Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

A time of uncertainty, a time of great creativity

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

These days are filled with uncertainty. The usual points of reference that give our lives stability no longer seem reliable.

Our patterns of work, school and social life have been disrupted. Planned events (weddings and graduations), and regular appointments (medical check-ups, eye exams, haircuts) will not go on as scheduled. Even nature is sending mixed signals.

Springtime is all around us as crocuses bloom, birds chirp, trees bud, monarchs hatch and, yes, allergens attack. Yet humanity remains in the grip of winter’s darkness, sheltered behind closed doors and bundled in masks as the coronavirus prowls the globe.

In a recent interview for English-speaking audiences, Pope Francis urges us to view “this time of uncertainty as a time of great creativity.” Returning to a theme he has championed throughout his papacy, he reminds us that God is always doing something new.

He urges us to be attentive to the many signs of God’s creative work in this dark moment, especially those present in people he calls “the saints who live next door.” “They are heroes,” he says, “doctors, volunteers, religious sisters, priests, shop workers — all performing their duty so that society can continue functioning.”

And just as these “saints who live next door” reveal God’s creative action, they also signal the core values that should motivate us as we discern where God is calling us in creating a new future. “We need to take care of the now, for the sake of tomorrow,” the pope says. 

And so, the heroes on the front lines who demonstrate the depth of human resiliency should inspire us to trust that, no matter the challenge, God’s grace knows no bounds. The neighbors gathering on apartment balconies to sing anthems and cheer health care workers and first responders, together with volunteers in food pantries who serve those in need, should motivate us to make solidarity the metric for measuring success in rebuilding the future.

Likewise, teachers improvising to educate children through e-learning and parents devising tactics to keep their families focused, safe and engaged, should convince us that no sacrifice is too great when it comes to forming the next generation.

This is what it means “to take care of the now, for the sake of tomorrow.” That challenge to discern what God is doing in the now is also addressed to the church. We, too, as a community, are called to be attentive to all that the Lord is doing in creating a new future for the church.

We in the archdiocese, of course, began this discernment four years ago when we launched Renew My Church. This multi-year effort involves taking an honest look at the many challenges facing us: fewer priests and religious, lower Mass attendance, diminishing resources to support our ministries to those in need, growing liabilities created by deferred maintenance on aging buildings and, significantly, the influences of secularization on our youth and families.

And, yet, while Renew My Church reads these signs of the times, it also must attend to where the Lord is already at work in our midst and calling us as he renews his church to take up with fresh vigor the mission he has always given us: make disciples, build communities and inspire witness.

In an upcoming series of columns, I will address in greater detail where we are in the Renew My Church process. You deserve an honest appraisal of the challenges we face on a number of levels, and I will be forthright about it. At the same time, I will also share what we have learned that gives us hope.

For, over the past four years, we have to come to more fully appreciate all that Christ has done in our local church, both in the past and today, as he calls us toward a faithful future.

Yes, these days are filled with uncertainty, but as the Holy Father urges, we must see this time of uncertainty as a time of great creativity.


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