As hallways and classrooms fill with students for a new school year, students likely return under a cloud of trepidation and anxiety in the wake of three mass shootings in the span of one week, including one in our own backyard, our beloved community of Gilroy. We continue to review our protocols to be assured that we are doing all possible to keep our students, faculty, and staff safe in our schools.
We also have assembled some best practices for families and students in coping with news of tragedies such as the ones we have witnessed across our country and all-too close to home, in Gilroy. It is important to be aware of anxiety that students might carry and to minimize it as much as possible so that learning and personal growth can take place.
As I have reflected on these heart-wrenching tragedies, I am reminded of a fundamental truth of what it means to be human – that we belong to one another. No one is an island. No one should be an island. It is important that we examine our attitudes and practices with regard to bullying. Also, what are some ways in which we can reach out to those that may be new to our communities, those who may feel left out or ostracized from certain groups or activities?
As a recent newcomer to California, I have personally found people in the area tremendously welcoming and kind. How important are those basic human virtues! They help to humanize us, to remind us that we belong to each other – brother, sister, neighbor.
Pope Francis, since the beginning of his pontificate, has encouraged us all to go to the margins of society to encounter Christ in the poor, in those excluded from the activity of society. We need not travel to other countries to do this; we can simply turn to our neighbors and offer a gesture of welcome, of friendship, and perhaps listen to their stories! Being able to tell our stories also helps to connect at a deeper human level with others and to feel a part of community.
Saint Paul, in reflecting 20 centuries ago on what it meant to be part of this new reality, the church, offered a very helpful, simple and profound, image: we are the Body of Christ! When one member of the body suffers, the entire body feels the pain. Even at a basic human level, beyond those of us baptized into the Christian faith, we are one human family. We are reminded that all persons are created in the image of God, and thus bear immeasurable dignity to be respected.
May we, as we embark on a new year of learning and personal growth, become ever more deeply human in our concern for others, compassionate members of the Body of Christ.
Bishop of San José