We asked the Sisters of the Holy Names to reflect on the biblical encouragement, “Do not be afraid.” These women, with so much life experience and wisdom, responded. The theme of their messages boils down to this: The world will be chaotic, so find silence to know and trust what God is doing within you. Then open your heart to others, even if they are different from you.

Before the pandemic, I became aware of the handwringing over divisions in the country. Once the pandemic was a reality in our lives the bad news, conspiracy theories and the resulting fear grew and grew and grew.

I sing once a month for an ecumenical service. The Sunday I sang, the presider preached on the Gospel portraying Jesus falling asleep in the boat. When he is awakened, his message is “Do not be afraid.” We need to hear that not only through our ears (because ears don’t go deeply enough) but in our hearts, deep in our hearts.

Fear spreads so much faster than good news. Just as vaccinations contribute to the Common Good, so can our words and thoughts contribute to a peaceful, hope-filled atmosphere.

— Sr. Patricia Pfenning

These days of pandemic and the related isolation have been a challenge. However, in some ways we have built wider communities as we became aware of others beyond ourselves who are suffering the same ravages from COVID-19 across the globe. We also have become ever more cognizant of the devastation that threatens the survival of our planet. Our times assault us with many reasons to stand in dread, but amid all that assails us environmentally, socially, politically, spiritually, there is still reason to live energized by hope, to resonate with the words of Jesus, “Do not be afraid.” We are not alone. We celebrate our personal uniqueness amid the vitalizing dynamism of the extraordinary diversity of our local and world communities. God graces us all as gifts to one another in the wonder and splendor of the spiritual wisdom and cultures of others and the incredible beauty of our precious blue planet.

— Sr. Carole Strawn

The theme “Do not be afraid” brings to mind Virginia Peri, my friend, classmate and graduate from St. Mary's Academy and Marylhurst College. While working on graphics for a school publication, she prepared a linocut of the verse, “This the victory that overcomes the world: our faith.” During Virginia's career as a high school English teacher in Oregon, then as principal in Alaska (serving even while she underwent chemotherapy), I believe she embodied this Scripture. I am emboldened, especially during this pandemic, each time I reflect on the transforming power of language in our lives.

— Sr. Joan Maiers

I have been in education for more than 50 years in the North Portland area. Holy Cross Catholic School has been a special place for me for many years. The teachers, parents, and students have put their fears behind them and have moved forward with in-person classroom education.

“Do not be afraid.”

The classroom door is open. I know it is strange but I hope that you can see that the teachers are smiling behind their masks. I love lunchtime because I can see everyone’s face even if we are spaced apart. And all will understand …For one day you shall laugh without a mask … Come follow me … I go before you always.

— Sr. Mary Ryan

Something to ask in times when we are afraid: Why am I here? What is my work? There will be many who will lure you with their version of truth and reality. As long as you continue to mistrust yourself and the way Spirit wants to work with you and guide you, you will be on the search and ever confused. If you want to know what you should do today, which is all you have, the ever-breaking moment of now, go inward into the silence and wait there.

The Incarnate God walks out into the world as you! Search the world over if you must, walk on all the known sacred places you hear of, or that seem to call to you, do the ceremonies and rituals you think will matter, seek out the wisdom of sages. I will tell you the truth as I know it: the very ground you walk on is sacred in your coming to it as the Love-filled vessel you are. Pour it out now.

— Sr. Kathryn Knoll