April 3, 2020
Here’s how friars are coping with the lockdown
Photo Collage BY Brenda Grannan
COMPILED BY TONI CASHNELLI
Mike Dubec, OFM
Duns Scotus Friary, Berkley, Mich.
Mike Dubec, OFMWe’re all basically staying in. We’re spending more time talking, more time at the dinner table. The virus is the main thing but we don’t want to be obsessed by that. Mike Lenz usually starts the day by asking, “What’s the news from the outside?”, like we’re roped in!
I like to get out early in the day and walk, but now there’s no contact with neighbors. It’s an eerie feeling, not to see any movement.
Louie Zant, OFM
St. Moses the Black Friary, Detroit, Mich.
Louie Zant, OFMFor me, it’s a slower pace. You can start the day later and take your time at liturgy; there’s more time for prayer.
The worst thing is concern about getting sick and not being able to help keep the food pantry open at the parish. We’re trying to stay safe. [At the food pantry], we have the goods set up on the sidewalk. People drive up and volunteers put the things in their cars.
Interprovincial Postulancy, Silver Spring, Md.
William ComptonThe best thing is the fraternity with the guys, just talking more often. We’re usually gone from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. or later; now we’re doing classes online through Zoom. Usually I’m at a soup kitchen for outside ministry. Lately I’ve been helping Br. Ed [Demyanovich] with maintenance stuff here like power-washing.
The difficult thing is not being able to go out to get what you want because everything is in short supply.
Max Langenderfer, OFM
Mercy Community at Winton Woods, Cincinnati
Max Langenderfer, OFMI’m spending a lot of time walking at Winton Woods and Mt. Airy Forest; it’s really good to be out and get back to nature. I always wanted to be a hermit. Right now I’m looking out my window; I saw a bluebird fly by, which I’ve almost never seen. There are some really nice red-tailed hawks.
The thing I miss most is the lack of Eucharistic celebrations I have with the older folks at Mercy Community and at Twin Towers; older people are so appreciative of being able to come to Mass. I have the Sunday Masses at St. Gabriel’s in Glendale, and I really miss the diversity, being there with people from Cameroon and Ghana, France, the Philippines, Korea. I can tell them stories about where I’ve been [as a missionary].
Henry Beck, OFM
St. Francis Retreat House, Easton, Pa.
Henry Beck, OFMI am most grateful for the greater sense of quiet and stillness during this time of “staying in place.” I am rediscovering the grace and strength of taking time in the early morning to pray and to journal.
I would say the most difficult thing about this time is not being able to see friends and Sunday community members in person. I miss very much the lively exchanges that happen after our Sunday Masses here and with colleagues on various teams.
Maynard Tetreault, OFM
St. Moses the Black Friary, Detroit, Mich.
Maynard Tetreault, OFMThe best thing about being home is catching up on email and getting things organized on the desk.
The worst thing is fear of catching the virus, and fears for a brother in New York who has to go out and buy things for himself.
(NOTE: Maynard, who is 86, has been sidelined from his on-call work at Henry Ford Hospital.)
Norbert Bertram, OFM
Queen of Peace Friary, Burlington, Wis.
Norbert Bertram, OFMI thought I would be bored staying home; it’s not bothering me at all. We spend a lot of time in prayer. I work when I want to work, pray when I want to pray and walk when I want to walk.
It’s a different atmosphere with everything closed down. People who came to church here during the day, we cut that out. It’s a whole different world, and we’re gonna get used to it. It’s sad, it really is.
Matt Ryan, OFM
St. Joseph Interprovincial Friary, Chicago, Ill.
Matt Ryan, OFMA silver lining to this stressful time is that we at St. Joseph Friary have gotten to spend more time together as a community. We have had several ill brothers who have been self-quarantined in their rooms – some for weeks – who need the support of the other brothers. We have had to care for them and assume and divide new duties since we now have no cook (or other visitors.) So we have come to care for each other in deeper and more profound ways.
Mark Gehret, OFM
St. Francis of Assisi Friary, Greenwood, Miss.
Mark Gehret, OFMJust this afternoon (April 1) the governor issued a stay-at-home order. Mississippi is a pretty rural state; they’re late in doing this. I do maintenance for the whole plant, so it’s not been a problem for me. It’s just an inconvenience. Up until today workplaces were still operating except for restaurants. I hope the hardware stores will still be open. If they close, we’ll juggle a lot here, what you can get and what you can’t fix.
People can’t wait for it to be over. It’s a real trial for health care workers, a drain emotionally and physically. At prayer tonight I prayed for people who have to be alone [in the hospital] during the dying process. A lot of people are waiting on that $1,200 stimulus check to come through. We have to rely on our faith and trust in God; that’s what will get us through all of this.
Alex Kratz, OFMIn Pontiac, Mich., Alex Kratz is still hearing confessions at the Shrine Grotto of the Immaculate Heart of Mary – and maintaining distancing.
