Many who are stuck at home during this period of social distancing may be struggling with feeling a bit useless. The reality, of course, is that by just staying home we are already helping stunt the spread of the pandemic in a very real way. While it’s easy to say this and know it in our minds, sometimes our hearts need a little help feeling it too. If you feel called to do more but are unsure of where to start or how to contribute while staying home, explore some of these ideas. Inspired by the Corporal and Spiritual Acts of Mercy, here are a few ways that your parish can provide support during Covid-19.
FEED THE HUNGRY: HELP A FOOD BANK
While your parish may not be able to host an in-person food drive or coordinate efforts to send volunteers anywhere, there are ways to support food banks and soup kitchens from home. Your parish can host a virtual food drive or encourage parishioners to make a virtual food donation to ensure that local food banks can continue their vital work.
PRAY FOR THE LIVING AND THE DEAD: GATHER PETITIONS
Reach out to parishioners who may be struggling: the nurses, doctors and first responders; those who are quarantined by themselves; those who have lost work; those who have been infected or whose loved ones have been infected by the virus. Lend a sympathetic ear and ask them for any intercessions and pass these to your pastor so he can offer up his Masses for them. If those you speak with feel comfortable, you may also suggest praying together in that moment, on the phone or via video, and remember their intentions, yours and the repose of the souls of the departed, especially those who have gone to rest as a result of Covid-19.
GIVE ALMS: DONATE HEALTH SUPPLIES
Provide the sick and their caregivers with more tools to aid in the healing of this virus and the additional complications it brings. Certain Salvation Army locations are still accepting donations of health and hygiene supplies, baby supplies, non-perishable food and sanitizing and paper products. Consider a modified supply drive, in which parishioners can drop t hings off outside the parish for a member of parish staff or leadership to then donate to a local hospital or Salvation Army. Remind parishioners who contribute to disinfect supplies before donating, and take the proper precautions when delivering items.
COMFORT THE SORROWFUL: CHECK IN WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY
This pandemic and the societal and cultural responses are largely unprecedented, and that can create much uncertainty and anxiety. Be sure to check in with parishioners to see how they’re doing emotionally, physically and mentally. Lend a listening ear, and consider directing them to some additional spiritual closeness resources to help them keep calm and rely on our universal faith to bring some comfort throughout these challenges.
VISIT THE SICK: SEND SOME SNAIL MAIL
As we can’t currently visit the sick or imprisoned, use this opportunity to send handwritten thank you notes or greetings to hospitals, food banks or assisted living facilities. You may also consider writing to elderly members of your parish who may be experiencing loneliness or individuals or families who have been on your parish’s prayer list recently. Tap other members of parish staff or leadership to help write these, and spread the love of Christ by taking the time and care to craft and mail a handwritten note to someone in need.
CLOTHE THE NAKED: MAKE AND DONATE MASKS
There has been a recent boom of individuals sewing face masks both to protect themselves, and to help contribute to hospitals that are experiencing shortness of supplies. Encourage parishioners who may have access to a sewing machine to consider sewing masks that may be donated to hospitals or distributed among the parish community to comply with CDC recommendations.
COUNSEL THE DOUBTFUL: INSPIRE PEOPLE TO TURN TO GOD
We’re in the midst of not one pandemic, but two: the rapid spread of the coronavirus, and what’s commonly known as an “infodemic”. We are being constantly inundated by an abundance of Covid-19 information from news outlets, social media and beyond, and it can be challenging to discern what is accurate, what is not and how scaled our reaction should really be. Let us instead rely on information we fully know to be true: that God loves and has plans for us. Ensure that your parish social media channels and mailing lists are not spreading any misinformation. Use these channels to inspire the faithful to trust in the Lord and turn our anxieties and grief over to him. We can be confident in him, and we can assuage some of our neighbors’ fears by reminding them of this truth.
INSTRUCT THE IGNORANT: SHARE SCRIPTURE WITH YOUR FOLLOWERS
How often does the Bible instruct us to trust or take comfort in God? Draw inspiration from the Scriptures to create shareable, inspiring and intentional content on social media. Perhaps your pastor or a ministry leader in your parish would be willing to record and post a short reflection on Bible verses that could provide grace and comfort during this time of uncertainty. This could also take the shape of sharing pre-existing content from outlets such as the USCCB or Unleash the Gospel social media channels.