As the dark, cold days of winter give way to the hopeful signs of new life in spring, the season of Lent encourages us to leave the darkness of our hearts, embrace the light of Christ, and renew our spirits. Collectively, we join with all of our sisters and brothers around the world as we wait for hopeful signs that the pandemic is losing its grip on our lives.
In Pope Francis’ Lenten Message for 2021, the pontiff expressed, “To experience Lent in hope entails growing in the realization that, in Jesus Christ, we are witnesses of new times, in which God is ‘making all things new.’”
Those who live out their vocations in ministry or various facets of the social sector often feel the burdens of those they serve while also managing the challenges and losses in their own lives. Since our organizations are only as effective as the people who support them, how can we help our co-workers, colleagues and partners maintain a hopeful spirit? Pope Francis offers that Christ’s example of love, as “concern and compassion for all, is the highest expression of our faith and hope,” and that love “rejoices in seeing others grow.” He calls us to experience Lent as a “journey of conversion” as communities as well as individuals, to “revive the faith that comes from the living Christ, the hope inspired by the breath of the Holy Spirit and the love flowing from the merciful heart of the Father.”
To initiate a “journey of conversion,” your organization may consider providing an opportunity for group reflection, to examine where your organization is now and the ways in which it has been impacted over the past year. Our partners at the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving offered a framework for group reflection in their newsletter article, “Making Sense of a New Normal,” by Dr. David King, director of the institute.
Dr. King encourages organizations to consider the “new rhythms” that were established as a response to the initial crisis that may have become the “new normal.” Taking the time to recognize and grieve what may have been lost, as well as recognizing the resilient and innovative responses that surfaced during the pandemic are points that Dr. King suggests for discussion. “Our communities need religious organizations in order to survive, heal, and thrive again,” writes Dr. King. “Making space for imagining what our organizations might look like in the months and years ahead is the creative work that we desperately need.”
As we consider the call toward renewal and rebuilding during this Lenten season, Pope Francis reminds us to trust in the Lord: “In these days of deep uncertainty about the future, let us keep in mind the Lord’s word to his Servant, ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you’” (Is 43:1).
May you and your organization be filled with the strength and renewed spirit to guide you on your Lenten journey toward hope.