Bishop encourages a 'family focus'

In the midst of the pandemic, Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama asked school-aged children to write letters to him about their experiences during the lockdown.

What happened next overwhelmed the diocese’s shepherd with joy.

“The most striking thing … almost 99% of the letters mentioned it … was the joy they felt in having meals together as a family and seeing their dad cooking and participating daily in family life,” Bishop Luis reflected.

With the letters in mind, the bishop is encouraging school leaders to protect and support the family and its importance to the Church.

In a meeting with Catholic school principals, Bishop Luis made a recommendation to all of our schools. It included:

  • No school activities on Sundays
  • One weekday left open without activities
  • Schools should close by 5 p.m. on weekdays; this includes extracurricular activities

In the following letter, Bishop Luis asks his brother priests for their support in promoting family.

August 24, 2020

Dear Brother Priests,

Since last year, I have insisted, during conversations with the principals of our schools (copied on this email), that they – as well as their respective students and faculty members – need time to spend with their families.

This idea was reaffirmed to me as a necessity by the responses received to a video that I sent to the students during the coronavirus quarantine. In that video, I encouraged them during those difficult times, and also asked them to share with me the experiences of what had transpired in their lives during the lockdown.

I never expected such a flood of letters in response! Every letter I received was read and answered. The students - using simple and profound language - shared their experiences. The most striking thing - because almost 99% of the letters mentioned it - was their sharing the joy they felt in having meals together as a family and seeing their Dad cooking and participating daily in family life.

Also - naturally - the students mentioned that they missed their classmates and their teachers. But what was very surprising to learn (because it was also mentioned frequently in the letters) was that the students’ stress levels had decreased because the family is now together at home.

My dear brother priests, our Mother the Church affirms that “the family is the original cell of social life” (CCC # 2207) - the basis of our society.

In a recent meeting with the principals of our schools – in preparation for the opening of this new school year, and with all the challenges posed by the current health alert - I made a "strong" recommendation to all of our schools. Given the fundamental value that the family has and the obligation that we have to promote and to support it, I asked: (1) that activities never be held on Sunday - the Lord's Day – at any of our schools; (2) that also one weekday is left open without activities (it is up to each school to designate the day); (3) that during the week schools close at 5 PM - that is, there are no extracurricular activities after that time.

If we don’t promote and support the family, then we destroy it and (consequently) society greatly suffers. The destruction of values ​​in our society reflects the failures at its base, the foundation of which is the family.

With that in mind, this "strong" recommendation aims, as I already mentioned, to respect the time that each family needs to enjoy its members so that, truly and without being rushed, each person can feel free to share experiences at family meals. It is also important to respect the time of principals and faculty members so that they, by their example, teach that Sunday is sacred because it belongs to God and to the family.

This health alert asks us to go back to basics. Let's first take a look at the foundation of our society - the family - and give the necessary time it needs. Give the family back the time which had been lost due to an out-sized focus on competitiveness. Let's not let the family lose its natural place in society and its importance in the life of our Church!

In this letter, I am echoing the hearts of all those students who wrote to me, who opened our eyes, and who discovered how important it is to share as a family, and the joy that having mom and dad together at home brings.

Let us promote the value and importance of the family! Let this lesson learned help us give the space in time that our children and young people need so that they can discover the beauty of sharing with loved ones, the feeling of belonging to- and being loved by the family.

In Christ,

+Luis Rafael