Ash Wednesday, February 13th., 2013

To my Brothers and Sisters in the Diocese of Antigonish,

This Lent has a particular dimension since we are celebrating it in the Year of Faith. During this year we have been focusing on the central awareness of the Good News revealed in Jesus Christ. We believe that God’s love for each one of us has been revealed in Jesus. This means that as we come to know Jesus Christ, we become aware of the deep love that God has for each one of us and the invitation that God gives us to live a life of love. I believe that the Lenten Season provides us with an opportunity of responding to that personal love that we experience in Jesus.

Even as we continue to face difficult situations in our diocese regarding parish mergers and the closure of some church buildings, the disconnection of the younger generation with our church, and the continuing response to the sexual abuse crisis, I still have a sense of hope for all of us as people of faith. As we look toward our Renewal Congress in October 2013, I believe this is an opportunity when we will gather as a diocese to consider the pastoral issues that touch us. We need to serve our young people in better ways. We need to assist these young people to be inspired with the faith that has inspired us. We need to reach out to those who have been hurt by the Church through sexual abuse and through ordinary encounters that might occur within parish life. We need to make real efforts to welcome people, especially those who feel ostracized by a situation of divorce or other personal situation. We need to take active roles in projects of justice. At the Renewal Congress, we will commit ourselves as a diocese to focus together on a number of pastoral priorities so that we can serve in a way that will contribute to a growth in faith for all of us.

The Season of Lent gives us a time of grace where we can consider our own personal situations and review how we are responding to the love that is being poured into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit. This experience of love invites us to be deeply grateful for God’s love. How might we take time during this Season of Lent to savor and to be grateful for God’s action, love and grace in our lives? How might we make room for God in our lives, through some extra time in prayer, through deep appreciation for the people in our lives, through a reflection on the special graces that God has given us, through a prayerful participation in the Eucharist, through a silent reflection on the Way of the Cross, through being filled with wonder at moments in nature? These can make us more contemplative as we recognize that God is walking with you at each step of our lives.

Likewise we are invited to examine how we are allowing that love of God to be directed to those in our communities. Once we experience God’s love, we awaken in a deep way to the love of others and we open our spirits to others in a new way. With whom do we need to seek reconciliation? We can live our lives carrying the wounds of hurt and failing to know that God is inviting us to new life. God desires that we be freed from being weighed down by the wrongs and sins of our past and to become ambassadors of reconciliation. The Sacrament of Penance is God’s gift to us so that we can address those areas that block God’s grace and love in our lives.

In this Year of Faith, may this Season of Lent give us the joy of believing without seeing, of trusting without understanding everything and of knowing that we are loved deeply in times of personal doubt.

+ Brian Joseph Dunn,
Bishop of Antigonish