As we begin the season of Lent Bishop Francis Alleyne OSB has issued the following message:
“In the weeks leading up to Lent I have been visiting communities in the South Rupununi and Santa Rosa mainly to minister the sacrament of Confirmation - eight communities in the Rupununi with a total of 179 confirmed, two communities in Santa Rosa with a total of 61 confirmed. In the course of each celebration a question is asked of the candidates: "Are they prepared to accept the responsibility to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church?" This is a tall order, but our young people, fifteen years and over, are judged to have sufficient maturity and understanding to assume responsi- bility in their lives as a whole but also in their faith. Certainly in the history of the church we see many saints, in the age range of our young people, bringing their giftsand energy to the furthering of God's Kingdom.
While we offer this question to young persons celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation it is a question that every Christian would do well to ask themselves and I would like to invite us all to do so during the days of Lent. "Am I (are we) prepared to accept the responsibility to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church?" Witnessing is living our Baptism and giving life to our Discipleship. Our regular attention to community worship, the gather- ing of the body of Christ, is already a significant witness and there are clear signs, commendably so, that the parish communities give added attention to this during the season of Lent. What may be the ways to deepen our witness?
In the 1970s in Argentina, mothers whose children had "disappeared" mysteriously, a tragic reality of that time, donned black sashes and gathered in silence every Thursday to register their grief and their value for life protesting the violence in the society particularly where the victims were women. The words of the Gospel come to mind "Blessed are those who mourn" (Matt 5:5), those who get upset, those who are indignant in the face of violence and the threat to human life. These women, prompted by their faith, gave witness, and their actions helped raise the awareness of injustices in the wider community. This protest and practice of "Thursdays in Black" was taken up in other parts of the world and in the 1980s it became an international initiative supported by the World Council of Churches in support of "the right of women to live in a world without violence, rape and fear". Sourced in the Gos- pel this silent and peaceful witness challenged societies and people about their attitudes and apathy towards vio- lence. In a recent news report I noted a comment made about a country in Central America describing it as a place where "death no longer had a shock effect".
During my recent visit to Santa Rosa I was reminded of a beautiful and noble period in the history of the Catholic Church in Guyana which involved young persons from this community in Region One who, because of their faith, because of the Gospel, ventured into Regions Eight and Nine to catechise and teach in schools. Are we prepared, in our own time and circumstance, to assume the responsibility to witness to the Gospel?
My word of encouragement to all for these days of Lent is to help one another strengthen our knowledge of and intimacy with the Gospel that we can truly witness. St. Paul reminds us of the joy and the other fruit of the Spirit that ought to become predominantly evident our lives (Gal 5:22) giving us impetus to be faithful to the Gospel teachings, living them with joy, sharing them with others and mourning when the Gospel helps us to recognise the threats to the fullness of life giving us the mandate to confront the agents and roots of those threats.”