Blessings and Challenges of 2020

Blessings and Challenges of 2020

The Times They Are A-Changin’  – Fr Michael Ryan SJ, Director of JISA Campion, reflects on the blessings and challenges of 2020 (acknowledging Bob Dylan). 

‘In moving forward…’ So start the minutes of a JISA Campion meeting of the team (via Zoom) last month.  And it becomes even more significant as Victoria moves out of the strictest of lockdown restrictions. This year was to see some changes in our Campion setup with accommodation no longer available for retreats and conferences. Alternative programs and venues were anticipated, but best laid plans came to a halt or were severely restricted by the rules associated with our State’s handling of the pandemic.

Though there was a severe curtailing of personal presence at Campion here in Kew during these months, nevertheless we learnt to be increasingly creative in offering support and accompaniment through online retreats and spiritual direction.

Personally speaking, it is a great relief to be moving out of lockdown. The liturgy at the beginning of November has us focus on those who have gone before us – all the saints and souls, if there is a difference!  We heard Jesus proclaiming those blessed in the account of the Beatitudes, and this raised for me just how am I faring in light of the past year of pandemic. Every one of us, especially in this Victorian ministry, will have their own story of whether the values espoused by Jesus in his preaching and living have been enhanced.

Reflecting back, my personal and active ministry has been lived out quite differently, and I think I can say I have been extended in new ways. Living more closely with members of my religious community (which numbers a dozen) has challenged at times, but against that the beatitudes about being of gentle spirit, just and merciful, compassionate and pure in heart, and especially being bearers of peace have once again been that guiding light in pressing times.

Even the regularity and predictability of days meant benefits toward more regular prayer, reading, use of Skype and Zoom, and exercise – even to the extent of getting fitter! Lockdown has been difficult, but I truly sense the quality of our relationships has been enhanced. Here is one sense of ‘Together, but Apart’.

So, these past months have given us much to reflect upon, even to claim that where difficulties were faced, grace and love were seen to abound.

Michael Ryan SJ
Director  of JISA Campion, Victoria