At the closing Mass for the first ever Archdiocesan Virtual Assembly, Sunday, November 15, two questions were posed by Archbishop Robert Rivas OP of Castries to the 150 delegates, clergy, religious and laity throughout the Archdiocese.
In delivering the homily at the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Archbishop Rivas said that disunity has revealed brokenness, woundedness, fragility, fragmentation, and loss.
The two rhetorical questions were ‘Can we be trusted with the stewardship of this gift of unity given by the Holy Spirit to the Church and for the Church?’ and ‘How are we going to answer the call to be a Church united?’
His answer to the questions: “Our time of grieving is over. We want to say ‘No’ to disunity which diminishes hope and is like the coronavirus (COVID-19) which invisibly enters our system and affects all our relationships. It is infectious!”
Archbishop Rivas commented that the new psyche and change in mentality in moving forward as Church is desire for unity inspired by a vision for unity.
“From henceforth we must want unity, speak unity, love unity, breathe unity and build unity. Pope Francis says we need to get rid of all the gossiping in the Church which is divisive.”
To this end, the Archbishop urged faithful to be constructors and builders of unity.
Quoting scripture, he referred to Ephesians 4:3–5 as the vision for unity and 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 as the charter for building unity.
Earlier, the Archbishop began that the region is full of women who have shaped the destinies of daughters and sons. He said these women had exceedingly great talents and skills who with five loaves and two fish have fed, educated, and brought up the children of nations.
“Our Church is full of women of faith. They are the mothers who groom their children in the faith; church workers, teachers in our Catholic schools, directors of catechetical programmes and fund-raising projects. They are gifted, resourceful and talented women. Women of talent are women, with what Pope St John Paul II called, ‘the feminine genius’. Their giftedness is unique and necessary for the life of the Church. Without these women of faith and talent the Church would ‘shut down!” the Archbishop said.
Archbishop Rivas asserted that the Church also has talented men. They are gallant soldiers of the faith, he said. “They are the fathers who take the time to mentor their sons and inspire their daughters. Their commitment to service has made them the backbone of the faith community. These men of faith have contributed to the Church by putting their talents at the service of the Church. The gospel today tells the story of two faithful and industrious stewards who lived their faith courageously and did not hide their talents. Today we applaud them, Laity, Clergy and Religious, in the Church.”
In a post-assembly pastoral letter, Archbishop Rivas noted that the Castries archdiocese may be the first in the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) to have accomplished the feat of a Virtual Assembly that lasted four days (November 12–15) using updated, modern technology, transmitting on Zoom from four vicariate centres.
According to Archbishop Rivas, a unique aspect of the assembly was its opening: apart from the delegates, over 800 persons from the Caribbean and around the world joined the Church in St Lucia as it began its journey of building unity through answering the call to unity.
Looking back on the days of the assembly, Archbishop Rivas noted the year of planning, the rich presentations and food for thought contributions; the courage to launch into the deep with a Virtual Assenbly. He also noted the role of the Holy Spirit throughout the process; the unwillingness to accept defeat or to give up when it would have been the easier course to take; the team spirit at the core; and the participation and commitment of those who put their heart in it.
“All these things came together and ignited a flame during the Assembly days that made it the special assembly it turned out to be,” he said.