Heeding the call of Gov. Andy Beshear and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz Kentuckians are, for the most part, doing their civic and moral duty to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But how do we do that healthfully, when we are deprived of the things that nourish our hearts? Family parties, Mass, sporting events — they’re all out of reach.
Fortunately, we’re an Easter people — we believe in the resurrection and the promise of new life. That sense of hope is guiding Catholics around the Archdiocese of Louisville through the pandemic.
More than 50 people shared with The Record’s readers how they’re coping, particularly where they find hope. Mary Holder and her husband are dealing directly with the virus. An Assumption senior says she’s found reasons to stay positive. Ursuline Sister Mary Lee Hansen asks us to consider, “What has my hand done for others during this pandemic?”
Read their stories and those of others from around the archdiocese — the voices of children, clergy, religious and parents. Each tells a story of hope and compassion.
Jim Wayne, St. Agnes Church
I am shaken, as are billions of others, by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are all vulnerable, even if we are doing everything we are instructed to do to avoid contamination.
And when I hear of people, young and old, rich and poor, ordinary and notable who are ill or have died, it all becomes less abstract and more real. To cope I focus on living in the moment. I settle myself in silent prayer each day for at least 30 minutes. In God’s presence I am reassured we are all loved and God will not abandon us, even in our darkest moments. And as I take daily walks I experience God’s beauty this spring in a different way than I had before this crisis. And then I return home to the smile of my wife, the faces of family and friends on the computer screen, the phone voices of my cousin in the assisted living facility and the family in Portland neighborhood that is grieving their mother. These are the human contacts that reveal God’s love as well.
I am assured God will not abandon us now. In fact, this may be the time we all experience God’s love and tender care more than ever.
Donna Sansone, GriefShare facilitator at St. Thomas More Church
I was blessed to have co-facilitated a GriefShare group for 13 weeks with Denise Puckett this past fall. I had only begun the second week of my second session of GriefShare (this spring) when we were asked to discontinue our face-to-face group because of the coronavirus. My group of 21 people are presently grieving the loss of spouses, children, siblings and a variety of other multiple losses.
My challenge: How was I going to continue this group without face to face contact? I decided to send out a weekly letter and have a conference call every Thursday. Knowing the various anniversaries of the deaths of the family members in my group, members send cards or make phone calls on those especially sad days. This ministry has been so rewarding to me. It brings me great joy to know that in some way I have been able to lift some of the sorrow that weighs them down so heavily during this pandemic.
What gives you hope? The resilience, love and grace from my family, Sacred Heart Schools co-workers, Sacred Heart Preschool families, and my friends. And, all the signs and chalk art around the neighborhood. I have mailed nursing home letters to our prayer sisters — Sister Loretta and Sister Mary Lee. I have dropped off distance-learning activities for students and connected to Sacred Heart Preschool families via phone, email, Zoom, and ClassDojo.
Deacon Jesse Schook, St. Athanasius Church
I find great solace in calling members of our parish on the phone and asking how they are doing. The parishioners all vocalize how grateful they are for those calls. Some even look for ways to continue the conversations as they are extremely lonely. God Bless.
Tim Tomes, archivist, Archdiocese of Louisville
As a cross bearer at my parish, the Cathedral of the Assumption, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in the many live-streamed Masses. Because of this I am one of the lucky few that is allowed to attend Mass in person. Practicing my faith has changed little except for the fact that the seats are empty. After each Mass I usually receive a phone call or text message from a friend or family member who saw me on television or on their computer screen. I love receiving these messages because it tells me people are watching and the incredible efforts of many to provide Mass via technology has not been in vain. While I am woefully inadequate to quote scripture, one verse has stood out in my mind, Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” I like to imagine everyone at home watching Mass and Jesus sitting next to them. As we celebrate the mystery of our faith in our homes, the power of us all gathered together in His name, forms the one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. If ever there was a time that our Church needs each and every one of us it is now.
