A new book, co-edited by Fr Anthony Le Duc SVD, is set to shine a light on some of the creative pastoral responses implemented around the world in response to COVID-19 pandemic.
‘Pastoral Creativity Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic: Global Experiences’ chronicles the pastoral responses that pastoral agents, ordained and lay, implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic from first-person narratives woven together to form a tapestry of rich and moving personal stories.
Edited by Fr Anthony and Fr John Mi Shen, the book is a project of the Asian Research Centre for Religion and Social Communication. The essays come from more than a dozen countries around the world, with many of the authors working in cross-cultural contexts.
It also enlists the collaboration of professional theologians to dialogue with these real-world experiences in order to present observations and insights that reveal themselves in these inspiring accounts.
“The book hopes to contribute to the ongoing conversation and reflection about the various dimensions of the pandemic, in particular, highlighting the pastoral creativity needed to sustain the life of the Church during one of the most dramatic times in contemporary human history,” Fr Anthony, who is a member of the SVD AUS Province, based in Bangkok, says.
The book was launched online last week, with many of the contributors present for the event.
One contributor, theologian and missiologist Fr Steven Bevans SVD from Chicago, spoke at the launch about the chapter he provided, based on a theological reflection of God’s ability to “make a way from no way”.
“This time indeed is a time of dark clouds over a dark world as Pope Francis describes it in the first chapter of Fratelli Tutti,” he said.
“For months, as new cases of COVID-19 have developed, deaths have multiplied, economies have neared collapse, racism has revealed itself as a worldwide pandemic. There seemed to be no way forward, no way out.
“But our God, as St Paul assures us, makes a way out of no way. Our God is a God of surprises. This is the truth, I think that the essays in this book affirm.
“As James McTavish says in one of them, the Holy Spirit squeezes out a creative response from those who are open to her proddings, making sure we can endure this time of immense testing.”
Other contributions outlined the many practical pastoral initiatives which grew out of the pandemic, from online liturgies, prayer gatherings and reflections, to driving by and visiting (at a distance) members of a group home for intellectually disabled people. It tells of pastoral outreach and care for those affected by the pandemic around the world, including those who lost their livelihood.
Professor Nataša Govekar, Director of the Theological-Pastoral Department at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication has written an endorsement of the book and attended the online launch.
“What makes this book precious is that it is not a collection of ‘recipes’ for pastoral service, but rather an invitation to keep the dialogue open, to reflect on what we have learnt from this new condition, and on how the Church should answer to the need of belongingness that emerged from this unprecedented time … Concrete stories on concrete encounters is what inspires the desire and encourages the effort to prepare more encounters between God and humanity,” she said.
“After all, pastoral creativity - with or without the pandemic - is an art of preparing the encounters! And the pandemic probably helps us to understand it better.”