New Wines in Fresh Wineskins | January 23, 2021 Essay

Jan 21, 2021

The parish staff spent the morning of January 20th in prayer and sharing, led by Father Jim Martin, S.J., a familiar and wise guide. We prayed over the images of the new piece of cloth on an old garment, and the new wine in fresh wineskins. The gathering was virtual but the prayer was actual.

In preparation for the morning of reflection, we read Pope Francis’ recent book, Let Us Dream. That text has been the inspiration for our ongoing apostolic planning as we slowly and haltingly emerge from the crisis that has been our challenge—and our grace—these past twelve months.

The Holy Father describes what happens in a crisis this way: “In a crisis, our functionalism is shaken loose and we have to revise and modify our roles and habits in order to emerge from the crisis as better people. A crisis always demands that our whole self be present; you can’t retreat, pull back into old ways and roles” (page 3). New wines in fresh wineskins.

The creative juices have certainly been flowing the past year in our parish. We can be strengthened by the observation of Pope Francis: “I’ve been so impressed with how so many in the Church have responded to the pandemic, seeking new kinds of closeness to people while strictly observing social distancing measures: live-streaming liturgies…arranging meetings and prayers on digital platforms, giving remote retreats…making videos where dozens of singers and musicians contribute to a beautiful song from their homes. It has been a time, in the Church, of forced separation, yet also of new, creative ways to come together as the People of God” (pages 23-24).

A frustration for me personally has been the absence of parish-wide activities. Especially during Advent and Christmas, I missed the concerts and pageants, the Bethlehem woodcrafts for sale in the narthex, the Christmas Angels on the trees, and, yes, the Snowball Dance!

With this essay, I would like to speak of a series of parish-wide events that we will celebrate throughout the coming months, and I dearly hope that all parishioners will respond with the enthusiasm with which these events are being organized. We will be celebrating “Catholic Women: Agents of Peace and Trust in the Church and the World.”

From January to May, with monthly webinars and one extraordinary in-person and live-streamed event in March, the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola will honor the multitude of talents and the varieties of service, and most of all the expressions of living faith, of the women of our parish community.

Pope Francis has a powerful word to say on the topic: “A sign is something that stands out and strikes us. A sign of hope in this crisis is the leading role of women. Women have been at the same time among the most affected and the most resilient in this crisis. What does this sign invite us to think about? What might the Spirit be saying to us?… Could it be that in this crisis the perspective women bring is what the world needs at this time to face the coming challenges? Could the Spirit be prompting us to recognize, value, and integrate the fresh thinking that some women are bringing to this moment?” (pages 62-63). Our collective response is a resounding “Yes”!

The women we celebrate are for the most part members of the parish who are bringing “fresh thinking” to various critical fields of endeavor: Medicine, Nutrition, Homelessness, and the Environment. The presentation of the four webinars is to be found on our website, under “Events” and “Faith Life.”


At Work I’m In Charge, in Church I’m Invisible.” This is the title of the first event which will have the form of a panel discussion. Four women, prominent in the fields of Medicine and Scientific Research, will discuss their work, their experiences of the COVID crisis, and their Catholic faith. There will be time for Q & A.

Finally, please save the date for the March 11th event which will coincide with International Women’s Day. It will be a time to celebrate the social, educational, and cultural achievements of women, and to honor the extraordinary contributions of a few to our parish.

After the parish staff morning of prayer, I went to watch the Inauguration of our new President and Vice-President. I felt pride as a Jesuit, watching Fr. Leo O’Donovan, S.J. offer the Invocation. I experienced joy listening to Lady Gaga sing the National Anthem. But the tingling gratitude in my soul was awakened by the poem “The Hill We Climb” by the Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman. The poem captured the moment. “For there is always light / If only we’re brave enough to see it / If only we’re brave enough to be it.” Of course it was written by a woman; Pope Francis couldn’t have said it better!

— Rev. Michael Hilbert, S.J., Associate Pastor