Parish Ministry Update During Quarantine (4-22-20)

April 22, 2020

The faithful cannot gather together during this unprecedented pandemic, however, the work of Vincentian Priests in parish life continues. While this is nowhere near a comprehensive list of quarantine activities in Vincentians parishes, here are some updates. (Updates from earlier this month are available here).

Fr. Joe Fitzgerald, CM, works with the indigenous Ngäbe people in Soloy, Panama. He wrote:

A layman here and myself are on the support team for the health center that Fr. Schuster built, mainly picking up medicine shipments and moving personal and patients. The sisters are cooking for health personnel and the Ngäbe security. As is the case everywhere, we are preparing for a very different Holy Week. As internet is out of reach for most people here, we are dropping off “Holy Week in Family” packets throughout the communities that includes a prayer booklet prepared by the mission team. God bless.

In Puerto Armuelles, Chiriquí, Panama, Fr. Teodoro Justavino, CM, reports that the Vincentians are trying to be creative in their outreach efforts to the people and keep the people’s connection to the parish alive. They broadcast their Masses on their morning radio program and on Instagram, and also use these media to keep in contact with lay leaders in the many communities [or villages] that they serve. On Palm Sunday, parishioners came by to pick up blessed palms, and on Easter Sunday, bottles of holy water. Aware of their parishioners’ great love of their church, Fr. Justavino will occasionally send out digital pictures of the church, its statues, and its altars.

The parish is able to help the poor and hungry through their local branch of the AIC (International Association of Charities), but they are also seeking help through the diocesan Caritas (Catholic Charities) program.

Fr. Edison Famanía, CM, is the Superior of the House in Concepción and the Pastor in Volcán, Panama. During the quarantine, he is alone in Volcán. He writes:

With regard to ministry, some lay people help me to transmit the celebration of the Eucharist. It has been a very good experience. The local authorities are distributing food and food coupons to support the farmers and small business owners. As a parish we are considering collecting food to distribute to some of the poor families. The people have expressed their solidarity through many gestures.  

Frs. Norberto Abrego, CM, and Eliseo Troetsch, CM, report that in the parish of St. Mary of Bethlehem, located in Escobal, across the Panama Canal from Colón, they have adhered to all the precautionary measures that have been mandated by the national government and suspended all activities that involve large groups of people. The Fathers report:

God is still good, and in these circumstances we have experienced the generosity of many people, which has allowed us to continue to help the poorest families. Some of the activities that we are carrying out as a parish are the distribution of some 50 food baskets, transporting critically infirm people to their medical appointments, and picking up prescriptions and buying medicines in Colón, when there is a shortage in Escobal.

At St. Mary of the Mission Parish in Opelika, Alabama Fr. Vince Finnerty, CM, reported that the immigrant population is going to go hungry. The local food bank is helping by giving food to the parish at about $0.18 a pound. Sr. Olivia, a Trinitarian sister, is organizing that and getting food out to different families. They are doing their best to transmit the Mass online.

In the Hispanic Apostolate in Southampton, Long Island, New York, the Vincentians broadcasted Holy Week services from their house on the Facebook site, “Apostolado Hispano Southampton, NY.” The Palm Sunday Mass alone had more than 5,000 views (as of this writing), as people passed the link to their network of family and friends.

In Charlotte, North Carolina the Vincentians formed a group of men from different ministries of the parish as Knights of Columbus. In early April, they had a virtual meeting to create a strategic plan to keep the food pantry (Casa Marillac) well stocked to serve those most in need, especially those who are temporarily out of work. The plan involves all members of the parish. Upon finishing the meeting, they received the official word that Council 17501 Our Lady of Guadalupe was established.

The Vincentians in Charlotte also put together a virtual Easter Concert (in Spanish) with three of their talented choir members (Click here to see the concert).

In Greensboro, North Carolina at St. Mary’s Parish, weekday Masses are recorded and uploaded to Facebook and the parish webpage. The Vincentians also post prayers on the website for an end to the pandemic and for those who suffer.

In response to requests by parishioners, the Vincentians also decided to open the smaller, older church for private prayer on Sundays from 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm. The people are able to come and pray in the church, but no more than ten at a time.

Since house blessings are not possible, the parish provides a simple ritual and a holy water container and encourages the people to follow the rite as a family at home.

The Vincentians refer families with food insecurity and low funds to food pantries and places that pay utility bills. As a parish, they also assist some unemployed workers and their families who lack income to pay their rent and bills.

Each Vincentian there telephones parish leaders, parishioners, and acquaintances and friends, as a way to encourage them in this time of pandemic, and, conversely, parishioners frequently call the Vincentians to encourage them. They write, “We expect that with time, we will get better at ministry in a time of pandemic.”

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