May 11, 2021
My Dear Friends in Christ,
As we begin to come through the many challenges of this past year, Jesus’ words in this past Sunday’s Gospel could not be more timely. Truly we must heed Jesus’ call to “Remain in my love,” and in so doing to keep his command to “Love one another.” (John 5: 9-17)
It is in that spirit that I wish to urge each and every one of you – our pastors, deacons and parish and school staff, our archdiocesan employees, and our lay faithful – to try and take stock of the emotional toll this year has had on you and your loved ones. While we are all full of hope that robust vaccination efforts will soon allow us to resume many of our “normal” activities, we must also be cognizant that there is much to process as we face the days ahead. May is Mental Health Awareness month, and for us as Catholics, it is an important time to stop and reflect on how important it is to our own mental health to keep alive our prayerful relationship with Jesus, and to be particularly understanding and compassionate to the needs of those around us.
I think especially of all those in our community who are health care workers, and who have endured extraordinary emotional stress as they have witnessed so much loss, and have struggled to be present to those they have served so valiantly – often as the only human presence to the sick and dying. We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude, and need to find ways to support them and connect them to the resources they might need to reflect on what they have gone through over the past year.
So too, I think of so many of our youth who have been separated from their peers and isolated from the social activities they thrive upon. As Governor Hogan notes recently with the launch of the statewide Project Bounce Back, we must be attentive to the impact this year has had on them, and prepared to help them cope as we return to more regular activities.
Recognizing the urgent need for the Church to be a source of comfort and help as we all come to terms with the experience of the past year, I have created an archdiocesan workgroup tasked with developing training and resources to equip our parishes to deal with the mental health needs of their parish communities. We will also create a page on our website where parishioners can access available local resources, and we will explore partnerships with local governments, nonprofits and other agencies in order to maximize access to services for all who are in need. I welcome your suggestions for additional resources we might consider as part of this initiative.
In closing, I want to stress how important it is to reach out for help if you are struggling. There should be no stigma in seeking professional counseling in order to obtain assistance with the issues so many of us are facing these days. This assistance is often available through Employee Assistance Programs, county mental health offices and many other avenues. It is so important to make the space in our lives to fully comprehend the issues we may be suffering from, such as depression, unresolved grief, isolation, marital pressures, substance abuse, or simply the unaccustomed stress of living in such close quarters and coping with balancing working and schooling children at home. It is critical to get the help we need before we are in crisis.
Most of all, I encourage you again to “Remain in Jesus.” There is so much solace and strength to be found in taking time every day to pray quietly to him, to ask for his guidance in understanding our own needs, and to lay our troubles in the palm of his hand. I assure you he will bring you peace, and, in turn, will give you the insight to love one another as we recognize how others may be in need of our comfort as well.
May God bless you and keep you in his love.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Most Reverend William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore
Note: If you have questions or suggestions regarding the archbishop’s initiative, contact Mary Ellen Russell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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