Cathy Majtenyi: Look back with gratitude on the year just passed

By 
  • December 10, 2021

Advent is upon us once again. It’s a time of hopeful expectation and renewal, a chance to feast upon the mercy and goodness of God who sent His Son to Earth for our salvation.

It’s also a time to look back on the year that has passed with eyes of faith, as described in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

That was brought home to me when I read the December newsletter of the St. Catharines diocese’s Catholic Women’s League (CWL), of which I’m a member.

“At the coming end of 2021 I did not want to focus on what was or what will be but rather what was positive about this year,” writes CWL diocesan president Lisa Fillingham in her message “Be Grateful.”

She provides us with her gratitude list, which includes: “all the work the pharmaceutical companies did to create a vaccine … we live in a country that was able to get the vaccine and administer it … the Church and our faith which gives us strength and hope during these times … that I belong to a parish that cares for one another and works together in spite of all the obstacles we have faced … the CWL at all levels that looks for ways to continually better the country.”

We can, and should, make our own “gratitude list” of the goodness and graces God bestowed upon us individually and collectively throughout 2021.

As we create this list, we need to include those blessings that may not be immediately obvious, as they might be wrapped up in tragedy or hardship. Romans 8:28 implies that “in all things” — good and bad — the hand of God is there.

If we look closely enough, we can see the hand of God in how people responded to events that gripped our country over the past year.

Take the horrific flooding that continues to gut parts of British Columbia. Scores of motorists were stranded along highways as floodwaters devastated homes, property and towns.

In the town of Agassiz, Frs. Francis Galvan and Dennis Flores mobilized volunteers and gathered items from the St. Anthony of Padua thrift store to take to the community centre to help those affected by the floods, while parishioners offered up their homes to care for those stranded.

Parishioners at St. Ann’s Parish in Abbotsford are supporting a group of Hispanic agricultural workers who have had to relocate because of the floods. “We are looking after the migrant workers who have been transported to the Tradex Centre by the airport,” parish secretary Frances McNeil told The B.C. Catholic. “For now, they are safe, dry and fed.”

There is also the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed many lives and made many more seriously ill in Canada and around the world. To help increase vaccine uptake, software engineer Josh Kalpin created a Twitter account called “Vaccine Hunters Canada” that informs people of upcoming vaccine appointments across the country.

“It’s our duty as Canadians to help those that are most at-risk and vulnerable,” Kalpin told The National Post. “It’s something tangible every single Canadian can do and we’re just here to facilitate that.”

In Winnipeg, Yijie Jennifer Chen started several programs and services to build community amongst immigrants and vulnerable people isolated by the pandemic. One of these was a walking program in which 165 newcomers safely exercised and socialized together over 70 sessions.

In another program Chen created, immigrant-owned restaurants provided health-care workers with meals. “In this pandemic, I really see people’s hearts,” she was quoted in her 2021 Women of Inspiration profile.

These examples reflect the many ways ordinary individuals and groups opened their minds, wallets, homes and hearts to those facing challenges over the past year. Supplying the needs of others in distress is what our Church, the Bible and our faith call us to do. In the process we build communities of care in which we are all uplifted.

The December St. Catharines diocese CWL newsletter also contains an Advent primer titled “Five Tips from Jesus on Advent.” These are to: take care of our lives and spiritual health; view our lives and futures with courage and optimism; don’t allow distractions to make us spiritually “drowsy”; be vigilant about what’s happening around us as we look for the signs of God in our lives; and pray at all times.

Wise words to help us fulfil Jesus’ fundamental commandment during Advent and in the year to come: Love one another as I have loved you.

(Majtenyi is a public relations officer specializing in research at an Ontario university.)

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