July 09, 2020
BY TONI CASHNELLI
Top, Jeff Scheeler’s video at Transfiguration gave parishioners guidance on returning to church; above, properly distanced First Communion at St. Clement.
Some changes, like limits on crowd size and the removal of hymnals and holy water, may be temporary. Others, like livestreaming of the Sunday Mass, are here to stay.
As people slowly, cautiously return to church, “It’s a new way of doing things,” says David Kohut, pastor St. Francis Seraph Parish in Cincinnati. Met at the door with hand sanitizers, distanced by roped-off pews, advised to wear masks and forgo handshakes of peace, parishioners may wonder: Will things ever be quite the same?
Based on interviews with five Franciscan pastors, the answer is, probably not.
Holy Family ParishCarl Langenderfer, OFM
Holy Family reopened in May with eight pages of guidelines and regulations from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. “I digested it down to a page and a half” for parishioners, says Pastor Carl Langenderfer.
“One of the things it really stressed was that folks 65 and older should stay home. I told the Archdiocese that if people over 65 are not allowed to come, we might as well close down the church.” Despite that advisory, “A good number of them are coming back. I told people verbally I wasn’t going to check IDs.”
Top, livestreaming Joe Nelson at Holy Family; above, Robert Seay online for St. Mary of the Angels
Early on, “We decided we would livestream a weekend Mass and post it on Facebook,” he says. “Toni Cummings, our bulletin editor, volunteered to be our videographer using her iPhone and got a couple wireless microphones so she could get audio.” For the presider, “It was kind of a strange experience at first when the church was totally empty except for Toni and me. I would look out at the empty pews and pretend they were full, and preach like they were full.”
Some parishioners who stay home have confided, “We’ve been watching Mass [livestreamed or televised] in our pajamas, with coffee, and it’s gonna be hard to come back.” Carl is curious to see what happens after Aug. 15, “when the Mass obligation is resumed in the Archdiocese.”
Last month brought an unexpected loss for Holy Family friars, the death of one of their own, when 90-year-old Humbert Moster died the day after an accidental fall. “The after effects of cleaning out his room and meeting with his relatives” were not easy, Carl says. “His place at the table is empty and we miss him.”
One encouraging sign in the midst of so much sadness: Recently, “I heard the first baby crying again in church.”
St. Mary of the AngelsJoe Hund, OFM
New Orleans, La.
In The Big Easy, reopening is an uphill battle reminiscent of Sisyphus and his boulder.
In a city hit hard by Covid-19, St. Mary of the Angels and nearby parishes face stricter guidelines than the rest of the state. Pre-pandemic, the community was already beset by poverty. “Most people are on fixed incomes,” says SMA Pastor Joe Hund. “Some still have mortgages from Hurricane Katrina,” 15 years after it flattened the Upper Ninth Ward. As an older, African-American parish, St. Mary of the Angels is doubly challenged by virus risk factors.
To stay connected, “I try to call parishioners,” says SMA friar Andrew Stettler. “You can tell they’re thirsty to talk. A good number are watching Mass on TV. People are good about sending in envelopes” with offerings, but, concerned about the virus, “They’re not showing up for Mass.” Four church members have been taking food to shut-ins.
It’s been slow, Joe says of the return to Mass. “We started with allowing 10 people. Last Sunday we were up to about 40.” A recent funeral attracted close to 80 – all properly spaced, all wearing masks.
“For the past two months we’ve been hosting Second Harvest Food Bank; that’s still going on,” with volunteers distributing as many as 200 free food baskets in one day. “This month the United Health Organization is going to use our gym for three days of virus testing,” while other community groups will provide onsite employment advice and health insurance information. “There is good stuff happening in the community.”
St. Clement ParishFred Link, OFM
“The Bishops made a great decision in removing the obligation for Mass” during the pandemic, says Fred Link, pastor of St. Clement Parish. “But we still have a lot of older folks who come to church. They like that connection. I know a couple families who don’t come because they don’t want their children exposed.” Since reopening, “Our attendance has not been very large,” averaging 130 to 150 for the three weekend Masses.
