Here Are a Few Ways to Support Your Parish Priest During the COVID-19 Shutdown
Four Sundays, including Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. That’s how long it has been since I have celebrated a Mass at my parish with people present, as of writing this. It’s a long time. I know it’s been a long time for you as well as you figure out how to get through this time dealing with this virus. A lot of that probably involves a change to spiritual habits as our access to the sacraments has been limited. As a parish priest, I grieve with you as you struggle through this time. Many people have asked me what they can do to support me. Here are six ways that you can support your parish priest during this Coronavirus shutdown.
The first thing you can do to support your parish priest is to pray. I ask you to pray for three things in particular. Pray for all those who have been affected by this virus. Those who have it, those whose loved ones have it, those who take care of anybody who has it, those whose jobs are affected by this, those who have fear or anxiety about the future because of the virus. Pray for them. Secondly, pray for your parish. A parish is supposed to be a community that gathers together around the Eucharist and now we can’t gather together. This is a stressful time for the parish as a community. Finally, pray for your priest as a person. He has fears and anxieties like everybody else. He probably has family members who are dealing with all these stress factors. Pray for him.
The second thing you can do is to continue to financially support the parish, IF YOU ARE ABLE. The staff at the parish still need to be paid and bills are still coming in. I know that many priests at parishes are spending a lot of time and energy these days looking at and adjusting financial plans and budgets. The primary source of income for most parishes is through the collection basket, so if you are able to continue to give to your parish during these times, please do so. Mail in a check or send the money electronically, it doesn’t matter. Also consider that many families will not be able to give as they are usually able to give or as they would like to be able to give as jobs are affected. If you are in a place to possibly give more than you usually do, pray about doing so. If your job is not affected during this time and you qualify for the money from the stimulus package, possibly consider giving some of that to the parish. Most diocesan priests qualify for the money from the stimulus package and almost every one of them I have spoken to are giving the money directly to the parish.
The third thing you can do is to support your parish’s efforts to serve you and the people of the parish. Many priests have creatively figured out ways to make things like Eucharistic Adoration available through a window, or ways for people to still go to confession while respecting safe social distance protocols. One way to thank your priest for doing this is to avail yourself of this opportunity. It can be disheartening for a priest to go to great lengths to make what sacraments he can available for people and then to have nobody take advantage of it. If confession is available, go. If Eucharistic Adoration is available, go.
The fourth thing you can do is to not expect your parish priest to do everything you have seen done on the internet. There have been some absolutely incredible ways that parish priests have been able to connect with their parishioners during these times. I’ve seen priests placing pictures of their parishioners in the pews while they celebrate Masses in empty churches. I’ve seen priests putting devotional candles to represent people during the Easter Vigil and the candles they would have been holding. I’ve seen priests taking the Blessed Sacrament in airplanes to bless entire counties at a time. I’ve seen parades on the backs of trucks with the Blessed Sacrament to bring it to the people. All of these things are very good, but don’t expect or demand that your parish do everything. An email that begins with “Why aren’t we doing what such and such parish is doing?” is significantly less helpful than one that begins with, “Thank you for what you have done. I would like to help your efforts during these times and here is what I can help with and that I have seen work in other places…”
The fifth thing you can do is to return full force once we are safely able to return. I know, as a parish priest myself, that one of the things getting me through these times of Masses alone without a congregation, is being able to look forward to seeing people in the pews again. As much as you miss going to church, your priest misses seeing you there and praying with you in person! As soon as we safely can, COME BACK!
And finally, one thing you can do is to gently check in with your priest on a personal level if you know him well enough. A card, an email, a phone call just to say you are thinking of him. Offer him a raincheck to take him out to dinner when you’re able to. Many priests live alone and this time can be very lonely, even if the priest is a giant introvert. Check in on your priest and let him know that you are there, thinking and praying for him. The simplest card makes a huge difference.
I know that people’s creative juices have been going strong during these times. Priests have gotten creative in trying to bring Christ to the people during this lock down and we’ve all gotten creative in showing our love for each other. So, please don’t take this as an exhaustive list of ways to support your parish priest; if you have another way, please do it! We’re all in this together, and on behalf of all your parish priests- we’re praying for you! Please pray for us!