Dear Members of the USF Community,
After months of discouraging and troubling headlines — the violence and grief in Nashville, East Lansing, Michigan, and other communities; war and rumors of war in many lands; and the terrible and deadly weather across the country — it is worth reflecting today on how our global faith traditions celebrate hope and renewal at this time of year.
The Buddhist calendar marks Songkran, the traditional New Year celebrated in Bangladesh, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and parts of India, Vietnam, and China.
Ramadan, the holy lunar month for Muslims, will soon conclude with the celebratory days of Eid al-Fitr, the festival of breaking the fast.
During Passover this month, the Jewish people celebrate the Biblical story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery.
Also this month, Vaisakhi marks the beginning of the Punjabi New Year and commemorates the days Sikhism was founded. For Hindus, Vaisakhi celebrates the ancient harvest festival and beginning of the Solar New Year.
In the Latin Church, this is Holy Week, and on Sunday, I will celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ; the Orthodox Church will celebrate these mysteries next week. I take great comfort in Easter as a day to contemplate that neither the death of Jesus on Good Friday nor the great suffering in our world is the last word. A good future is possible.
In this holy season, we hold the global community in prayer, and I echo the message you recently received from University Ministry. We pray for the people of Turkey and Syria who now rebuild their lives and their homes in the aftermath of the recent earthquakes. For resources on how you can help, please visit the Earthquake Relief web page.
Finally, I invite you to reflect on another spring holiday this month: Earth Day, observed by more than 192 nations. On April 22, we honor the environmental movement that calls on us to protect our common home. It is also a good time to reflect on Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, focusing on care for the natural environment and all people, as well as broader questions of the relationship between God, humans, and the rest of creation.
I pray for all members of the USF community, wishing you and those you love the blessings of all our traditions for a safe and happy spring. I join you in looking forward to the celebrations to come — including, for those here on campus, welcoming our incoming students and their families at Destination USF and, next month, celebrating our graduates and newest alumni at our commencement ceremonies.
Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J.