William Cruz, St. Peter the Apostle Church
This deadly COVID-19 virus and having to stay at home gives us the opportunity to save our lives and those of our family and be able to do activities that we had not been able to do. May God bless the whole world and lay his healing hand on all the ill.
Laura Zoeller, associate director, Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, Archdiocese of Louisville
An overwhelming number of people are scared and worried about meeting their basic needs. I have coped with this by creating a list of helpers and keeping it handy to share as needed. I have been using social media and online resources much more than usual. Some of this necessitates spending more time verifying accurate information. I am also more intentional about supporting local restaurants and other businesses with curbside service.
Sallie Cunningham, math department, Sacred Heart Academy
Even though we as Christians had to celebrate Holy Week while social distancing, I believe our current predicament is an invitation to nurture our faith while drawing nearer to each other and God. My daughter and I have done this though an online Bible study where we each have an opportunity to read a devotional, a verse, and then “talk it over” though an app. My students and I have been able to deepen our relationships by meeting where they are — in their homes. Seeing the students though Microsoft TEAMs has enabled me to continue teaching every day, remaining a steady presence in their lives while continuing our learning. I am grateful for the technology in both cases to bridge the gap. Social-distancing cannot keep us from loving others or from the graces of Holy Week.
Ella Bean, sophomore, Sacred Heart Academy
During this difficult time I have found hope through my faith, especially as we celebrate the Easter season. It has been a blessing in my eyes to go through something as formidable as the coronavirus while simultaneously living through the lessons Easter brings and the hope of new life that comes with the death and resurrection of Christ. Similarly reflecting and encouraging the hope we as a people have for new life after the pass of the virus.
Lisa B. Houghlin, director, Sacred Heart Preschool
I am grateful for the time for family. This has allowed us all a chance to slow down a bit and appreciate the gift of time with each other. My high schooler has no practices or meetings to attend; my college student is home and not running off to hang out with friends. Family meals, game nights and evening walks; it has put the things that matter most back in perspective.
I have called several shut-ins, especially on Palm Sunday to see if they wanted to receive palms, and each one of them said absolutely yes. They were wondering if they were going to get any palms. I did deliver palms to several people in our church community. Talking to them and finding out how they were doing was just a wonderful blessing for me — just to get to talk to them and have them share about how well their families have been taking care of them. But also how important and blessed it was to get that piece of palm that kept them connected to their faith and the Holy Week celebration/tradition was really uplifting for me.
Brian Hancock, St. Brigid Church
I read a few weeks ago that the owner of Louisville Inflatables was calling this “the second winter.” He had seen an unprecedented number of cancellations, as people swapped parties for pandemic precautions. Irony abounds in the timing of this development here in the northern hemisphere. The warming of soil underneath us, the return of life around us, seem to sync perfectly with the advent of this silent killer, which simultaneously penetrates our cities and communities. The very air that brings us new growth brings too an element of death.
As humans we all have beating hearts alongside other vital organs that could shut down at any moment, instantly destroyed by force, sickness, or disease. Despite living lives that are complex, dramatic, and profound, our skin is but millimeters thick; our bodies extraordinarily delicate. If anything, COVID-19 has reminded us of that.
Dan Conway, member of The Record Editorial Board
During this time of uncertainty when we are denied access to Mass and the sacraments, I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to participate in Holy Week and Easter services electronically and on television. To be completely cut off from the church’s prayer and worship would be unbearable. It would exacerbate the isolation and loneliness at the very time that we need the grace and inspiration of the liturgy more than ever. Heartfelt thanks to Archbishop Kurtz and all the priests and liturgical ministers (and technicians!) who have made it possible for us to worship virtually in this time of crisis!
It feels as if this has been the longest Lent ever, doesn’t it? Being confined to home with the loneliness that can set in, much like the loneliness Jesus must have felt when all his disciples fell asleep on him in Gethsemane. He was scared, like we are now. He prayed to his Abba to let this cup pass him by. We, too, are praying for the virus to end. It is a dark time in so many ways.
