Christmas 2020 – Letter of the Coordinator (22.12.2020)


„The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”

Isaiah 9: 1


Dear confreres,

Dear partners in mission,

The year 2020 put us all in a completely unexpected situation. The Covid-19 pandemic has given us experiences that were surprising and completely new. Such a massive threat to the health of all people from an infectious disease is unexpected in our societies. We in Europe have seen from a distance that there have been epidemics on other continents. But it wasn’t our own experience. When we celebrated Christmas a year ago, none of us would have thought that wearing masks would be important for us – here and now. That for us at the moment, keeping distance is an expression of responsibility and care.

Looking back on the year 2020, each and every one of us will remember images and situations that were particularly impressive and in which the peculiarities of the pandemic situation are strongly expressed. This includes e.g. images of the loneliness in which some people ended their lives without the support of those who were otherwise particularly close to them. This also includes impressive images of solidarity and willingness to get involved to support others. We can’t foresee all the consequences of this year yet. They will only gradually become clear and visible. And of course: We ourselves have changed in the course of the year. Intense experiences and challenges leave traces in our own lives.

For us Redemptorists in the European Conference, the pandemic made the year 2020 completely different from what we thought it would at the beginning. We had to say goodbye to a number of confreres, associates and partners. Some communities have had to isolate themselves from their neighbourhood for some time because of the risk of infection. Our ministry was largely determined by the precautionary measures to avoid the spread of the virus. The celebrations of the anniversary of St. Clement and many other important events in the provinces and in the Conference of Europe had to be cancelled. The Assembly of the Conference of Europe took place as a videoconference, without the face-to-face meetings that are so important.

But there were also many pastoral activities in which we reacted to the new situation. This includes not only Fr. Damian, our Spanish confrere, who is making a splash on TikTok, or a joint Christmas greetings video from the provincial leaderships and co-workers of the Northern Europe region, but also sermons and novenas, to which many people got access via social media. Just as Christmas was approaching, there were various successful models with offers for reflection and preparation for the feast.

In the formation of our confreres, we were limited by the precautions of the pandemic. The course of preparation for final vows could only be carried out for the confreres in several groups in different countries (e.g. in the province of Warsaw and in the province of Lviv); but even there we were able to use the opportunity for speakers joining via video conference. The common formation in the interprovincial Studentate of the Conference of Europe could be continued well. In autumn the group of students was reinforced by a candidate from the province of Rome. The fact that our Superior General Fr Michael Brehl was able to hold a two days retreat before Christmas for the formation community in San Gioacchino was a positive effect of the extraordinary situation of the pandemic. It is gratifying that in the international novitiates in Ciorani and in Lubaszowa-Podolinec as well as in the province of Lviv a total of 13 novices are preparing for acceptance into our community and for first vows.

Contrary to what had been planned, the Assembly of the Conference of Europe could not take place in Albania in October. In our common mission in Albania we are currently in a phase of reorientation. In the Apostolic Plan of the Europe Conference, adopted in 2019, we advocated a strengthening of our presence in Albania. In response to a request from the Apostolic Administrator of Southern Albania, we are now considering what a possible missionary presence of us Redemptorists in this part of the country could look like. The Assembly of the Conference of Europe, which was planned in Durres, was intended to involve members from all over Europe more closely in this deliberation process. The effects of the pandemic have now slowed down this process. However, we think that we can continue with the deliberations and also with concrete investigations in 2021. This also means that for the near future we are looking for confreres as well as partners in our mission who are ready to minister in the mission in Albania for a (even longer) time.

With this in mind, we will celebrate Christmas this year. As last year, we celebrate the same mystery of God’s Incarnation. We celebrate God who comes in our human life and shares this life with us in all its consequences. His name is: Immanuel – God with us. And yet Christmas is different this year. Not only because we celebrate the feast with all the restrictions on visits and services: without the large gatherings of families and friends, without the crowded churches. Christmas is also different because we may understand better what the prophet Isaiah expressed with his  promise: „The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9: 1) In the dark the light shines particularly brightly. Precisely because we are confronted with the shadows and darkness of our human life, we may learn to better understand which way God chose when he became man in Jesus Christ – and that he wants to fill our fragile human life with the light of his love.

I thank you for all effort, creative ideas and energy to realize our mission in the year 2020, and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and God’s blessing for 2021!

Johannes Römelt CSsR

Coordinator of Europe

Print Friendly, PDF & Email