February offers more than you think

Bishop Bonnar

Bishop of Youngstown

January 27, 2023

The cold barrenness of February can be so deceiving. While outside it appears that life and growth has halted momentarily, do not be misled. There is much vitality all around us. And, I might add, much to celebrate especially in this month of February. It may be a short month, but it is long in celebration. 

This weekend we begin the weeklong observance of Catholic Schools Week. This is a time for us to celebrate the rich legacy of Catholic education and all who support it. Did you know that in the Diocese of Youngstown we have six Catholic high schools, 19 elementary schools, and seven early childhood centers. In addition, our nearly 600 teachers instruct more than 6,000 students. They are led by our diocesan school staff of five under the direction of our superintendent, Mary Fiala. 

As a student and as a pastor of a parish with a school, Catholic Schools Week means fun. Over the span of next week our students will have fun engaging in all kinds of activities as they celebrate Catholic schools. As if that is not enough, this week almost always means snow. But more than anything else, Catholic Schools Week signals gratitude for all those who support and lead the mission of Catholic education. As bishop of Youngstown, I am grateful for our diocesan staff, school presidents, principals, teachers, aides, and support staff. I am also thankful for the parents of our students who make the choice to entrust their children to us so that they can be taught Christian values and have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Above all, I am super grateful to our students. Happy Catholic Schools Week!

On Feb. 2, the Church celebrates World Day for Consecrated Life. St. John Paul II established this celebration in 1997 so as “to help the Church to esteem ever more greatly the witness of those persons who have chosen to follow Christ by the practice of the evangelical counsels” – otherwise known as poverty, chastity, and obedience.

The World Day for Consecrated Life is a time for us to pray and give thanks for religious priests, brothers, sisters, and those vowed to a life of virginity. We are blessed to have many dedicated consecrated men and women living and serving in our diocese. Please join me in praying for them and thanking God for their vocation. I will celebrate Holy Mass next Sunday, Feb. 5 at 10:30 a.m. in St. Columba Cathedral for their intention. All are welcome!

On Feb. 11, we celebrate the 31st World Day of the Sick which coincides with the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, to whom so many people turn in times of illness. It is not uncommon for sick people to visit the Shrine in Lourdes, France, to seek Mary’s intercession. In observance of this day, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has written a special message. He writes: “Illness is part of our human condition. Yet, if illness is experienced in isolation and abandonment, unaccompanied by care and compassion, it can become inhumane.” It is so important that we walk with those who are sick and suffering. God knows that we do not have to look far to find these people as they are in our families and neighborhoods. They are our co-workers and fellow parishioners. The next time you find yourself wanting to complain, try offering it up for those who are sick.

It is important that we not only pray for the sick but also those who accompany them in health care – doctors, nurses, aides, support staff, therapists and anyone in health care. To this end, we will have our Annual White Mass on Sunday, Feb. 19, at 10:30 a.m. in St. Columba Cathedral. Where would we be without these gifted individuals in our lives. On behalf of our diocesan health care liaison, Rachel Hrbolich, and in the name of all those who benefit from their care and concern, I wish to thank all those in health care for all that they do to care for the sick and bring them back to the fullness of health. 

As we enter deeper into February, we as a diocese will announce the Annual Diocesan Appeal – One In Hope, One in Mission – which provides funds for Catholic Charities and the mission of the diocese. Thank you for your continued support of these efforts. We can only do what you empower us to do through your generosity. 

Finally, on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 22, we begin the Holy Season of Lent – a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This is a time for us to be mindful of our continuing need for conversion in our journey as baptized disciples, and to accompany those preparing to join us in this journey.

On the First Sunday of Lent, Feb. 22, at 2 p.m., we will welcome our catechumens and candidates to the cathedral for the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion. Please pray for our catechumens as they continue their own journey toward baptism and for our candidates as they seek full communion with the Church.

These are just some of the happenings in this short month and I did not even mention World Marriage Day, St. Valentine’s Day, St. Blaise Day, Groundhog Day, Presidents Day or my birthday. What a month filled with so many graces and so much life. Don’t be deceived. There is much life even in February!

There is much vitality all around us. And, I might add, much to celebrate especially in this month of February.

-Bishop David J. Bonnar

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