But we know the rest of the story, don’t we? Jesus triumphs over the fear, over the darkness. We, as Christians, know our story, too. We will persevere through this crisis. We will again say, “Hallelujah!”
Carolyn K. Veigl, director of worship and music, St. Edward Church
Our Adult Choir has rehearsal/fellowship during our regular rehearsal time on Tuesday nights on Zoom (video conference app). We have tried to “pray outside the box” with our parish Facebook page, website, and Youtube channel, incorporating opportunities for adults and youth ministry/school families, our homebound and nursing home friends and Hispanic worship events. The parish quilters are making masks. The parish has also invited the community to “come pray with Jesus in the garden” in our own Prayer Garden on campus with a view of the Tabernacle from outside with your favorite lawn chair, “Backyard Prayer Time with the Pastor.”
COVID-19 has changed all of our lives in every country. Here on the lovely campus of the Masonic Homes in Louisville, we are following the strict guidelines for the wellbeing of all. Each day on the news we hear of the heart breaking numbers of the sick and of the deceased. We also see how the heroes and the heroines are responding. It is admirable and we are so proud. We are doing what we can do: praying for all the sick and their families, for those who have died, for the medical personnel, for the tireless caregivers, food distributors, mail women and men, and so many more, impossible to name.
I am truly grateful for so many gestures of hope that I see daily, as smiles and waves from a distance. I truly believe that we are becoming more united as a country. Today I heard a beautiful message of hope: the song “God Bless America” over the loud speaker on the campus. At 5 p.m. each day during this time of the corona virus we hear the special song, “My Old Kentucky Home.” Truly our loving God is watching over our global family no matter where we are. We will get through this together.
Dr. Michael Bratcher, principal, Sacred Heart Model School
It is challenging not being able to see our students and teachers on a daily basis. They give us so much, and we have had to adapt, quickly, to the change. We have coped by seeing them in a different way; in digital classroom environments and by interacting through handwritten notes and cards.
I am so grateful for resilient students and adaptable teachers. I have a lot of hope in our future. To know that our students adapted so quickly to this new normal, I have a lot of hope. To know that our teachers literally changed the way they deliver content in just a few days, I have a lot of hope.
Chuck and Sally Lynch, St. John Paul II Church
This pandemic Lenten Season introduced us to new ways of praying, sacrificing and helping others from a distance. We’ve used our front door to share hopeful messages. Our next-door neighbor had a virtual Girl Scout scavenger hunt and used our rainbow. We see neighbors walk by and smile at our changing messages, which warms our hearts. We have an on-going Boggle (word-game) competition between us and we love watching good movies together. Using Facetime with Godchildren to play games and help them with homework while their parents are in the next room working from home helps them while making us so happy. Daily phone calls to Seniors who live alone and reconnecting with friends near and far over the phone – sharing tips as well as some of those hysterical jokes going around – brings reassurance and cheer to them and to us. Sending extra donations to various Catholic charities during this time of need was important to us. Newly blogging to share thoughts, ideas and facts has been a creative outlet. Going to Mass in front of TV is challenging; we miss our parish and look forward to celebrating Mass with Father Peter Do and our faith community.
Katelyn Wo, junior at Sacred Heart Academy
I am grateful for my amazing teachers who have worked so hard to adapt their lessons to online learning. They have provided so much support and encouragement and have really helped me feel a little more normal during this crazy time.
Harold M. Frost, III, reader from Sheffield, Vermont
For the past decade as a confirmed, struggling Catholic I’ve interacted with the Archdiocese of Louisville, including correspondence with Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz that led me to reach out to Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of my Diocese of Burlington. That and an ensuing two years’ accompaniment by the parochial vicar of a parish near me provided some rapprochement with the church when, at 77 and fragile with severe cognitive disability, I cannot comply with the precepts.
