Parishes affected by coronavirus

The few attendees at Christ the King Parish practiced social distancing at Sunday Mass on
March 22. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Megan Marley

KANSAS CITY — How are parishes coping with orders for social distancing and the closure of public Masses?

Most parish operations have been affected in one way or another.

“We’re just hoping that it’s a couple of weeks and then we get normalcy back, but I also don’t know that that’s going to happen. It’s just a waiting game,” said Amanda Prine, Principal of St. Mary’s School in Nevada.

“Everybody’s been disappointed to hear [school and public Masses are closed], but not upset—they understand the challenges that we’re facing right now, and that we’re taking the precautions that are necessary,” she added.

Since social distancing means no Mass or church functions for the foreseeable future, parishes are finding ways to keep the community connected.

“Father, who is very anti-Facebook, made a Facebook [account] so he can be posting from the parish Facebook page, and he’s been sharing things daily. He’s also been sending out emails, and we still made several calls—we’ve been working in the building all week, and still keeping communication open,” explained Prine. She said that because of the parish’s smaller size and location, internet technology is less utilized. Phone communication is key.

A mix of phone communication and the internet is helping keep Guardian Angels Parish in the Westport area of Kansas City connected.

“We have an email blast that we send out, we have our website that they can visit, and some people—our secretary is great, she knows some of our older people don’t use internet at all, she’s actually personally calling to keep them updated,” said Kathy McLouth, business manager for the parish. Guardian Angels parishioners are also doing a good job of keeping each other informed via phone, especially if they don’t have internet, she said.

At St. Therese (North) Parish in Kansas City, technology plays a large role in communications.

“We are fortunate with all the advantages of modern technology and social communication, and we’re trying to exploit them to the best of our ability. So for example, we are live streaming and then posting some Masses [on Facebook],” said Fr. Joseph Cisetti, pastor of the parish. He said that a list of resources can be found from the homepage of the parish’s website, and they also have a YouTube channel. Several faith opportunities—such as a streamed Holy Hour, novenas, meditations, the Rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy—are available or in the works to be available online.

“In addition to this, we also want to have a more personal touch…this is a time to reach out to the elderly,” Cisetti added. “We have run a database of our parishioners who are 70 or older, and we have a team who will be calling them—so each one will receive a phone call asking how they’re doing, is there anything they need help with, are they aware of our online resources, is there anything the parish can do to help at this time, do they have any prayer requests?”

“We want people to feel connected, we want them to stay connected to their parish,” he concluded.

Schools are also continuing with modified class situations, often utilizing internet and/or paper-packet coursework.

“Our school is following our public school’s guidelines, so we are also closed right now. We did close the daycare this week so we could do extra cleaning and kind of determine what our new policies are going to be, because obviously some people are still going to have to go to work and we want to be able to provide that service, but we also have to make sure that our staff and children remain healthy,” said Principal Prine of St. Mary’s School and ECC in Nevada.

“Our building is now closed off to all parishioners and visitors; parents of our school can’t go beyond the lobby if they come in for anything, and we’ve been keeping extra sets of doors closed and disinfecting everything like crazy,” she added.

“We are very fortunate because our school has a robust technology program that we in the past have had virtual school days. Teachers will receive additional training Monday and Tuesday—on Wednesday school starts again, but virtual school,” Fr. Cisetti said of St. Therese (North) School. “We try to do the best we can.”

Some parishes with food pantries have changed their processes in serving clients and saw a jump in requests for aid.

“We anticipated some changes for safety sake and are following some recommendations from Harvesters,” said McLouth at Guardian Angels. “We were doing where clients could come in and basically shop at the food pantry, but now—they still have choices our food pantry coordinator gives them, if they call ahead and make an appointment, we pre-pack it.”

There are also quite a few walk-in clients.

“Where we are there’s a large homeless population and we want to take care of them. We’re having extra cleaning, we do have hand sanitizer for keeping clean hands, trying to follow the recommendations that’ve been put out,” she continued.

“Our St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry continues to be open, but with increased health features,” said Fr. Cisetti at St. Therese (North). The food pantry now features a drive-up pickup.

While Masses are cancelled, the parish bills are not. Lack of income from collections at Mass are likely to have an impact.

“The next couple weekends will be the test on that, as far as our donations—I do definitely see a challenge there. We have online giving available, some people mail in checks, but I do figure donations will be down a lot,” said McLouth.

“We realize there are a lot of people whose incomes are going to be compromised, and honestly, our income is going to be compromised too,” Cisetti said. One way parishioners are still supporting St. Therese is via online giving, though mail ins and drop off works too.

Other parishes rely more on mail-in or drop off donations.

“Most of our parishioners are older and I don’t know that they would use [online giving]. They just drop it in the mail or drop it off in the mailbox outside the parish,” said Prine.

Despite the difficulty of the current pandemic situation, the Church has lasted over 2,000 years that included persecution, plague and social maladies, and will continue.

As St. John of the Cross said, “The road is narrow. He who wishes to travel it more easily must cast off all things and use the cross as his cane. In other words, he must be truly resolved to suffer willingly for the love of God in all things.”

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October 23, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph