A Carmelite Parish During a Pandemic

September 4, 2020 |

When Covid-19 struck our region, life changed in our parishes. We had to end any physical touch during the ‘Sign of Peace’ at Mass. Holy Water was removed from our churches. Everything had to be sanitized after Mass – door handles and pews, and people were required to sit at least six feet apart at daily Mass.

But the saddest part in the evolution of ecclesial pandemic change was when all churches had to be closed and all Holy Week and Easter liturgies cancelled for the public.

When I received this word, my heart dropped. It hit me like a tonne of bricks as I considered what this meant for Palm Sunday, the Procession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday, the Passion on Good Friday, and the Veneration of the Wood of the Cross, and then the Mother of all Liturgies, the Easter Vigil and the joys of Easter Sunday.

So what does a Carmelite do? Rise up with the People of God and take up the challenge.

Live-Stream Masses

I took the original altar stone from 1895 out of our safe and placed it on the dining room table. Word went out, and Mass and Services went live every day on Facebook. It’s been a true joy to be able to continue celebrating Mass, united with the parishioners in their homes. It’s been a challenge and also a joy, setting up the liturgical environment with different colours in the dining room every day. But God’s Word went out! And God’s Word got put into action!

Social Justice and Ministry

Myself and a local diocesan priest were asked by the Bishop’s office to do an emergency course with the Niagara Region Infection Control in order to respond to emergency hospital calls. The diocese wanted no one to die without the celebration of the Sacraments! And we made sure of that. Yes, I have been afraid at times, but the Spirit has always been there to guide me.

Funerals are the saddest part of this whole experience. To have a crisis is one thing, but to lose a loved one, and not be able to be at their bedside when they’re dying, or have all the normal services and rituals was very painful.

Social Justice Ministry

It soon became evident that many families in our downtown neighbourhood would be in dire need. Our Carmelite parish put out a call to the People of God to assist with food and household items. In less than 30 minutes, cars bringing food and gift cards lined our parish driveway. We were able to feed so many moms and hungry families in time for Easter and all throughout the Easter Season. I never thought I would see the day when I had to deliver fresh milk and eggs and vegetables to the doors of needy families. Why not? The poor must be fed… and if we can’t, then who?

Help for the Homeless

Before long, we received word that some ‘tent cities’, one right in our neighbourhood, were being set up by the homeless because many shelters were full. Action was needed immediately. Let the People of God know! And that we did. Before long, word got out … and through the generosity of our parishioners, we had food, clothing, tents, blankets, sleeping bags, luggage sets, pillows, water, and personal hygiene products coming in. The Gospel was put into action. Prayers were answered.

Nothing less should be expected from Carmelites and those with whom we minister. Letting the Motherly instinct of Mary kick in, along with the fiery zeal of Elijah!

In early May, most of the homeless were moved to local motels, yet more started coming into town. The pandemic is far from over, so we continue to weather the storm with our eyes open to see the needs around us; our ears ready to hear the cries of the poor; and our hands open to help the helpless.


Source: Carmelite Review, Vol. 59, Issue E1, 2020

Fr. Gerard Power, O.Carm.
Fr. Gerard Power, O.Carm., is pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.
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