PTSD keeps me from large groups, as at Mass, and fragility limits making prudent judgments needed for valid examinations of conscience. Thus I cannot receive the sacraments. When the coronavirus outbreak became global, our Vermont governor, the Hon. Phil Scott, directed us to self isolate, transforming my understanding of my struggle as God’s blessing preparing me for when almost all Roman Catholics are temporarily dispensed from Sunday Mass and receiving the Eucharist, thus also suffering. With calmness and confidence, I can still do little child-like acts of kindness and support others to whom the Lord sends me. For that I’m grateful, as Jesus works out our salvation through our service to neighbor, especially the poor, giving us hope for holiness and the resurrection of life.
Stretch one of your hands out in front of you. Ask yourself: What has my hand done for others during this pandemic?
God has given us this simple gift.
I am awed by the ways people have used this simple gift during these traumatic weeks. Mother Teresa told us she was just a pencil in the hand of God. Let us, together, be a bundle of pencils, too, for good. Remember Michelangelo’s painting of God the Father’s finger stretched out to humankind? Put your hand out and let God touch yours. Just hope and trust and it will happen, I assure you.
Here is my prayer for you: May your hand perform many deeds of love.
My husband, William Holder, contracted the coronavirus while working in New Jersey. The challenge is knowing that people are going through this physically alone but hopefully not spiritually alone. It is hard to have a loved one who is sick and you cannot be with them, touch them — knowing that they are in the hospital without immediate family. I am praying for the hospital and EMT workers who are assisting and taking care of them — all the while knowing that these workers are away from their own families and trying to feel how they feel and what they are going through and being grateful that they made that decision!
How have we coped? Trusting in the Lord — Luke 22:42 — “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” This is spirit filled and trust to no end. Also through a lot of prayer and prayer circles — from family, friends and my St. Augustine church family.
It has deepened my faith in God and given me a more realistic view on what is important in life. I have always said, God first, family second and then everything else. But with this fast-paced life style, sometimes everything else came into play. It has brought me back to my core values.
I am grateful for a God that has healing powers. I am grateful that my husband is doing better and God put his protective arms around him. I am grateful for my family, friends and my St. Augustine church community.
I am hopeful that one day we can spend another day at the beach, thanking God for all of his beauties and blessings.
One of our dear priest friends made a reflection video for Holy Week asking, “What is God doing right now?” His prayers had led him to think that maybe God was calling us to be holy in our homes. It’s one thing to try to be holy at church on Sundays, but how well do we bring that home with us? Are we pursuing holiness at home, too? How are we building our domestic church? In response, our family is trying to live liturgically. One of the ways we did that was washing each other’s feet on Holy Thursday. We told the kids we do this because we love each other, like Jesus loves us.
Sara Hamilton, Immaculata Classical Academy
Our family welcomed home our fifth son during this crisis. According to the Lord’s perfect timing, he came home from the hospital on the feast of the Annunciation to meet his older brothers. Having a baby in the middle of a pandemic is not ideal. It certainly elevates the typical level of stress. In normal times, when you have a baby, people reach out to visit and bring gifts and organize food trains. This time around has been different, but we have had friends and family order take out for us, send food deliveries, ship diapers and gifts through Amazon and send e-gift cards. They have chosen to be generous to us even when it was difficult to find ingredients needed for a basic recipe!
People will find a way to be a community for one another even while social distancing. At the same time, our family has embraced the opportunity of adjusting to the new baby without the business of normal life. There is more time for playing outside, board games and tending to household needs. It’s been a time to reflect on how we live and re-evaluate what’s most important for our family. We are all sacrificing quite a bit more for Lent then we expected, but the blessing of our baby’s arrival just before Easter has been a reminder of God’s promise of New Life through our Lord’s resurrection.
I am grateful for the beautiful weather that God has given us through this trying time. This has helped us spend more time outside as a family and given us many moments that we can be thankful for and slowly take in. Most importantly, this has taught us how lovely it is to live in the moment and enjoy one another to bring our family closer. We are at peace while our world has so much uncertainty in it right now which opens our hearts even more to accept His love and strength during this Easter season.
