Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic the challenge to stay connected to one’s faith has been hampered by many factors: quarantine, social distancing, isolation, fear as well as access to technology by some to stay informed.
Parishes have used every resource they can to share updates with the faithful, including sending out mailings, letters or bulletins. Those with access to technology can find on websites and social media the Masses streamed live, videos on saints of the day, or reflections on the Scriptures.
More than a dozen priests have committed to weekly talks, providing updates on the Parish, which include measures taken to ensure safety when the faithful return, or updates on the financial needs. Most of these talks include a comforting spiritual element which serves to connect everyone.
Low tech efforts are also being taken, such as mailing and phone calls to the faithful to ensure people that the Catholic Church cares.
St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Myers took on the task of phoning each of the 3,650 registered families. This herculean effort was distributed among staff (working from home) and focused on learning how people were coping with the pandemic.
The response to the calls has been overwhelmingly positive as those who are isolated appreciated the contact from the outside world, in particular from their Parish.
“It has been an incredible thing,” St. John XXIII Pastor Father Robert Tabbert said. “Everyone has been so appreciative. We are learning things about them, but we are also learning about the issues they have. Calls are also being directed to me and the other priests here if there is a need for spiritual support.”
The calls have helped to provide a level of comfort for people who needed to know that the Parish was still there, Churches are open and when they are ready to return, everything will be okay.
“People just want a listening ear,” Father Tabbert explained. “People respect what we did in closing and in reopening as well as how we are taking every measure to ensure it is safe.”
St. William Parish in Naples is posting a series of items in the weekly bulletin called “Faith During a Pandemic.” This behind-the-scenes look at changes that have taken place in the Church is targeted for those who have not returned or who were curious about the reasons behind certain changes. Images from inside the church show the extensive cleaning taking place between Masses and what might appear different, including an empty brochure rack and prayer candles removed. All this explanation is to lessen the shock and to answer questions many have.
Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers regularly posts images inside its Church during weekend Masses. These show how everyone is social distancing and along with the photo suggestions are made on how to slowly return, such as attending a daily Mass before going to a Sunday Mass.
With the dispensation to attend Sunday Mass extended until Sept. 1, 2020 by Bishop Frank J. Dewane, a number of Parishes have created videos and taken other actions to inform the parishioners on what to expect when people return in greater numbers. All of the actions taken at the Parishes are being done to remove any doubts about returning.