For weeks we have been focused on the health impact of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than half a million people in the U.S. But in recent weeks the economic toll has come into clearer focus, and our parishes and communities are among those places impacted. Given these realities, I am introducing a parish emergency relief fund as a component of this year’s Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal.
The developments related to the new coronavirus seem to change daily, and I am proud of the efforts that our priests, deacons and parishioners have made to reach out to those in need, often in very creative ways.
We have seen drive-through confession, priests who walk or bike through the boundaries of their parish to make the presence of Jesus known, parishes who are calling all their members to see if they need assistance, and many online initiatives to bring the Mass and the Gospel to everyone during this pandemic. As Archbishop, I have given pastors the authority to celebrate Confirmation for those who are prepared to receive it. Indeed, we are diligently working on plans to prudently restore public celebration of the Mass, while still making efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. This will have to be done in a gradual manner.
Clearly, our parishes are not sitting idle, despite the restrictions necessitated by the current crisis. At the same time, our parishes are feeling the financial impact of not being able to take up a weekly collection to fund their ministries, including those that help the poor and homeless. This shortfall in donations has resulted in staff losing their jobs or having their hours reduced.
In normal years, the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal raises money for vital ministries like our Catholic Schools, Catholic Charities, our seminaries and numerous evangelization efforts. Those ministries will continue to be funded by the Appeal this year, but the 2020 collection will also include a Parish Relief Fund to help parishes hardest hit by the spread of COVID-19. This special fund will assist those churches with families and parishioners in need, provide payroll support to parishes, help make up for shortfalls in offertory giving and help pay for efforts to increase giving.
I am aware of the many people who have lost their jobs or been furloughed during the ongoing shutdown. For those in this circumstance it is important to remember the parable of the widow who gave two small coins worth only a few cents. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty…’ (Mk. 12:43-44).
We see here how much Jesus values the gift of trust in God’s providence and praises the widow for it. In the same way, Christ accepts whatever you can give, including your prayers for those in need. If God is blessing you with stable finances and the means to give more than you normally do, then I urge you to prayerfully consider making a substantial gift in this time of need for so many.
I would like to close with Jesus’ frequent exhortation to his followers: ‘Do not be afraid.’ The news is filled with messages of fear and reminders of our fallen nature. With the gift of faith, we trust in God’s daily provision for us and serve as channels of grace and blessing for others. Let us not be afraid to proclaim our faith in Christ with our actions and our words. Thank you for your generosity during this time. I am certain the Lord will bless you!
Make your gift today at archden.org/donate.