Christmas Message 2020

Reflection for Link Up Christmas 2020 – 60th year by Sally Roddy VC President

Christmas seems different this year – everything does! This seems a bit of a cliché at this stage because almost every communication starts with a comment about the year that’s in it, as if we don’t all know! Aren’t we experiencing it all first hand as we speak?

But I was thinking too about the not so bad differences. Maybe it’s just me, because I haven’t ventured into town yet, but I have a feeling that there is less concern about the commercial side, in spite of the initial shopping frenzy we saw on the first day of opening up. The focus seems to be much more on the social caring side, concern for those who are alone, the family allowed to gather for the first time in ages and sadly those who will be absent for the sake of others, but may feel a bit rejected; concern for the homeless, the refugees and migrants in direct provision or worse still overcrowded refugee camps; the poor both at home and in the developing world; those who have been bereaved by COVID or other causes; those who have lost their jobs and are struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Of course the list is limitless!

This shift of focus is all good, to my mind, and it mirrors the positive outcome of the 2020 experience, how it so often brought out the innate goodness in people and also their creativity and willingness to make an effort to make life better for others. Isn’t this the real message of Christmas and hasn’t it been manifest in so many places throughout the country and beyond since the first lock-down? So maybe we should not despair, as we sometimes tend to do, about the loss of faith and the alienation from the church. We are church for each other and the message of Jesus, the super Human One, born into our messy world on the first Christmas, is still alive and endemic in the hearts and actions of his people, even those who have stopped practising formal religious rituals.

So technically speaking, our VC 60th year is about to draw to a close, in February 2021 to be precise. However we are applying for an extension, to use project funding reporting speak! Most of our well laid plans were put on hold of necessity, but we didn’t scrap them and there is nothing to stop us celebrating our 60+ anniversary, when circumstances allow. I just hope that plus is not too long! We were lucky to have had two wonderful 60th Jubilee Celebrations before lock down, one in Thurles and one in Dublin, a great Jubilee Raffle and an excellent Conference with our VIVID EU partners. And now this 60th Christmas Link Up with stories from VC members from over the 6 decades.

We also managed to organise some of our traditional ritual celebrations, our Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving for our Deceased members, family and friends in November and our Annual Christmas Eucharist and Candle Ceremony last weekend, thanks to our Council Membership Committee and helpers. Zoom has become our friend and enabler and while we miss the physical gatherings terribly, on the positive side it has allowed our faraway family members to join us, which has been a great bonus. Another positive, has been the new learning and skills gained in the process by some of us less-able technologically speaking! Fair play too to those members who managed to appear on Zoom for the first time recently, who would never have imagined they could overcome that challenge! Where there’s a will…we can overcome many challenges!

Our Council Members have been very active this year too and have gone above and beyond in terms, not only of regular meetings but many extra ones, in small ad hoc groups, in an effort to keep abreast of all that is happening and govern VC wisely. This is not easy especially for those who are also in full time jobs in the outside-VC world! So míle buíochas for all your excellent team work and support to me personally.

Hats off too to our VC volunteers, those who were forced to return home early in the year, and leave their projects mid-stream without closure, which was very painful for them, I know. Thanks to those who have been representing VC at local level on those projects in their absence. And to those who stayed in the field, Pat in Cambodia, Rita in Kampala, Dan in El Salvador, Gena and Jacinta in Haiti, Aisling and Suzanne in South Africa, Victor in Nairobi, and of course our faithful Rose, keeping the VC flag flying at home in Uganda, our love and prayers are with each and every one of you this Christmas, as you will hopefully have seen when we lit your candles and prayed for you at our Christmas Eucharist and Candle Ceremony on 12th December.

And what about our dedicated VC Staff who have carried on regardless, and brought us through 2020, still alive and dynamic? It hasn’t been easy! Working from home, in my own experience has its benefits in many ways but it is also wearying and relentless, with very few outlets or reliefs, no coffee break conversations, even if about work, no chats on the side about seemly trivial life issues or consultations about work things that are on one’s mind. The tendency is to work too long hours, in somewhat isolation, going from one Zoom meeting to another, without enough time for a breath, let alone for reflection or preparation in between.  Maybe I am speaking for myself, not even on Staff, but I think it has all been somewhat exhausting and at this stage a good break is called for by all. This Blessing by John O’Donoghue is apt for the occasion, and sums up my prayer for us all, especially the last line.

‘You have travelled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come, to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of colour
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.

Be excessively gentle with yourself.


Excerpt from the blessing, ‘For One Who is Exhausted,’ from John’s books:
Benedictus (Europe) / To Bless the Space Between Us (US)