SPRINGFIELD — Bishop William D. Byrne released a pastoral letter addressed to the people of the Diocese of Springfield called, “Back to Better, Our Road to Emmaus.” The letter is a message of hope during the Easter season, and an invitation for people to start returning to Mass.

In his first Pastoral Letter, he highlights the challenges and needs facing the Diocese of Springfield and the Catholic Church of western Massachusetts.

“We can’t get back to normal, we need to get back to better,” said Bishop Byrne, speaking of the pandemic which has caused great suffering, shutdowns and isolation. While he said he is grateful for technology which has been critical in keeping people connected, especially the homebound, he said churches are open and following all safety protocols.

“However, beginning again means getting back to church, participating in person, and renewing our sacramental encounter with Jesus.”

Some other key elements of the letter include addressing the sexual abuse crisis; declining numbers of practicing Catholics; vocations; evangelization and youth ministry; and the protection of human life.

The letter is available as of today, April 10, on diospringfield.org and will also be in the April issue of Catholic Mirror.

“The good news is that on the road to Emmaus, unmet expectations and hopes were fulfilled. On the road to Emmaus and in the breaking of the bread, everything was made new,” wrote the bishop in closing. “The Mass Pike, I-91, Routes 20, 2, and 5, along with the Main Streets of every community — indeed every road in western Massachusetts — should be the road to Emmaus. These are the streets we journey, but they also must be the places where we move from dismay to discovery. Roads where we encounter the Risen Lord. These are the roads on which to share the Good News with all whom we meet.”

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or at 413-629-4517.