During the shutdown, “The staff met faithfully and made decisions about how best to reach God’s people and respond. We divided up the parish by names and made a commitment” to contact everyone.
Fred Link gives an online reflection on Francis at St. Clement.
“One of the things we instituted with not too many people coming to church is we have five different staff members who each day at 11 a.m. give a 5-minute reflection” livestreamed on Facebook. Fred pastors a culturally diverse community, and daily reflections mirror that diversity. “Monday, Wednesday and Friday are in English; Tuesday and Thursday are in Spanish.” Last week, he shared stories of St. Francis.
At St. Clement and elsewhere, the silver lining has been the popularity of livestreamed Masses. “They’ve brought people together to worship in their homes,” Fred says. “We know we’re reaching people we haven’t reached before,” with an estimated audience of 800 to 1,000. “That’s far more than we could reach on a Sunday. It’s getting the name of St. Clement Parish out there. The neat thing is we have some folks watching from Guatemala” and elsewhere from around the world. “This is a blessing.”
The elect prepare for the Sacrament of Scrutiny at Transfiguration.Jeff Scheeler
Jeff sends parishioners a weekly message via email, asking for feedback on topics like, “What did you miss?” during the shutdown, and “What did you learn?”
“We do have public worship now, but we’ve reduced weekend Masses” from four to two “with the hope that it would continue. Before the closing we had close to 500 people on a weekend. Maybe about a fifth are coming to church. Our congregation is substantially senior,” the population most vulnerable to Covid-19. “I am concerned about people coming back. A lot of the older people have said, ‘You won’t see me for a while.’”
As a result, ushers, lectors and Eucharistic ministers are in short supply. “We don’t have any servers; we don’t want the kids too close up there.” The choir has disbanded – for now. “We have been asking people to sing quietly. At the very beginning they were suggesting, don’t sing at all.”
For a while, “The only funerals we could do were graveside. Now we can have funerals in church if we control visitation. This is a terrible time to die. I’m not allowed to go to nursing homes. You can’t get into hospitals.”
Especially poignant for Jeff was the request from an ER nurse who called and asked him to pray, via FaceTime, with a patient dying of Covid-19. “I ran and got my iPad and adapted the prayers for the dying.” The nurse told him, “Father, I have oil, not special oil, and I’m going to anoint her.” In Jeff’s eyes, “That has to be a sacrament.” Later that day, “I called the nurse and she said, ‘She just died.’ It was very moving for me. I was so touched by the nurse in her faith and her desire to care for her patient.”
St. Francis Seraph ParishDavid Kohut, OFM
As many have learned the past few months, “You don’t always need to go into sacred spaces to find God,” says Pastor David Kohut of St. Francis Seraph.
Recorded by friar Chris Meyer, David is giving informal, 15- to 20-minute reflections for Facebook on the Sunday readings. Seated, with a stole draped over his habit, he offers straight talk rooted in reality. “I just look at things from the human angle,” he says. “I just put it together with pure common sense. I think that’s what Jesus wants us to do sometimes. I don’t go into this highfalutin stuff.
One of David Kohut’s recorded reflections on the readings.“I know there are still people out there not coming to church. Am I giving them something that is important to them?” Judging from comments on Facebook, the answer is yes. “Please continue these much more personal services,” a Lexington man wrote. “Please don’t stop,” wrote another. “You’re always very inspirational.”
Since the parish reopened, “We’ve had anywhere from 60 to 70 people on Sunday.” All are expected to wear masks. David even recorded a video reflection about it. “I wear one when I go down to give Holy Communion.” On Pentecost Sunday, two people came to Mass with no face coverings. “Everyone else in the pews wore a mask,” David says. “I got perturbed and didn’t want to say anything and cause trouble, but it had me in a bind. Everyone else was looking at me” to call them out.
In the end he kept quiet. “I’m not a bouncer. I’m a priest.”
