By Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.
I recently commented that the 2016 Easter Triduum was a blur for me. Twelve-hour days Wednesday through Saturday; balancing mastering ceremonies with recruiting, training, and overseeing liturgical ministers; learning the ins and outs of the ceremonies and the props for three distinct liturgies; trying to figure out how to receive the holy oils and bless Paschal candles and holy water at one site but transferring them to two others before Sunday morning; overseeing the confirmation and First Communion of an adult Catholic; the list goes on.
Perhaps the corker was Saturday morning, when the pastor, one of the art and environment volunteers, and I realized that we did not have a suitable supply of water to be blessed later that night for three different worship communities AND that the village’s water was avoided by some for drinking and washing. I jumped in the car, returned home to fill an eight gallon water thermos jug, and returned to my parish to fill three receptacles of water to be blessed of which two would be transferred to remote worship sites.
While feeling sorry for myself over the apparent lack of planning and basic liturgical supplies and properties, I had to remind myself of a 1979 prayer on ministry composed by the late Saginaw Bishop Kenneth Untener. It begins, “It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.” Though I had to travel 25 miles round trip at the last moment to acquire a few gallons of water, at least my community had passable running water.
The manager of Flint, Michigan, had decided that its water supply was too expensive, so the city contracted with another source for cheaper water…though city leaders knew that it was not safe. The city’s antiquated purification system failed to protect many of the citizens from lead in water. And the majority of the consumers affected by his decision were underrepresented and often neglected or forgotten residents of Flint. How do you say, “government negligence” and “environmental justice”? How does a Christian community reflect on the blessing of living water at the Easter vigil when civil leaders poisoned the poorest people in the community by allowing city faucets to produce unsafe water?