The shelter-in-place restrictions that were put on the church, and the community, and then the nation as a whole, have been met with creativity, resilience and a mission, as Pope Francis said early in his papacy, to meet people where they are.
That has meant in their homes, in their cars and at least a social distance away.
It has been particularly challenging as Easter approached, with the liturgies that draw the faithful to gather in larger numbers. Here are stories of how some parishes are meeting the needs of the times:
“They were amazing,” Rev. Mark Wiesner said of the Catholic Community of Pleasanton’s first attempt at drive-up confession.
With the Knights of Columbus arriving early to assist the pastor by setting up orange cones and traffic control for two lanes of confession, ensuring both safety and privacy, they were set for confession, which was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.
The first car drove up at 12:30 p.m.
The longest wait time was estimated to be 30 minutes. By closing time, 60 to 70 cars had moved through, with two priests hearing confession. “The turnout was amazing,” Father Wiesner said.
Palms in the mail
Writing an Easter letter to mail to the 600 families of St. Benedict Parish in Oakland, Rev. Jayson Landeza thought of a way to distribute the palms in the parish office that would not be handed to parishioners on Palm Sunday.
He would put them with the letter.
“You certainly have to cut them in half,” he said, when asked about how you mail palms.
He put the equivalent of two palms into each envelope, and they went through the parish mailing machine just fine.
St. Columba Parish in Oakland had a well-established Sunday Mass available on the parish’s YouTube channel, but with no public gatherings, the community gatherings have taken on a digital dimension.
Parishioners have been attending Mass through Zoom, as well as YouTube. While unable to meet in person, they have kept part of the parish’s busy schedule going through meeting on various media. The parish soup and movie night pivoted into a Netflix party, while the Town Hall, finance council and continuation of JustFaith series on racial justice relied on the Zoom platform.
“Technology has created a sense of community,” said Rev. Aidan McAleenan, pastor of the North Oakland church. “It’s given people a sense of community and unity in a way we didn’t usually have.”
Full story at Catholic Voice Oakland.