TOROK: The role of family today

December 22, 2020

What a whirlwind year 2020 has been and continues to be for the family. Families have been both separated and united due to the pandemic. The role of family members has changed, in most cases, by adding more responsibilities to each member. Yet, amidst the stress and change, the impact of COVID-19 has strengthened our role in family life and clarified one of our most profound family characteristics.

We are all aware of how COVID-19 has impacted and changed family members, especially parents; professions, health (physical, emotional and mental), income, household issues, education and faith formation at home have all changed in some way. The hardest change has been for families who suffered the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19 and had to endure the loss amid the gathering restrictions implemented during the pandemic.

With the onset of the virus, families were challenged to strengthen their trust in others. Our needs became dependent on trusting the advice of healthcare workers, volunteers, our own family members and, yes, news media.

Essentially, we had to trust that people are good and want to do good for others. We trusted that God was leading the hands of others as they showed us how to teach, nurse, counsel and assist in unique and varied ways. Families increased their faith sharing at home, usually with the children as the locus, and indeed, families increased their prayers of supplication and thanksgiving.

In the middle of quarantine and social distancing, one family characteristic that became noticeably clear is the family’s communal nature. Amidst rising issues, the one limitation that people keep lamenting is the loss of gathering with family, friends and community.

As we learned what we needed and what we did not know, our hearts sought guidance and peace to do what we needed to say and do for others in a distanced world. I am reminded of St. Paul and his letter to the Ephesians.

Paul writes of his love for them and his longing to be with them. He counseled the community on what a family should be for each other. He reminded them that no matter the trials, God was ever-present with and for them.

In many ways, families’ lives during the pandemic have been much like Paul’s relationship with the Ephesians. Families have felt closed off from each other, counseled each other sometimes from afar, wished to be with each other and asked to take care of each other. Like St. Paul, the family’s mission is to share and keep the faith, knowing that God will prevail.

Today, we are hopeful and looking forward with the dawning of a vaccine for COVID-19 peeking at us. We look forward to the privilege of celebrating community life and serving others with our renewed family virtues, skills, tools and mannerisms.

What renewed family strengths will I share in community as we move forward? 

Norma Torok, who recently retired, was an associate director of the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.

Editor's Note: The Texas Catholic Herald staff wish the best for Norma Torok in her retirement and thank her for her dedication to ministry and sharing her special perspectives in her many Youth columns. Thank you Norma!