As we all dutifully sit at home, doing our part to protect vulnerable people from COVID-19, the Holy Spirit has been busy inspiring creative ministry around the world and here in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Pastors are offering drive-through adoration and confession as well as liturgies they share live online. Some parishes are ringing their church bells at 10 a.m. daily at Gov. Andy Beshear’s invitation. The bell ringing is meant to be a reminder that we are not alone.
Parishioners are taking part in phone trees, calling to check on vulnerable members of the parish. Others are donating grocery store gift cards to help families in need.
It’s a time of sacrifice.
Catholics will feel that sacrifice keenly when we experience Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter from the confines of our homes. Priests around the archdiocese will pray these liturgies in solitude, or with just one or two attendants.
There are at least two important things for Catholics to do spiritually during this confinement, in addition to regular prayer:
— First, engage in spiritual communion, a simple prayer expressing one’s ardent desire to be in communion with Christ.
Some parishes are still offering confession, with either a carefully planned drive-through (that assures safe distance and confidentiality) or an interior room that is disinfected, large enough to keep a safe (six-foot) distance and soundproof.
In general, though, Dr. Karen Shadle suggests delaying the sacraments.
“We’re trying to get people to stay home as much as possible” said Shadle, director of the Office of Worship. “That is the spirit governing everything. It’s about safety.
“Unless you are in an emergency near-death situation, the sacraments should be delayed,” she said. In situations where someone is near death, families should call their pastor.
Father William Bowling, pastor of Holy Trinity and Holy Name churches, said he is exploring ways to serve people who are dying and desire anointing.
He has also been leading prayer online — on Facebook live — several times a day. He’s “bursting with pride” at the way Holy Trinity School and parishes have handled the crisis, he said.
He is encouraging people to “look for the grace.”
“People can find in this an extraordinary opportunity for spiritual growth,” he said. “This is an opportunity for prayer, in communion with God, and to care for one another. I believe the church can emerge from this strengthened and purified.”
Deacon Denny Nash, director of the Diaconate Office and a deacon at St. Raphael Church, said ministries and parishes are in triage mode.
“So much of our ministry is face to face, so we’re having to reinvent the wheel,” he noted. “We have to assess the priorities and the need.”
Deacons of the archdiocese have an extensive prison ministry and, since prisons aren’t allowing visitors, the deacons have only been able to let them know, “They are in our prayers and we ask them to pray for all of us,” said Deacon Nash.
Hospitals, he said, have placed restrictions on ministers. Though as of Monday, ministers were still able to see Catholic patients in an emergency situation, after a health screening.
Father Charles D. Walker is live-streaming Mass at St. Bernard Church and keeps a school yearbook and parish directory on the altar.
During a live-streamed Mass on Sunday, he told his viewers he keeps the books on the altar “just to remind me you’re with me in prayer, I’m with you in prayer. EverydayI have been praying for you and I want you to know that.”
Within hours of school closing announcements made March 19, he said, parishioners had collected $500 in grocery gift cards for school families that have few resources.Within a few days, that fund had exceeded $2,000. Gift cards are being shared with families and elderly parishioners in need. Other volunteers are part of a phone tree, calling elderly and vulnerable parishioners, as well as delivering groceries and medicine to them.
“The creativity and especially the generosity of folks trying to be church and be helpful and loving — to me that’s an exciting and very holy, beautiful thing.”
Area nursing homes are also trying to find ways to keep residents engaged, since they can’t gather or have visitors. The Little Sisters of the Poor have held “hallway bingo and hallway rosary” for residents who stay in the doorways of their rooms. They also regularly have a dog who visits residents. During the last visit, Sherman said “Hi” through windows.
The Archdiocese of Louisville has a webpage dedicated to COVID-19 updates. It includes a list of at least 17 parishes in the archdiocese that are sharing their Masses online. For a full list, visit www.archlou.org/covid-19.