AMY CONEY BARRETT
Her faith was, of course, the subject of criticism during her confirmation battle, and many asked whether it would affect her work as a justice. As she has made steadfastly clear, her faith will not shape her work as a jurist because, as a judge, her duty is to say what the law is, not to opine about what it should be. But I am certain that her faith will, appropriately, shape who she is as a justice, just as it affects who she is as a person. She is the kind of person whom students know that they can turn to as a mentor, who brings a meal when a family welcomes a new baby, who comforts friends in crisis, who volunteers as room mother and parish council president, and who organizes the block party and neighborhood Easter egg hunt. And she is the kind of person who knows that the oath she took to uphold the Constitution is more than just words; it is a sacred promise to keep her word to God, no matter what the consequences. All of these reasons are why she is so deserving of being included among Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholics of the Year.
Parish priests especially have spent 2020 on the front lines of a pandemic that has affected everyone and that has changed so much about parish life, at least for right now. When we bishops made the difficult decisions to cancel public Masses in our dioceses, priests navigated the challenges of livestreaming and incorporating other digital technology into their ministries. To prevent the spread of the virus, priests were forced to find new, different and yet still safe ways to serve the People of God and to administer the sacraments to them. They have had to don personal protective equipment and respond to the needs of the sick and dying. Priests have had to coordinate parish sanitization efforts and ensure proper distancing and other safety protocols were implemented and maintained.
In this most difficult year, priests had to approach so many aspects of their ministry in different ways. Theirs was a monumental challenge, and they responded with tenacity, courage and grace. This is the type of commitment I have witnessed from the priests in my own Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and I know my brother bishops have had similar experiences across the country. For their agility, creativity and adaptability, and their commitment to minister to their people during this pandemic, especially risking their own health to administer the sacraments to COVID patients, parish priests are well-deserving Catholics of the Year.
Rather than asking, “What would Jesus do?,” we ought to be asking, “What is Jesus doing?” In my observation, Jesus is entering into the mess of the racial divide through a very influential member of the Body of Christ in the American Catholic Church: Mrs. Gloria Purvis, a worthy recipient of the honor of being among this year’s Catholics of the Year.
Gloria Purvis has spent the better part of 2020 encouraging Black and Brown Catholics who have been excluded from their parishes, schools, dioceses and religious orders. She has also poured herself out to white Catholics in America, inviting them to listen, learn, pray, fast and act in communion with their Black and Brown brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ to address the systems of racism that are still operative in our Church and nation. Her work for racial reconciliation in the Body of Christ has been misunderstood by many. However, Gloria is not rooted in the acceptance of people and approval of man. She desires only to fulfill the heart of Jesus, and for this reason she continues to enter into the mess of racial reconciliation so that one day we all may be one in Christ, on earth as it is in heaven.
CARDINAL GEORGE PELL
Cardinal Pell had served as archbishop of Melbourne and archbishop of Sydney, and he was prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy when the case against him began. He voluntarily returned to Australia to clear his name, but despite eyewitness testimony refuting the charge, he was found guilty in a shocking miscarriage of justice by a jury apparently primed to be sympathetic to claims of victimhood. The verdict later was upheld 2-1 by a regional appeals court. But the 7-0 High Court decision recognizing the “significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted” finally set him free.
The “Prison Journal” makes it clear that, long before any charge against him, the cardinal was targeted by anti-Catholic secularist forces, including some in the media, eager to bring down a prominent defender of the Faith who was also an outspoken champion of traditional morality. Despite the injustice done to him, his journal shows him struggling — successfully — against bitterness toward his enemies while maintaining a lively interest in everything from theology to Australian cricket. His unshakeable faith during this time of persecution makes him one of Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholics of the Year.
The pope led millions in pleading with God for relief, as well as urging each and every person to act responsibly to prevent the spread of the disease and to begin building a future marked by more caring and sharing. Moving into the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica, he held high a monstrance, blessing the city and the world with Jesus in the Eucharist.
Prayer, responsible behavior and efforts to rethink the way the economy and social life function, particularly how they cast so many people into poverty and insignificance, have been the constants of Pope Francis’ leadership since COVID-19 officially was declared a pandemic in March. For his faithful leadership at such a crucial time in the life of the Church — and the world — Pope Francis is more than deserving of being among Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholics of the year.
LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR
he Little Sisters of the Poor are the kind of Catholic order of women religious you only hear about when you need them — when you are facing difficult times. Their mission to serve the elderly poor and dying is not one that is featured in Hollywood films. They do the work of serving those on the margins so they can prepare to receive the promises of Christ in a loving, warm community. When you walk into a Little Sisters home, hope and laughter fill your heart. Unless you have visited one of their homes (which I encourage everyone to do once COVID is behind us), it’s impossible to imagine the joy that emanates from the residents’ faces and the deep love they have for the sisters, who are their family.
As the COVID-19 epidemic targeted the most vulnerable and forgotten, especially the elderly in their care, the Sisters not only protected their homes but led the “A Million Families, A Million Rosaries” initiative from their homes around the world, encouraging all to pray for a cure for the coronavirus. Teaching us through their example of what Catholicism should look like — faithfulness to the Church, strength in the Eucharist, and service to family and community — the Little Sisters of the Poor are the best of us as they show us how to love the least among us.