Ashley Law, youth minister at St. Christopher, Radcliff and St. Martin of Tours, Flaherty, and a parishioner of St. Brigid, Vine Grove
This is a very stressful time for a lot of people and I think we can often get caught up in focusing on the negatives. However, I think there is a lot that we can be thankful for during this time. One of my favorite things that has come out of our current situation is finding new ways to pray and connect with Christ as well as navigating being fully responsible for my faith.
So often, we rely on our parishes, priests, faith leaders, and ministers to lead us and provide us with the faith tools we need. Being home, I have more of a responsibility to seek out worship opportunities and time to pray. Its been a beautiful thing to find a more individual relationship with Christ! I pray that everyone can find that and, for those that do, to not lose it when this is all over.
A St. Patrick Family
In a constant effort to remind my kids why it is important to be kind and caring, why we love our parish and how actions speak louder than words, we started a new “tradition” while in quarantine. The four of us make one card per day that includes a rainbow, a flower or sunshine, etc. We write a message, “Everything will be all right,” open our parish directory and pick a random name. We sign the cards, “Love, Another St. Patrick Family” and we don’t include a return address. We have enjoyed the activity and we hope to continue this throughout the quarantine. We pray that the cards bring those who receive them a little joy and a reminder of how special our community and our faith is.
Attending school, playing lacrosse, sharing endless memories with friends, and traveling to restaurants and stores is no longer a reality. My reality is transformed into a daily routine within the walls of my own house, the one place I barely spent time. When this first occurred, I began to find myself viewing this outbreak as a constraint on my senior year, making me see everything from a negative outlook. However, my perspective on the virus and the need to be contained from social interaction has suddenly morphed into observing life as an opportunity, not a tragedy.
COVID 19 has enabled positivity to illuminate across the globe, bringing people closer together mentally, as we all are experiencing the same fear and anxiety. It has tightened family bonds and my relationship with God, allowing me to observe that something terrible on the surface, can have a positive outcome in the end — emphasizing the possibilities in life.
Benedictine Sister Sarah Yungwirth
As we enter into this Easter season, what gives me hope is the promise Jesus made that he will always be with us. Jesus understands our struggles, walks with us on our journey, and helps us carry our crosses. He lifts us up when we have fallen. I have felt his presence in many ways during this experience. This is evidenced in all the people who are going grocery shopping for their neighbors or relatives, all the extra activities teachers are providing to support their students, and all the creative ways technology is being used to connect with others and build community.
Melinda LaFever, Most Blessed Sacrament Church
I have been a widow for three years. I am retired and I am alone most of the time. However, I have a few relatives that call to see if I am okay and just to stay in touch, and I am so blessed to have a host of neighbors and friends who have been there for me and I for them in unexpected ways. This moment and time has brought the best out in the people I know and the strangers I see. I have encountered people in parking lots that just want to talk to someone about all that’s going on. Everyone needs an outlet.
God watches over us all and I think that Mother Nature has sent us all to our rooms to think about what we’ve done to this planet Earth. It is one world that we all share and we’d better learn to respect the land, the animals and each other. This Easter and spring will bring into focus what the resurrection and the rebirth of spring really means to all of us. I hope we listen.
The governor has asked us to light a green light for all who have died from the coronavirus as a sign of grieving as well as a sign of hope and compassion.
Are we able to find hope in this present situation of the coronavirus? When we experience the God of compassion in our sorrow and brokenness, our defenses break down and we can allow God to enter into our hearts. Suffering, fear and grief is about courage in the midst of pain, compassion in the midst of suffering, healing in the midst of brokenness.
It is about endurance because we believe in a God of compassion, a God who suffers with us, a God who gives us hope.
Among many things, I am grateful for a new prayer routine that this quarantine time has brought upon me. Several times, I have told my friends, “I wish I could just stop everything, and have time simply to discern and pray.” To be honest, when all the social restrictions began to come out, I chuckled to myself and knew that God was indeed giving me the opportunity to stop (just about) everything for more time to pray! While daily Mass is no longer available to me in the same way, I have been able to incorporate other prayer, such as going on rosary walks. I teach at a Catholic school in Louisville, and the whole staff is praying morning prayer and the Angelus daily, too. My favorite opportunity that came about during this time was attending Eucharistic Adoration through a window with my sister and nieces and nephews!
