"Thank you, thank you to all of you who have remembered us in your prayers and continued to support our parish during the pandemic, it has meant so much to us,” Father Richard Breton enthusiastically said during the July 5 Mass at St. Andrew Church in Colchester. We were finally back to Sunday Mass and it felt great! While many people continued to watch the Mass being livestreamed into the comfort of their homes, my husband, John, and I joined about 55 people eager and so thankful to hear the Gospel in person.
As I heard the Gospel, I couldn’t help but think how fitting it was on this, our first Sunday back in the midst of a pandemic, to hear the words of Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Certainly, many of us felt burdened during the last few months, and Jesus had been the source of our strength over and over again. Now, here we were hearing Jesus tell us yet again that He was with us every step of the way, helping us to cope with the new normal.
Years ago, I heard a priest explain that because Jesus was a carpenter, he would have made many yokes for the farmers living in Nazareth. As a skilled carpenter, he knew how to build a yoke so that it would not hurt the ox, so that it did not pinch the skin, and perfectly, evenly distributed the load. The yoke would be uniquely fit to each ox and Jesus would have been very adept at constructing such a yoke. Therefore, I believe, when Jesus tells us to take “my yoke” he is telling us that it has been made for us, it is what we can manage.
I found it so reassuring to hear this familiar passage and to reflect on what I had been told so long ago. During the past few months, I have been concerned for not only the health of my family and friends but also for our diocesan ministries and the efforts of this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal, “One Faith, One Family.”
With the March ACA in-pew process having been postponed and donations reduced, I have had anxiety over the fate of our ministries that are supported by the Appeal. I was well aware that our soup kitchens, St. Vincent de Paul Place, Norwich, St. Vincent de Paul, Middletown and Catholic Charities with locations in Norwich, New London, Middletown and Willimantic, were being heavily stressed and stretched to their financial limits by serving many more people than usual.
Even though churches were not open, the needs of our seminarians, those caring for our sick and elderly, or those working in our cemeteries and properties ministry, to name a few, have certainly been ongoing. Peoples’ spirits have been down, and many looked to their priests and our spiritual renewal services for guidance and support. So many of our ministries continued to do their lifechanging work throughout the pandemic as best they were able to do. They rose to the challenge and the ACA needed to as well.
I will take comfort in remembering that Jesus has built me a yoke, specifically fit to my needs and my abilities. I have faith that another favorite verse from the Book of Matthew, “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be,” will be remembered by all.
Faced with increased unemployment and so much uncertainty, some are understandably unable to support the ACA at the levels they have in the past. To those of you who have already given, we thank you so much. We truly appreciate every single dollar and are so grateful for what your generosity allows our ministries to do. By working together throughout this pandemic, we have all exhibited our belief that we truly are of “One Faith, One Family.”
I pray that we all continue to do what we can to help keep each other healthy and safe and lift each other up in prayer and love. For those who would like to give online, please go to our website, NorwichDioceseDevelopment.org or if you would like to speak to our new Campaign Manager, Heather Harris, she can accept your donation and answer your questions at (860) 886-1928, ext. 111 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mary Ellen Mahoney, Director of Development