During the awards ceremony – presented virtually this year – St. Anthony Messenger from Franciscan Media was recognized as Magazine/Newsletter of the Year among National General Interest Magazines. SAM’s editorial team had submitted issues from May, June and July 2019 for consideration. For a list of their other awards and honorable mentions, see: franciscanmedia.org
And the Holy Land Review – Greg Friedman is Editor and a contributor – was named Magazine/ Newsletter of the Year/Mission Magazines. The Review, which supports the mission of The Holy Land Franciscans and the province of The Custody of the Holy Land, also received first place awards for Best Special Supplement or Special Issue and Best Layout - Mission Magazine. “As you can imagine, I am thrilled,” Greg says. “This is the first year we’ve entered. With a minuscule staff (designer+proofreader), dependent on the journalists in the Holy Land–in French, Italian, etc. – it is affirming to be honored.” Greg would be happy to provide a free subscription of the quarterly magazine to friars upon request.
Congratulations to all for their consistently fine work!
The Catholic Press Association, an association of journalists and media specialists, has more than 600 member organizations. A complete list of this year’s honorees is available at: Catholicpress.org
PHOTO BY JEFF MACNAB, OFMLeft to right: John Hardin (SB), Joshua Richter (SJB), David Gaa (SB), and Kevin Schroeder (ABVM).Joshua Richter
The size of the group didn’t matter, as Joshua and eight of his brothers, masked for the sake of safety, professed their first vows in the Friars Lounge, a site chosen to afford appropriate distancing.
“I remember looking around the room and seeing my classmates from the past two years and remembering how far we have come together,” he said, “and looking at our formators and remembering all the work they had done for us over the past year to help make the novitiate program.”
PHOTOS BY JEFF MACNAB, OFMThe newly professed with Provincial David GaaProvincial Minister David Gaa
For Joshua, “It was very surreal kneeling in front of the provincial, placing my hands in his and professing the vows with a mask on. It reminded me of a question posed to us at the beginning of the pandemic: ‘How do we live out our Franciscan life and minister to others in this world separated by quarantine?’”
After prayers and blessings, wearing cords given by their mentors, the newly professed gathered in the courtyard for a photo of this transitional moment. “Our world, our Order, and our way of life is constantly changing,” Joshua said. “We see that with the R+R and again with the pandemic. I am just starting on this path and I am excited to see where God will lead me.”
(Thanks to Michael Blastic, OFM, for sharing his notes from the Profession.)
BY SR. VICKIE GRINER, OSC
Top, poor Clare Sisters Doris Gerke, Anna Marie Covely, and Dianne Short in 1990; above, The Clares at prayer in the Monastery of St. Clare.
Our 1990 foundation was 115 years in the making. In 1875, Mother Mary Magdelene Bentivoglio was sent to the United States by Pope Pius IX to establish a Poor Clare Monastery, but she was turned away from several dioceses, including Cincinnati. In 1956, a second attempt was made to establish a Poor Clare Monastery in Cincinnati, but that request was also denied.
Then, in 1990, the Friars of St. John the Baptist Province invited, and Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk welcomed, our Sisters Doris Gerke, Dianne Short and Anna Marie Covely to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Today, our numbers have more than tripled, growing into a community of 10 solemnly professed sisters (our monastery is built for a total of 12 sisters). We continue to walk with women in initial discernment and remain ready to welcome new vocations so our Poor Clare way of life in Cincinnati continues for years to come.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed all our lives. We miss our visitors and guests who usually share Mass and Liturgy of the Hours with us. Although we are not together in physical location, we are always connected by our faith and love. Instead of a public Mass and celebration for our 30th Anniversary, we had a private Mass and small celebration with Fr. William Farris, OFM. During our celebration, we shared memories of the early days and our hopes for the future. Know that we are here to pray for you, and we welcome your prayer requests. (firstname.lastname@example.org, poorclarescincinnati.org, 513-825-7177).
(Thanks to Vince Delorenzo, the Secret of the Tabernacle – sounds like a job for Indiana Jones! – has been revealed. Read on.)