Dominican Sister Charlene Moser
Thanks to the technology available I have been able to work from home and get plenty of outdoor exercise during this time of “stay well at home.” I am most grateful that this crisis has not impacted our water and power supplies, and building structures!
Kristyn Bowman, assistant principal at St. Michael School
Since March 13, our last day at school, I feel like my whole life routine has been taken from me. At first, it was okay but now I just miss my job, my coworkers and my daily routine. The one thing that has made this a blessing in disguise is that our 9-year-old son is with me every day while my husband is still able to go to work. I am thankful beyond words to have extra time with our little boy. We have been enjoying daily walks, both with and without the dog, hiking, and sometimes just snuggling up on the couch and watching a movie. I’m grateful to have some just one-on-one time with him and be able to help him with his schoolwork when he needs it. Working from home is different, but it is going just fine. I certainly wouldn’t want to do it permanently though!
Deacon Tom and Marysue McNally, Immaculate Conception Church, La Grange
What gives us hope is that the promise of Easter continues no matter how the world around us changes, becomes limited or seems to be dire. Though our Lent and Holy Week/Triduum this year are different, the fact remains that Christ is the same “yesterday, today and tomorrow.” Our appreciation of God’s gift in Christ is strengthened as we live this Easter 2020 to completion in faith, hope and love.
Bonnie Chester, St. Margaret Mary Church
Even though I start each day in prayer time, I found myself devoting more than the normal half hour, searching for comfort and consolation from my God and for a belief that everything would be okay. The thought occurred to me that these three assurances were already right in front of me: the three virtues of faith, hope and charity: Faith to believe that the outcome would be good, God-given hope to console me, and comfort through the love others gave to me this last month. Here’s hoping these virtues become more a way of life for me.
Christ gives me hope! I know that he never leaves us alone and even though we have been distant from our church he is with us always! I hope to receive Jesus once again in the holy Eucharist in great celebration with my community!
Bev Beckman, Holy Trinity Church
Being in a high risk category with the associated social isolation has been a challenge. Not being able to visit with family is probably the most challenging.
Just a few things that have helped me: Father Bill Bowling’s Facebook outreach, daily Mass with Bishop Robert Barron from Word on Fire, Archbishop Kurtz for access to Holy Week services, establishing a routine and balancing with exercise, phone calls from family and friends with offers of assistance for shopping, and all the electronic access.
Thanks to Sacred Heart Academy for the grandparents video. We loved and appreciated it! That was a day brightener. Thanks to our mayor, governor and healthcare system for planning and communication.
Fran Brown, St. Aloysius Church, Pewee Valley
In the time of the “great pandemic” I am staying at home. It is the simple things that I enjoy, such as listening to the birds, eating meals outdoors and trying new recipes. Shopping online is now a necessity, but I miss seeing my friends in the store.
The clutter that I so often promised myself to thin out is now a work in progress. I have collected stacks of pictures and memorabilia. Reading some of the family stories and seeing pictures of loved ones that I knew or had heard about has brought me closer to the goal of writing family history.
Because of these efforts I appreciate the family in new ways. For example, I discovered pictures of our family home in the flood of 1937, my grandmother’s picture with her schoolmates at Loretto, Ky., at the turn of the century, pictures of soldiers who experienced the great war, children dressed in their First Communion attire, etc. Many changes have occurred in our culture. My hope is that we will go forward with heroic caring for one another in this time of challenge.
Connie Granados, St. Helen Church, Glasgow
Staying at home has not been all that bad. Actually, it has been very nice in many ways! The hardest part, for which I have cried, has been not being able to receive our Lord in the Eucharist. Other than that, this COVID-19 has given me the opportunity to improve my life. Many things I do at work, I can do from home, so I am not all that behind, and actually have been able to catch up on paperwork.