While St. Joseph Chapel is closed, volunteers are helping coordinate confessions in the adjacent grotto from noon to 2 p.m. on pre-determined days (see mothermary). How does it work? Those awaiting confession must stay in their cars in the parking lot until it’s their turn, first-come, first-serve. While Alex is seated in the shrine-grotto, volunteers ensure that one person at a time enters the side room to make their confession from there. Between penitents, volunteers keep door handles thoroughly disinfected.
(Sheltering in place this week at St. Francis Retreat House in Easton, Pa., Scott Obrecht shared this photo of a magnolia tree in full bloom and the thoughts it inspired.)
Finally, the sun! Preceded by cloudy, rainy skies.
Life seems so dark, so scary.
The reality is, it is, for now.
Thank God for spring.
For birds singing, and for trees –
some budding, some budded, and some in full splendor.
Dear God, give us the eyes, the ears, to see, to hear the wonders of creation.
To feel the gentle, cooling breeze of your loving breath upon us.
The wonder has always been there,
we just didn’t take time to look around, to listen, and to really see.
PHOTO BY SCOTT OBRECHT, OFMThe magnolia outside Scott’s window was in full bloom this week.
Just as we see the beauty of a tree,
help us to see the beauty in each other – now that we have time.
Help us to be concerned, to care for each other – now that we have time.
Help us to help each other to discover new ways to do so – now that we have time.
Look around: Do we see beauty?
Do we see hope?
Do we believe, despite the darkness, that things will get better?
Yes! Yes! Yes!
We are beauty! We are hope! One day, all will be better.
For us. For others.
We are the spring.
We are the tree that blooms, the sun that shines.
We are the hope for each other.
Do we believe it?
–Scott Obrecht, OFM
BY BOB BRUNO, OFM
In TV commercials, Paul Marcarelli asked, “Can you hear me now?”Paul Marcarelli, the actor known as “Test Man” in the Verizon commercials that ran for years, made iconic the phrase: “Can you hear me now?” Those words echo in my head as the world navigates its way through COVID-19.
Within a matter of weeks, life across the planet at Warp10 has skidded to well below impulse-power (pardon my Star Trek-ese). Many freeways now have more lanes than cars on them; airports have become parking lots for idled jetliners. Schools are closed for the remainder of the academic year; weekend youth sports competitions are suspended. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic competitions are rescheduled for July 2021. “Can you hear me now?” The number of empty shelves in our grocery stores increases with each visit; routine medical care is postponed indefinitely. Dining in restaurants is restricted to carry-outs only; a new protocol of “social distancing” has become common parlance, along with “flattening the curve.” “Can you hear me now?”
The powerful US economy producing a $21T surging gross domestic product with a soaring stock market has throttled to idle; the loud and virulent cacophony of partisan political bludgeoning that has become standard cultural fare is worse than ever. The price of a gallon of gas is cheaper than ever, but travel is restricted to life-support errands; Disneyland and Disney World, theaters and theme parks are shuttered. “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?” For the first time in my life, and yours, our global faith community is indefinitely dispensed from our Sunday Mass obligation; the rich liturgies of Palm Sunday, Chrism Mass, the Triduum and Solemnity of Easter will be celebrated virtually via the internet. “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?”
Millions are reaching their faith communities via the internet.Following 34 years of active service in the US Air Force Chaplain Corps, I now serve in the Air Force Civilian Service corps as Catholic chaplain and pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Community at Langley AFB in Hampton Roads, Va. On today’s national security radar are roughly half-a-dozen combat zones, mostly in Southwest Asia and Africa, that continue to take the lives of our young service personnel. Yet at this very moment in time the single greatest cause of death among those same young Americans is not combat, but suicide, to include two cadets in their final year at the Air Force Academy this past week. “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?”
I don’t believe it is an accident that this is occurring in the heart of our Lenten and Easter seasons. In salvation history God has used a wide array of “platforms” to get humanity’s attention when it dismissed Him as irrelevant to human life, but I suspect COVID-19 exceeds even the great flood of Noah’s era. How sad that it takes this magnitude of a pandemic for humanity’s Creator to get humanity’s attention. A globalized secularism, an increasingly sophisticated technological prowess, a frenetic pace of change within a culture in hyper-drive is forced to confront its vulnerability and dependency on the author and source of every single heartbeat of life, born and unborn.
Of the three elements of prayer, fasting and almsgiving that lead us to the heart of Lent, this year’s experience of fasting will be one for the history books: a rugged fast from our freedoms of movement and assembly, sacraments and sacred gatherings, family events and provincial chapters. People and routines taken for granted have suddenly gained an exponential importance. In Michaels Woods, the neighborhood where I live just outside of Hampton, I see scores of families walking, biking and spending quality time together in their back yards or on the neighborhood streets where they would otherwise be scattered to the winds of the weekend. The Sunday edition of our newspaper publishes games for family recreation and recipes for interactive family meal preparation. Costly in terms of the loss of life and employment, especially among the poor, is it possible that the world might come out of COVID-19 wiser and healthier, having died to empty urgencies and resurrected to what really matters: the people of our lives and the precious shortness of time this side of eternity?
