access to divine life and immortality. The Son of God, fully divine and fully human, graces us with his presence so that we might fully come to know who we are as God's children.
We have overcome so much this year, but I am grateful for all the blessings that God has provided in the midst of adversity and difficulty. Parishioners have responded generously in terms of giving so that our parish remains financially soluble. In February, we refurbished the baptismal font at the entrance to the nave. Over many years, leaks and faults had been patched a reworked. Finally, it was necessary to rework the font from the inside out. The result is a beautifully redesigned font that will last us for many more years. I am grateful to Verona Tile & Marble who lead the project, as well as Amanzi Marble in Kernersville who put the finishing touches on the top and sides. In addition to this major project inside, the church roof was replaced. This project was already on the "do do list" when I arrived in 2019. The church is nearly 21 years old and the parish had been saving for many years to carry out this project. The gutters on the church will be replaced, too. In preparation for Christmas, we also contracted with a local company who pressure washed and treated the facade of the church. In January or February, we will contract with a stone mason to reseal the marble capstones at the top of the face of the church.
Beginning in March, we had some tough decisions to make regarding a number of services that Holy Cross provides, namely our Immigration Legal Services and Child Development Center. Both groups decided to remain open. In terms of our daycare, we moved rapidly from normal operations to "reduced emergency operations." The administration and faculty at the daycare center went above and beyond to be licensed as an emergency daycare facility during the state's "safer-at-home" orders. While we had to reduce our capacity and prepare for the stringent health checks and sanitization requirements, the Child Development Center went above and beyond to continue to provide a safe environment for children whose parents needed child care during the lockdowns. Our immigration office also reminded open. For a time, they suspended in-person consultations and walk-in appointments. However, they used the time prudently to catch up on cases, paperwork, and files in order to assist their clients as best as possible. I am extremely grateful that our Immigration Legal Services continues to minister to our immigrants and community members who are seeking a path to residency and citizenship. It is too often that immigrants in our community are swindled by con artists and fake case workers who promise immigration help but are there just to take their money and leave them without any help. Immigration services with compassion and dignity is truly a ministry. We have a new position open in the offices if you or someone you know is interested in working in this important field.
It would be dishonest for me to skip the pastoral difficulties of this year as I ask for your solicitous prayers for those who are suffering and those who have died. Since March, I have been tasked in Forsyth County as the "plague priest." In medieval times, when some disease or plague struck the cities, they would choose the youngest and fittest priests to administer the sacraments to the dying. The rationale was that the young priests would most likely survive. We have a great number of priests in Forsyth County who are health-challenged or generally elderly, so I have been called on many times to anoint COVID patients in the ICU's around the area. This has weighed heavily on me as I minister to the families of dying Catholics. Moreover, our communities have experienced a number of tragedies. Murder, suicide, and gang violence is on the rise. I have celebrated the funerals of too many young people in the past 10 months. As a Christian community, I implore your help to end bigotry and judgment of your neighbor. Our Kernersville Christian Minister Fellowship participated in a nine-week racism discussion that was very fruitful and led to our group growing closer in our resolve to know one another and work together to confront bigotry and ignorance. This is the important takeaway for me: what we call bigotry and racism is many times a cover for laziness and ignorance. Sometimes we are afraid to get to know our neighbors because they are different. Whether they be black, Hispanic, Asian, or some other heritage or race, we must engage one another in loving dialogue. It is there that we can share each other's experiences and lives and find ways to love and support each other. I am pleased that Holy Cross will be hosting an ecumenical panel discussion for MLK Day, which will feature a diverse panel of Christian leaders to discuss the dreams and aspirations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and different ways the Christian churches of Kernersville can help bring the different members of the community together as one.
Lastly, I am grateful to all those who have helped to ensure the worship of God and the celebration of the sacraments. On March 14, 2020, after the 5:30pm Vigil Mass, a number of parishioners came up to me saying, "Father, the governor has ordered everything closed." I was confused and bewildered. It came so suddenly. The diocese didn't know exactly how to react at first, so that evening the bishop ordered all churches closed pending further clarification and instruction. For weeks, we were unable to celebrate the sacraments publicly and with a congregation. We, like many parishes, pivoted to online and live-streamed celebrations, messages, and reflections. After much planning, we found a number of volunteers within the parish who would help with an outdoor Mass at the parish. The evening before we planned that outdoor Mass, a federal judge ruled that no executive order could prohibit the gathering of Americans for religious purposes and the worship of God. I am grateful for the vision of our founding fathers. Since the end of April, we have returned to a normal schedule for those faithful who assess the risk and decide to worship with us. Attendance has continued to grow, and I am pleased that we have returned to a regular sacramental life. Since April, we have worshiped safely and carefully, and there have been no hotspots or outbreaks at the parish church. This is thanks to everyone's cooperation that they wear masks when moving about the church and they physically distance from other households when sitting in their pews.
All in all, God's providence shines brightly even in the midst of a global epidemic. No effect of the fall, whether it be disease or disaster, can ever outdo God's goodness and generosity. For this, we celebrate Christmas with our hearts full of gratitude and joy. May each of you be filled with peace, joy, and gladness as we recall Christ's birth in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. He is the focus of this season, and he is the one who changes hearts. Let us not live in fear or trepidation, because Christ is King forevermore!