Sustaining the Church in difficult times

By Laurie Evans-Dinneen

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These past months, we have faced many changes in our daily lives. Children and teens are distance learning, while many parents have been laid off or shifted to work-from-home situations. We know people who have been sick or have lost loved ones. Many stores and even our churches have been temporarily closed, and the time we might have spent with friends and community members has been cut short. Our spring plans have blown up, and our long-term “planning,” we now know, has to be very fluid. For most of us, our usual way of life has been drastically altered – “the new normal” is now a common expression.

However, we have seen some amazing innovations from all of this – our priests and parish staffs have become techno-pros. Many of us are Zooming with family and friends as if the Zoom meeting was just invented. More people from more places are attending our locally streamed daily Masses. How often does daily Mass draw 200 people? Parishioners are finding more time for personal worship and setting up “cyber chapels” and home altars. Graduates are getting “card showers” and motorcade parade drive-bys, yard signs and virtual video ceremonies – they are more special now than if they just walked the stage and went to a party afterward. Dare I say, this is God’s plan?

Many of us want to know why, however. Why does God want us to experience this pandemic and the Great Pause? We can’t know God’s plan, but we can be His instrument to make it happen and to help bring us all out of this together. As Pope Francis says in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the people of God have become Missionary Disciples.” As Catholics, even our call to discipleship looks different today. As disciples of Christ, we are His boots on the ground for His Church. He is counting on us to spread the good news of His resurrection still and bring more people to His home. We are still called to make Sunday a holy day through livestream Mass, prayer, reflecting on the scriptures, and works of service and generosity.

We are called to take ownership of our faith, honoring the beliefs handed down through the generations and finding innovative ways to bring it to life. Now, even our stewardship looks different. While we cannot physically volunteer to serve in our parish community, we can still support our parishes financially through online giving or by dropping a check in the mail. Most parishes now have some online mechanism for the weekly and monthly offertory. Many of you are already sustaining parishioners, with weekly offertory and special collection support. Become an online sustaining giver. The online offertory is really giving of our first fruits – giving back to God what He has given to us. It is important for all of us to continue, as we are able, to sustain our Church during this difficult time.

As Bishop Bellisario and the team of priests are making plans to safely re-open our parishes, working within mandates by state and local authorities, what will be different when we gather again? How are we sustaining our parishes to make sure we are there for them as they are there for us now, so we can again gather in the Lord’s name? Let us be instruments of God’s plan. The Church has remained steadfast for centuries. It is how Christ will remain with us “always until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Through many other challenges, the Church and its people have answered in solidarity with others and with full trust in the Lord. This pandemic will not stop us from proclaiming the Good News, caring for the neediest in our midst, and spiritually feeding God’s flock. As in the past, we will persevere in hope. We will get through this together as we look to the life and teaching of Jesus for guidance in living as Christian stewards.

The writer serves as the Director of Stewardship and Development for the Archdiocese of Anchorage.


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