Because restrictions aimed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have led to suspension of public Masses, parishes in the Philadelphia Archdiocese are experiencing financial hardship as contributions largely have dried up.
St. Paul Parish in South Philadelphia has started a Go Fund Me page to help offset the losses and boost donations.
As of Tuesday afternoon, March 26, 11 donors had contributed $950 on the online fundraising platform toward the parish’s $5,000 goal.
Father John J. Large, pastor of St. Paul’s, said some parishioners have been calling and asking what to do about their weekly contributions.
“I appreciate that because we need to pay bills and salaries during this difficult time,” he said. “The parish employees are either working from home or coming for a few hours to do work that makes the parish function, keeping six feet away from one another and then go home to finish what they can do there.
“It is almost like, ‘welcome to the world of the virtual parish.’”
Russell DeStefano, St. Paul’s business manager, said there are four ways parishioners can support the parish:
— mail in the weekly collection envelope;
— drop off the envelope in the parish mail slot at 808 South Hutchinson Street in South Philadelphia;
— use the electronic giving option on the parish website at StPaulParish.net and click the “make a donation” button;
— from the parish website, click on the Facebook logo and donate through the GoFundMe link.
One immediate concern is the purchase of Easter lilies for the church. Since the pastor does not expect the church to be open for public Masses by Easter Sunday, April 12, this year’s order for the flowers will be limited.
Palms had been ordered and paid for months ago. They will be blessed on Palm Sunday, April 5, but distributed at a future date to be determined.
St. Paul’s next major project, the reconstruction of the chimney at St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi Church — a worship site of St. Paul Parish — has been put on hold. The parish has cost estimates but will not decide to begin the work until the coronavirus restrictions have been lifted.
“I know all of you are struggling,” Father Large said, preparing thoughts for his parishioners in an upcoming Sunday bulletin. “Even if you get a salary, you could be laid off. If you are able to give something, anything, I would appreciate it.
“Since I get free room and board, I am giving back my March monthly salary to the parish,” he said.
In the bulletin he intends to thank parishioners for the texts and emails they sent him.
“I hope you are able to put some order in your day and survive being housebound. God bless and I pray you are able to ‘keep on keeping on, even when keeping on is so very hard.’ Amen,” he said.
It has been almost two weeks since St. Paul has had public weekend Masses. Father Large said he did not know how long the restrictions would last, and acknowledged, “the unknown is very hard to live with.”
He already had one couple reschedule their wedding from the beginning of May to the end of July. They hoped the restrictions on public gatherings will be over by then, but that remains unknown.
While Catholics cannot worship together physically at Mass, they can pray at home. Father Large encouraged parishioners isolated at home to pray the rosary and read the Bible and plus daily Lenten meditations. Catholics can do this by themselves or call someone and do it together.
The pastor also urged parishioners to call elderly relatives, friends and neighbors, and offer to pick up medicine or food for them.
“Call others every day just to break the isolation of you being alone and making sure he or she is OK,” Father Large said. “We can prepare meals and drop them off, especially for the unemployed. One family left a bag with soup on the rectory steps for me.”
Catholics shopping at the Ninth Street businesses in South Philly can support them as they in turn support St. Paul’s. The parish just received a check from Dave Smith at Talluto’s for $520 from purchases at the Italian foods store on March 18.
Father Large prays the intentions for the private Masses he celebrates every day and in which he prays for all parishioners.
This coming Sunday, March 29 and those following as long as the restriction on public gatherings lasts, Father Large will open St. Paul Church for prayer by parishioners from 8 to 11 a.m. Holy Communion will not be distributed because of the restrictions concerning social distancing.
Father Large shared a prayer for an end to the coronavirus and aid for people suffering from it, which will appear in the parish’s Sunday’s bulletin:
“God our Father, we come to you in our need to ask your protection against the coronavirus that has claimed lives and has affected many. We pray for the people tasked with studying the cause and nature, for those who are ministering to the sick upfront and close at hand. We pray for those who have been diagnosed and for those who have died. Grant us the grace to work for the good of all and help those in need. Amen. Through Christ Our Lord.”
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