“Only one thing is more serious than this crisis, and that is the risk that we will squander it, and not learn the lesson it teaches.” – Pope Francis, 28 June 2021.
June 2021 finished with lockdowns across Greater Sydney and other parts of Australia that have brought home to us that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. A variant of the virus that de-stabilised our lives during 2020 is the main cause of lockdowns now imposed on about half of the Australian population.
On 28 June 2021, Pope Francis spoke about the continuing impact of this continuing crisis in marking the Feasts of Saints Peter and Paul:
“This year we will celebrate Saints Peter and Paul in a world still struggling to emerge from the dramatic crisis caused by the pandemic. This scourge has tested everyone and everything. Only one thing is more serious than this crisis, and that is the risk that we will squander it, and not learn the lesson it teaches. It is a lesson in humility, showing us that it is not possible to live healthy lives in an unhealthy world, or to go on as we were, without recognising what went wrong. Even now, the great desire to return to normality can mask the senseless notion that we can go back to relying on false securities, habits and projects that aim exclusively at pursuing wealth and personal interests, while failing to respond to global injustice, the cry of the poor and the precarious health of our planet.”
For Australian Catholics, this is a timely reminder of the economic and social challenges of the pandemic; and of the need to act.
Catholic organisations around Australia have been responding in various ways to the crisis which has laid bare old injustices and unmet needs. For Catholics, the challenges of the pandemic go beyond the delivery of education, health and welfare services.
The point Pope Francis makes is that we need to learn from the crisis: we need to understand its impact, reflect on the values that societies should live by, and respond to the crisis. This is a responsibility of Catholic organisations and individual Catholics. Put simply, Pope Francis is calling us to “see, judge and act”.
Earlier in June 2021, the Australian Young Christian Students (YCS) published a Pandemic Enquiry aimed at this very task.
The Pandemic Enquiry is entitled Shaping our Post-Pandemic World, An Enquiry for Secondary Students. It comprises five sessions, which explore “How the COVID-19 pandemic has affected me, my country and our world; why it should concern me; and what I might be able to do about its consequences”.
The social effects of the pandemic may last for years. The pandemic will be a major reality, if not the overarching reality, in the lives of students for some time yet. It will particularly affect students; in their studies and in its impact on their hopes and plans for their future lives.
The Pandemic Enquiry is designed for use in classrooms and parishes (in RE classes and in parish youth groups) and not just for YCS groups.
A major object of the Enquiry is to gather feedback from students to develop a sustained campaign in response to the problems created and laid bare by the pandemic and to enable the YCS to do its part in developing the Church’s response to the challenges presented by the pandemic.
The Pandemic Enquiry is free and can be downloaded from the YCS website, which includes a promotion by Archbishop Mark Coleridge – https://www.aycs.org.au/pandemic-enquiry
Brian Lawrence is the Chairperson for the National Adult Support Team of the Australian Young Christian Students (YCS).
With thanks to the Australian YCS.