As my husband and I gather our five children in front of the screen for yet another week of virtual Mass we eagerly await the day that we can celebrate Mass in our parish church. These months of isolation and separation have left a void and a longing. A longing for Christ and his people.
When we ease back into parish life it will at first look unfamiliar as we strive to keep one another safe. Fear is already felt by many and our parishes can be a sanctuary of calm amidst the storms that many of us face in our daily lives. We must assure each other that this time will not last forever and that we are stronger together as a faith community.
It will be important now more than ever to reach out to people in our parish. It could be as simple as a friendly phone call, text message or email welcoming people back into the church. In order to be the body of Christ for those around us we can call upon the fruits of the Holy Spirit which include joy, love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, charity and patience to guide us in these encounters.
Small faith gatherings, which have been held virtually throughout the past few months, will be vital for helping our parish communities forge ahead in the future. Small groups allow for more intimate faith sharing and connectivity among parishioners.
Organizations such as the Augustine Institute, Word on Fire and Ascension Press all provide excellent resources for Bible studies, lecture series and discussions on faith and the culture. Parishes should use this time to utilize the gifts and talents of parishioners who are willing to lead these groups.
Technology can be used as a means to connect people with each other and the happenings in the parish. One positive throughout these months of quarantine has been the explosion of Catholic resources that have been made available. There are no shortages of well-done videos, podcasts, virtual Masses, lectures, musical events, etc.
Parishes should not shy away from using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to engage their community and welcome them back to church.
Our archdiocese has created a new initiative called Arise. The purpose of Arise is to help restore parish life after the pandemic. Parishes can visit ArchPhila.org/Arise for webinars, videos, parish guidelines for reopening, an upcoming podcast and much more.
During this continued time of isolation and separation from the Mass we can all prayerfully discern where the Lord is calling us. How can we help our pastors open up their churches stronger than ever? Who can we personally invite within our circle of family and friends to experience Christ in the Mass? We should never underestimate the power of a personal invitation.
As we patiently await the day when we can worship together in real time, as a community of faith, we ask for God’s grace and mercy. As Proverbs 3:5-6 assures us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Sarah Albanese is a member of St. Pius X Parish, Broomall.
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