It has been a time to reflect on the great need for conversion and how I need to be very intentional in keeping my soul as clean as my hands and my face! It has been nice that this happened during Lent, because I have learned many things about my faith, met new saints, and created or renewed old traditions. My husband and I are attending online Mass and doing the rosary every day. Just like most people, I hope this is over soon. But, when all of this passes, I hope I keep the lesson of not distancing myself anymore from my Lord.
Linda Reynolds, Church of the Epiphany
There are days I wake up feeling grateful to be alive and live another day. There are other days I wake up with the sting of anxiety and a wellspring of grief. The grief that lays on the surface of my heart is the absence of physical contact with my children and grandchildren. I so miss my two granddaughters running up to me with their arms wide open, embracing me with a big hug. Sometimes I close my eyes and try to imagine and remember what it felt like to have their little hands wrapped around me. I also greatly miss holding our new baby granddaughter, looking into her eyes and singing her to sleep.
I recognize that this longing is a universal reality of our time. Our family tries to stay connected as best we can. We also try to help each other in little ways from a safe distance. Several weeks ago my extended family decided to set aside time to pray each day for ourselves, each other, our country and our world. Each day we “join together” at 1 p.m. EST. This newfound ritual has brought great consolation knowing we are all sending love from our own little corner out into the world.
Abbie Trowbridge, director of Mission & Pastoral Care, Nazareth Home Clifton
As the Director of Mission and Pastoral Care at Nazareth Home Clifton, the largest part of my job is to support and enhance the spiritual health and wellbeing of our elders, their families and our staff members. All three populations are currently facing unique challenges.
Staff are facing many new challenges at home from making ends meet to finding safe and reliable childcare. There are many added distractions and worries on their minds. The administrative team, along with many outside supporters, have come together to offer encouragement and support from every direction — from delicious catered lunches to beautiful homemade masks.
It is also been a challenging time for our families, but they have been understanding and (most importantly) have followed all of the safety guidelines that we have put in place to keep our elders safe and healthy. Visits with family and friends are a huge part of one’s spiritual wellbeing and so understandably this has been a huge concern for us. We have been orchestrating meet-ups through closed windows and on FaceTime, family reunions with Zoom and we’ve arranged calls from other countries through WhatsApp. This complex ballet of virtual pastoral care has been a labor of love for our entire staff.
But the most striking thing for me has been the strength and resilience of our elders in the face of this pandemic. I am constantly amazed at how they take this all in their stride, lacking any self-pity or upset. I look forward with hope to the day that our elders can worship together again.
Father William L. Fichteman, member of The Record Editorial Board
We began this Lenten season with the usual Ash Wednesday contradictions: Joel telling the Israelites to blow the trumpet and call a fast; Jesus telling his disciples not to blow a trumpet when giving alms, to pray “in secret” and wash their faces so they won’t look gaunt when fasting. Contradiction. And, what do we do? Smear each other’s faces with black ashes as a very outward sign of our penitence. Contradiction.
Then, as we approached the Triduum, more contradictions of even more import: No Eucharist to share; no walking in procession with other Christians to venerate the cross, when we most need to do so; catechumens dry-watching the Vigil on television, rather than feeling those cleansing waters of Baptism; families burying loved ones from a deadly pandemic, with cemetery dogwoods bursting forth pink and white life; a man who called himself the Bread of Life hanging dead on a cross. Contradictions all. Even little children have become aware that life abounds in contradictions.
I have come to believe that living life well involves holding those contradictions in tension with each other; navigating our way courageously between their ebb and flow. … The really Good News is that out of the tomb of contradictions emerges the Risen Christ. It is through those very contradictions that he brings us life and the will to continue living it courageously.
We used to attend Mass weekly, now we participate in the daily Mass virtually. We used to attend the Lenten activities and Easter at the parish to live them in community, now we have adapted places at the house to live the Stations of the Cross and Mass. We attend an hour of adoration on Saturdays and Sundays. We have learned more, which helps us have a faith more alive. We used to pray the rosary daily, now we have incorporated the Divine Mercy and Angelus, too.
