Dani and I met about forty years ago when we were both video editors. We are Facebook friends now and haven’t really talked for decades, but when I was thinking about soliciting a piece honoring the spirit of Easter, I knew she was the one I wanted to ask.
The Easter People
by Dani Froelich, Wilmette, Illinois
I live in a suburb just north of Chicago. I am Catholic and work in a parish as the Director of Religious Education.
The weekend of March 7th, we gathered as a community for three Confirmation Masses. The sacrament of Confirmation is an affirming sacrament, an opportunity for a young person to look seriously at their faith and then to affirm it as a positive part of life’s experiences.
The eighth grade students were dressed in their best clothes. They had spent the last two years getting ready for the moment when they would become an adult in the church.
As we gathered in our beautiful church, I kept noticing something was off. When the Bishop arrived and I extended my hand, he literally jumped back. In the excitement of the final moments before Confirmation, I was on autopilot and forgot.
I went to the pews to greet students with their Confirmation sponsors and parents. My hands were behind my back so I wouldn’t unintentionally extend one to welcome them in the customary way to Saint Francis Xavier.
One of my favorite moms, a doctor, came up to me and as she started to speak, her eyes filled with tears. I know this woman very well. She is a great mom. I froze and felt again something radically off about the day.
A short time later, after the Bishop had anointed each student, without the traditional handshake, I headed to the back of the church. There was a dad in the vestibule, looking rather lost. I tried to talk to him and asked if he was just taking a break. He nodded yes. He was too emotional to speak. A very successful businessman, he looked at me like I had no idea of what was to come.
The following weekend, the Cardinal requested we post signs on the church doors. “As of Saturday, March 14, all liturgical services in the Archdiocese of Chicago have been suspended until further notice.” All other archdiocese operations were closed as well. On March 21, I was asked to replace the signs with the words, “due to the shelter in place order, we will be closed until the order is lifted.” As I was locking the doors, all the images from the Confirmation Masses started flooding my mind.
In the last month, teachers and students took a leap of faith into the realm of e-learning. Today, Easter Sunday Mass was live streamed from the Cathedral. Many parishes prerecorded their Mass, making it available on their YouTube channel. There are virtual prayer groups. Many daily prayer resources are listed on the archchicago.com website.
The Cardinal is choosing hope. The messages are calm. We are an Easter people. We have a goal. We will come together. We will go back to work and our faith is what will make us be whole again—as a community, and as a healed country.