In the aftermath of the horrible scourge of the sexual abuse scandal, can this global quarantine be posturing us for a global renaissance of life and faith: a rebirth of our Church, our nation, our Order of Friars Minor? In my heart of hearts, I want very much to hope so. If this existential lockdown has forced the dying to some 21st century comfort zones that became impediments to the living presence of Christ within us, then, perhaps by the grace of God, it can become the rising of a whole new angle of living, expanding our interior capacity for the presence of Christ and enabling us to dispel sorrow with Joy, pain with Healing, brokenness with Reconciliation, despair with Promise, and darkness with Light: the Light of the Risen Christ – to and with friars, family and all whose lives we touch.
Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) at his decisive best.
Author Theodore Roethke writes: “In a dark time, the eye begins to see.” Should the rugged COVID-19 fasting of Lent 2020 become one for the history books, so too should the Solemnity of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, not just virtually, but existentially, through each of us and all of us. Let us, to quote Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, “Make it so.” Happy Easter!
(Bob Bruno is Catholic chaplain and pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Community at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton Roads, Va.)
Photo by Tim Sucher, OFMDirk, Kathleen and Amy on the job bright and early.Dirk, KathleenAmyPastoral Associate Tim Sucher
Normally a security guard is on hand while the church stays open, but the parish recently added two extra guards, one to clear the steps where people were sitting in too-close proximity, another to ensure social distancing across the street where gatherings are common.
“The other thing to address is of course the main reason the church is open, because it gives people access to bathrooms,” Tim says. “It’s a challenge” with the temporary closing of Mary Magdalen House, which provides showers and toilet facilities. Fortunately, the agency rented a portable toilet for Republic Street, “so people can have some dignity.”
– Toni Cashnelli
I have also been in contact by email with the nurses from other US provinces to see what they are doing and what seems to be working for them. It appears we are all following similar guidelines for the welfare of the friars, so that is reassuring, and we are here for each other to support and share any helpful tips. Most of us are still having Masses in the friaries with the exception of no handshaking or close contact; instead of sharing the cup of wine, the host is dipped in the wine. The staff members here are welcome to join in the services since they are already exposed to the friars while working. We are very blessed to still have Mass among us since all the in-person church Masses have stopped.
If you have any symptoms that may include fever, cough, extreme fatigue, and aches and pains, please contact your doctor to be screened about possible testing for the virus. If you test positive, it is important to be treated in a hospital setting with the proper care and medications.
Stay safe by staying inside and observing social distancing. God bless and be well!
– Michelle Viacava, RN
We can’t say this often enough: The most important prevention is good hand-washing. You also need to avoid touching your face. Here at St. John the Baptist Friary, wiping down surfaces with disinfectant wipes and having hand sanitizer readily available is part of the daily routine.
If you need more details and resources concerning the health issues and guidelines to follow, visit the websites of:
Send comments or questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) at his decisive best.I know I’m dating myself, but in my head alongside of “Can You Hear Me Now” is the 59th Street Bridge Song by Simon & Garfunkel released in1966: Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the morning last. Just kicking down the cobblestones. Looking for fun and feeling groovy. I can’t remember the last time I used that word groovy, but the lyrics fondly recall a time before user-IDs and passwords, smart phones, social media and the internet, when the cultural pace was far more glacial and reflective than what we’ve become.
Photo by Tim Sucher, OFMDirk, Kathleen and Amy on the job bright and early.Homeless people in Over-the-Rhine have a safe – and clean – place to sleep thanks to Dirk, Kathleen and Amy, three members of St. Francis Seraph Parish who show up each day at 7:30 a.m. each day to sanitize all the surfaces in the church. “We’ve had the church open for about three years” from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and 10-15 folks had been using the pews as daybeds, says Pastoral Associate Tim Sucher. About three weeks ago, “When all this [COVID-19 crisis] started erupting,” they decided to go beyond the regular cleaning practices to ensure everyone’s safety. Since then about 25 people with nowhere to sleep have been coming regularly, but that number is starting to diminish, Tim says, now that The Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition is providing short-term accommodations at local hotels.
Here we are in the second week of lockdown at St. John the Baptist Friary in Sharonville, Ohio, and so far the senior friars are all doing well. Temperatures are taken daily and we are not allowing visitors at the present time – including the food and cleaning personnel. We are keeping busy with games, reading, and walking, with the courtyard fixed up to allow outside use at all times when the weather cooperates. Fresh air, exercise, and ventilation are very important at this time, as well as getting a good night’s sleep and proper nutrition.