Our children have named our domestic church “the Holy Family.” We are more attentive to the archbishop’s messages and we had the opportunity to experience the Chrism Mass (on TV), something we had never done before.
My fifth-grader at St. Patrick, Will Hyberger, misses his teachers and church so much. They hosted a car line today, practicing social distancing. He made this sign for his principal, priest and teachers. I had tears. Many blessings and prayers. Now more than ever, I feel so blessed to be a part of such an amazing community.
My parents, who are also parishioners in their late 70’s, really appreciated the church office calling to check up on them. Father Jeff Shooner and the entire church and staff have been amazing. Many prayers.
Janet Zeller, science department, Sacred Heart Academy
I am grateful for my students, true Valkyries, as they have put their faith in my teaching during the transition to on-line instruction. They are rewarding my efforts with sweet words of encouragement and appreciation every day!
Emily Hilbrecht, senior at Sacred Heart Academy
What gives me hope is seeing the flowers bloom in my yard. It reminds me that spring is coming, the pandemic will come to an end, and the world will continue, no matter how hard it may be.
Our Hispanic community has put their Alfombra (an image composed of colored sawdust) down in our Chapel again this year. In response to the question, “Why do this when it isn’t going to be seen by many or used for Holy Thursday,” they said it is a gift to God and they wanted to give it to him.
I am working a lot more than normal but it is a good feeling to know that we are reaching people that are stuck at home and should not get out. I wish there was a way to get more of our information to people that don’t have email or internet.
Quan Nguyen, seminarian, Archdiocese of Louisville
In the current situation, the challenge of the pandemic is not only medical, but also profoundly spiritual. This challenge is happening not only to some people and some countries but also to the whole world. My seminary has been suspended because of coronavirus, which brings the semester to an end. I maintain social distancing to help prevent the spread of the virus. I take online classes and work through professors’ instructions. This requires a lot of preparation, time and, thought.
To cope with these changes, I focus on the spiritual dimension. I am aware of deepening my relationship with God and the church in this situation. I like to meditate on Jesus’ death and resurrection as the inspiration for making sacrifice. I do not forget to pray for the coronavirus to stop spreading, for people at higher risk of developing the disease, and for everyone adjusting to new ways of life.
The virus has certainly caused me to slow down — and in so doing, I have found little pieces of beauty and joy all around me.
My favorite new tradition is to virtually read bedtime stories to five of my seven grandchildren. When the kids are ready for bed, they call us on FaceTime. We have a book ready, and I go get in my bed to pretend to snuggle up with them. When the book is finished, I have an OLD cassette tape of lullabies that the three littlest ones listen to after the story and after we blow kisses and turn off lights. I have loved this special time with the kids.
While it has been hard not meeting grandparents, extended family, and friends, it’s been particularly sad to hear that so many infants like me are having their baptisms put off. We’ve been coping by reaching out to priests, family, apologists and even canon lawyers for advice on how to navigate it. We’ve accomplished a lot, including an abundant amount of research and prayer. We are so grateful for the tools and support that God has gifted us in order to get through these difficult circumstances. It is our hope that the church can make this sacrament more accessible.
Kristin Beck, communication manager, Presentation Academy
One of the most challenging things to me about this pandemic situation is the uncertainty of everything. I am one of those people who likes making lists and plans. Working for Presentation Academy has been conducive to this, for the most part, because I can plan my schedule based on the school calendar. Now, it’s a struggle to plan for much of anything because this virus doesn’t have a deadline.
The pandemic has made me realize that I can do all of the scheduling and all of the planning and all of the list-making that I want, but I am not in control. God is in control. My new normal consists of working from my living room with my dog as my officemate. But it also includes a larger chunk of time rightfully dedicated to God. I have made watching daily Mass at my parish through Facebook part of my routine and attending adoration (through social distancing, of course).