Top, John Schreck, OFM ; above, the tabernacle was made for a renovated chapel at Duns Scotus.FROM RON COOPER
With help from Br. Vince Delorenzo, I was able to find out the history of the tabernacle that Fr. Al Hirt brought to the Archives and was written about in the June 25th issue of SJB News Notes. This tabernacle was made by Br. John Schreck (RIP May 5, 2005) in the late 1970s for use in what was formerly the Tertiary Brothers Chapel at Duns Scotus College, Southfield, Mich. The front of the tabernacle was made in the Philippines and was given by Brad Compliment to Br. John to use as part of the tabernacle.
Before the Tertiary Brothers used the chapel, the Sisters who lived and served at Duns Scotus used this area of Duns Scotus as their convent. When the Sisters left Duns Scotus, this area was renovated. The tabernacle was made for use in this newly renovated chapel.
During the late 1970s and until Duns Scotus was closed, this chapel was used for private prayer and small group Masses. The tabernacle left Duns Scotus after its close in 1996.
The last place that this tabernacle was used was at St. Monica/St. George Parish, Cincinnati, Ohio. Fr. Al, who served as pastor at St. Monica/St. George Parish, used this tabernacle in the prayer room at the house that parish interns lived in.
(POSTSCRIPT: Br. Vince told me that another tabernacle that is similar in design was made by Br. Ed Demyanovich, Br. Ed’s tabernacle was used in the chapel at St. Mary Magdalene Friary in Chicago. What distinguishes this tabernacle from the one Fr. Al brought to the Archives is that the pedestal had carpeting on it that matched the décor of the chapel at St. Mary Magdalene. Apparently, the tabernacle made by Br. Ed was given to a group of Sisters when the friars left the friary in Chicago.)
Send comments or questions to: email@example.com
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Top, Jeff Scheeler’s video at Transfiguration gave parishioners guidance on returning to church; above, properly distanced First Communion at St. Clement.Years from now, the history of parishes may be divided into two periods: Before and After Coronavirus. The pandemic has dramatically altered the way we worship.
The elect prepare for the Sacrament of Scrutiny at Transfiguration.Broadcasting in real time was new to Jeff Scheeler, pastor at Transfiguration. Before the pandemic, “I never livestreamed anything in my life.” Now, he says, “We livestream everything, every weekday and Sunday Mass. Each one has a little bit of a following. We anticipate doing that for a long time. During Lent we livestreamed the Stations of the Cross. One night in May we had the friars stand in front of a statue of Mary and pray the Rosary. We also set up a YouTube channel” and recorded video guidelines on returning to church.
There was plenty to celebrate last week when the Catholic Press Association announced its 2020 CPA Awards honoring excellence among Catholic media organizations and individual media producers.
PHOTO BY JEFF MACNAB, OFMLeft to right: John Hardin (SB), Joshua Richter (SJB), David Gaa (SB), and Kevin Schroeder (ABVM).Each Rite of Profession is unique, but the July 2 ceremony at the novitiate in Santa Barbara, Calif., was especially profound for the US-6 novices making their first vows. Before the familiar liturgy, with its familiar readings and rituals, Joshua Richter of St. John the Baptist Province thought back to last year. “As I prepared for the Profession to start,” he said, “I remembered the start of the novitiate at the Chapter of Mats in Denver in front of 400 friars, and now at the end of the year with only minimum guests as a result of the coronavirus.”
PHOTOS BY JEFF MACNAB, OFMThe newly professed with Provincial David GaaIn his homily, Provincial Minister David Gaa of St. Barbara Province spoke about the mission of the friars to heal the sick and bring back those who have lost their way – a mission needed more than ever at this moment in history. He reminded the novices that they would likely be the first to make profession in the new Franciscan province.
Top, poor Clare Sisters Doris Gerke, Anna Marie Covely, and Dianne Short in 1990; above, The Clares at prayer in the Monastery of St. Clare.On June 24, 2020, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the founding of our Cincinnati monastery. We began 30 years ago because three Poor Clares in three different monasteries heard the Holy Spirit’s call and responded to that call to live a new expression of Poor Clare life in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.