Signs of hope can be found all around New York City, if one knows where to look for them. The Sheen Center for Thought and Culture (18 Bleecker Street) worked to collect them all in a single event, which took place this past May 5, to share the spiritual lessons taught by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event, Signs of Hope for a Better World, Portraits of Grace, brought together leaders from the worlds of faith, healthcare, and media to celebrate the shared humanity that united New Yorkers throughout the COVID-19 crisis: His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York; Dr. Ramon Tallaj, Founder and Chairman of SOMOS Community Care; Scott La Rue, CEO of Archcare, and David Begnaud, lead national correspondent for CBS Mornings, were part of the presentation. Elaine Quijano, anchor of CBS News’ new 24-hour streaming network, was the moderator.
The event was preceded by the Center’s celebrated reopening exhibition, Portraits of Grace, a multi-platform event that captured “the human and the divine present in the pandemic experience in photographic images and video testimonials.” It documented the heroic efforts of first responders and other heroes of the pandemic: “priests, consecrated women and men, and dedicated lay people who have journeyed with their fellow New Yorkers in countless ways, bringing consolation at a time of apparent desolation and above all bringing the Gospel’s message of hope and, over time, the spirit of joyful resilience.”
Now, Signs of Hope for a Better World, Portraits of Grace turned this photographic exhibition into an opportunity to share and meditate on “the spiritual lessons taught by the pandemic,”as Dr. Ramon Tallaj clearly said in his speech during the event: “… an appreciation of the value of the life of every human being, all of us being endowed with dignity and infinite value by our creator, regardless of race or socio-economical background. Ours, we learned, is the spiritual duty to care for the least among us, in the form of hands-on care as well as in the form of advocacy. Such a commitment should be at the heart of the US health care system. Together we have come away with the joy, the spiritual elation of caring for the poor and, faith moving mountains, transforming entire communities.”
Tallaj also noted that this is “a joint mission, inspired by our faith in Jesus Christ, to serve the most vulnerable among us always, and in particular during the pandemic. Our common commitment to the welfare of the poorest was put to the test by COVID-19 as never before.”
As explained in a previous article, in 2020 New York City went through the deadliest disaster in its history. To put it in perspective, the pandemic was (by then) responsible for 17 times more deaths than the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Sponsored by SOMOS Community Care and Aleteia, Signs of Hope for a Better World, Portraits of Grace offered a platform for dialogue about the many lessons learned over the past two years, with an eye toward inspiring positive change not only in the city, but in the world, encouraging participants to shift their gaze from looking back into this painful past to focusing on a hopeful future instead.