Friars’ Ministries during the COVID-19 Pandemic – UPDATE

Several of our friars were able to continue to send updates on their ministries’ responses and precautions taken during this current crisis around the COVID-19 strain of the coronaviruses. We posted many of them last month, but here are a few new additions.

Friars’ Ministries Vis-à-vis the COVID-19 Pandemic

Chicopee, MA (from Fr. Joe Bayne, OFM Conv., Pastor of the Basilica of St. Stanislaus, and Team – March 18, 2020):
Our Polish Lenten Retreat was videotaped and will be available to our people on our web site. Bravo to visiting Friar Pawel Odoj, from the Kakow Province, ministering in Ukraine. He is young, vibrant, and has been a joy to have at the Friary. Our school prepared learning packets for all students, that were picked up by parents outside in a very organized fashion. The Upper & Lower Basilica are being sanitized and will stay closed. I will take care of funerals at the funeral homes. The Friars here will prepare Sunday Mass Readings with brief Homilies in both English & Polish, for our Web Site. We are talking about the possibly of blessing Palms and distributing them in the same manner that food is dispersed at a drive thru restaurant, since take-out is permitted in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Again, along this line, we may be able to offer Święconka, via a common blessing in the parking lot, with folks remaining in their cars. Needless to say, Friars and Staff are in great dialogue. Fr. Chis Dudek, OFM Conv. and our Franciscan Sisters (FMSA and FSSJ) have joined us for Conventual Mass in the Friary. We are still under the max of 10 people gathering in one space. Needless to say Br. Michael Duffy, OFM Conv., our medical guide, is keeping us all informed. He is very busy at Elms College with planning and adjustments during the crisis.

Ellicott City, MD 
Vicar Provincial, Fr. Michael Heine, OFM Conv. has prepared a reflection for the Companions urging all to look to the example of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, during these days of great distress over the coronavirus. To access the video, click on this link: Do Little Things Out of Love!
Farm News: Despite the fact that things are somewhat shutdown and we are all staying in place, Spring is here, and new growth is happening on the farm. To view the latest Little Portion Farm Newsletter, click on this link: Farm News

Syracuse, NY (from Friar Rick Riccioli, OFM Conv.,  Pastor of the Franciscan Church of the Assumption – March 29, 2020):
Assumption is on Alexa! Amazon’s innovative technology mixes with the gentle wisdom of Friar Robert Amrhein, OFM Conv. to bring the faithful a daily message of encouragement based on the readings of the Liturgy. Go to (make sure you’re logged into your Amazon account) and enable the skill. Then, just say “Alexa, open Assumption Today.”

Seaside Park/Heights, NJ (from Fr. Michael Lorentsen, OFM Conv., Pastor of Saint Junipero Serra Parish – March 30, 2020):
While Saint Junipero Serra parish has canceled all public Masses, the parish’s Saint Francis Food Pantry and Simon’s Soup Kitchen are considered, “essential services.” Both programs have implemented the necessary pandemic protocols established by their respective accrediting organizations. The ongoing problem of food insecurity grows significantly in light of the shut down of various restaurants, bars and boardwalks in the Jersey Shore areas. The soup kitchen is still preparing meals two nights a week. Guests are no longer able to dine inside, but volunteers are putting the fresh-cooked meals in boxes and distributing them to each guest. Before the pandemic, the soup kitchen had seen a 50% increase in the number of people served. Since the pandemic, the kitchen is exceeding 100 guests per evening. Saint Francis Food Pantry no longer invites guests into the pantry, they line up outside on designated spots to maintain safe social distancing. Bagged groceries are brought out to these guests based on one’s household size. Last Wednesday, the pantry was open for three hours and provided groceries to 50 different families in need. We receive grocery donations from Fulfill, NJ (a food bank), parishioners and local businesses. The majority of volunteers for both programs are over the age of 60. With many volunteers needing to stay in place at home, the pantry has taken some drastic volunteer recruiting measures.

Siler City, NC (from Fr. Julio Martinez, OFM Conv., Pastor of St. Julia Catholic Church-April 3, 2020):
In an attempt to give some meaning to this moment in the lives of the children of the parish, Friar Julio posted a special video. He asked the children to do the parish a favor and pray for everyone in the community. Several videos have been posted to give updates to parishioners, in English and in Spanish.
(Update: April 9, 2020) St. Julia Church is a place of distribution of chicken at $1.00 a pound during Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Saturday. The chief of police in collaboration with the chicken plant asked to use the parish property. The local sheriff’s department attended to the hundreds of cars that came. It’s a well organized operation where no one has to get out of their cars and all precautions are taken. We are happy to be able to collaborate with this endeavor that is a true help to so many needy families in our greater community. St. Julia’s has received a generous donation of chicken and $1,000 for the use of our property.

Ellicott City, MD (from Minister Provincial, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. – April 9, 2020)
Sixteen friars celebrated the Holy Thursday liturgy behind locked doors in The Shrine of St Anthony Chapel of St. Joseph Cupertino Friary.  Fr. Michael Lasky, OFM Conv.  was the principal celebrant and homilist.  Vatican rules for this year’s celebration prohibited the washing of feet, the sign of peace, and processing to a repository, so the very reverent celebration of the Lord’s Supper was over in just 45 minutes!
(Update: April 10, 2020) Celebrant, Fr. Everest Valentine Nyaki Mkenda, OFM Conv. venerating the “old rugged cross” on Good Friday 2020, in The Shrine of St. Anthony Chapel, with only friars present – behind locked doors.

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