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MCC offers webinar for students May 12

The Northern Cross

The Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, will offer a live webinar for students May 12 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. called “Lessons in Advocacy: Students Standing for Life & Dignity.”

Organizers say the goal is to help teachers and parents equip their students with the tools they need to advocate for life and human dignity.

Students will learn:

  • Why Catholic students’ voices matter

  • What the church teaches about defending the life and dignity of every person

  • How their ideas can become laws

  • How to stand up for life and dignity by effectively interacting with legislators

The webinar is designed for students ages 12-18. It will include an opportunity to hear from and pray with Bishop Andrew Cozzens, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and a live Q&A with a Minnesota legislator.

Parental registration is required. For more information and to register, visit www.mncatholic.org/LessonsInAdvocacy.

The Quarantine’s Three Lessons About the Church

One silver lining for me during this weird coronavirus shutdown has been the opportunity to return to some writing projects that I had left on the back-burner. One of these is a book on the Nicene Creed, which I had commenced many months ago and on which I was making only very slow progress, given my various pastoral and administrative responsibilities. The last several weeks, I have been working in a rather concentrated way on the Creed book, and I find myself currently in the midst of the section on the Church: “I believe in one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.” I will confess that the peculiar way that we have been forced to express the life of the Church during this quarantine period has influenced my ecclesiological reflection. A first insight is this: we are an intensely, inescapably Eucharistic church. One of the most difficult moments that I’ve had…

You’re invited!

Peter Herbeck explains why you should join in on Saturday night. There is a lot of spiritual depth and prophecy around the pandemic.

The post You’re invited! appeared first on Catholic Charismatic Renewal.

Governor Cuomo and God’s Noncompetitive Transcendence

Last week, Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, made a rather interesting theological observation. Commenting on the progress that his state has made in fighting the coronavirus, and praising the concrete efforts of medical personnel and ordinary citizens, he said, “The number is down because we brought the number down. God did not do that. Faith did not do that.” I won’t waste a lot of time exploring the hubris of that remark, which should be obvious to anyone. I might recommend, out of pastoral concern, that the governor read the first part of Genesis chapter eleven. What I will do instead is explain the basic intellectual confusion that undergirds Cuomo’s assertion, one that, I fear, is shared even by many believers. The condition for the possibility of the governor’s declaration is the assumption that God is one competitive cause among many, one actor jostling for position and time…

Diocese extends COVID-19 measures through May 4

Diocesan Administrator Father James B. Bissonette, in an April 14 letter, extended the measures the Diocese of Duluth has taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic through May 4.

In the letter, addressed to the clergy and faithful of the diocese, Father Bissonette said public celebration of Mass will continue to be suspended, the obligation to attend Mass continues to be dispensed, and gatherings of more than 10 people are canceled. However, priests will continue to celebrate private Masses, churches will be open at times for individual prayer, confession is to remain available, and pastoral care of the sick will continue as much as possible. Parishes will also keep office hours in a manner consistent with the state’s stay at home order.

One important implication of the extension is its effect on First Communions and Confirmations. Parishes typically have those celebrations in the spring. Those that were scheduled for the affected time period will have to be postponed, the letter said.

Father Bissonette said the challenging days and the limitations they have imposed have given Catholics a deeper appreciation for the gifts of being able to gather with loved ones, to come together for worship, and to receive Holy Communion.

At the same time, he commended the response of Catholics in the diocese. “The spiritual communions, daily prayers, sacrifices, and works of charity offered up by you, the Catholic faithful, and the creativity and zeal with which our priests have brought us online Masses, podcasts, and the like, to keep us together in worship of the Lord and service of his people, is a graced moment and truly inspiring,” he said.

He asked continued prayers for the victims of the pandemic, their loved ones, and their caregivers. The measures are temporary and could be lifted if the situation should improve more quickly.

For more detailed information, visit the Coronavirus page on the diocesan website.

Schools, parishes, families, and the needy all coping with coronavirus

By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

Catholics are praying for those afflicted with COVID-19, their loved ones and caregivers, those who have died from it, civil leaders trying to control it, and all those afraid of it.

But its effects are rippling out in a variety of other ways, too, among families and schools and parishes and the vulnerable in our communities.

Schools

Cynthia Zook, director of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Duluth, said the past weeks have “been challenging days” with a lot of hard work at each of the diocese’s schools.

As Gov. Tim Walz closed schools across the state and moved to remote learning, Catholic schools have made the same transitions. Zook said one of the challenges is that communities and schools — and the families of students — may have very different levels of access to the technology and infrastructure needed for remote learning, an issue she’d like to see the Legislature address in the future.

“They’re figuring it out in each individual site,” she said.

That has meant creativity and an acceptance that glitches may pop up at times. The schools in our diocese are sharing ideas among themselves and gleaning wisdom from what other schools around the country are doing, but Zook said the speed with which everything happened left little time for collaborating.

“We just had to jump in with both feet and trust in the Lord,” she said.

She said the teachers are working hard with a “spirit of can-do,” and getting patience and support from their communities, where parents are learning from the experience too.

Zook see a potential silver lining in that the whole thing may end up expanding opportunities to use this kind of technology in new ways in the future, a kind of “pilot project for what could be.” So there is hope and excitement too.

Still, Zook said the situation is hard on families and on students. Some families are experiencing disrupted schedules, challenges arranging childcare, and financial difficulties, even just from kids eating more meals at home.

For students, Zook said they are missing in-person connection with their friends and the experiences outside the classroom, like music lessons, sports, or drama, that may give them a real sense of joy and progress.

“I feel very compassionate toward them,” she said.

At the same time, she said some school families are bonding through these experiences too, in old fashioned ways like board games and picnics on the living room floor.

“Many of them are also, during this holy season of Lent, taking advantage of the churches and going to say their prayers in the church as a family, spending time in the Lord’s house,” she said.

Families
The Hacker family is spiritually coping by remaining grateful and sharing what they’re grateful for with neighbors. (Submitted Photo)

Families are coping too. Clergy are reaching out in various ways and encouraging people to find ways to pray together, especially on Sundays.

Some, like the Hacker family from St. Anthony’s in Ely, are coming up with little practices of their own, trying to “do small things with great love.”

Michelle Hacker said the family shares one thing it’s thankful for on a sheet of paper each morning and hangs it in the window. “We then ask the Holy Spirit to inspire us to reach out to someone outside of our home,” she wrote in an email. Those have included notes to neighbors, making snowmen outside the windows of loved ones, sending letters to friends and family and even a mini reception in their home to honor a cousin whose marriage in Texas had to be canceled.

“We also capture each day on Facebook to encourage and uplift others,” she said.

Reaching those in need

For the agencies caring for the most needy in our communities, there are a variety of challenges depending on where you are in the diocese, said Patrice Critchley-Menor, director of social apostolate for the Duluth Diocese.

One such agency is simply closing down for two weeks as a result of state emergency orders.

“So I’m sure that’s going to seriously impact the people in that area,” she said.

She said that many agencies are being creative and adapting to the difficult circumstances, caring for people who are among the least likely to seek out medical help.

“The agencies I’m working with are really rising to the occasion,” she said.

But with people working from home and even some county offices closed down, money is running short for many agencies. And the anticipation is that the need will increase.

Critchley-Menor said that in addition to praying and staying informed through the diocesan Office of Social Apostolate and the Minnesota Catholic Conference, financial contributions to the diocese for these efforts would also be a way to help, especially given that needs are going to be different in different communities across the diocese and in the rapidly evolving situation.

“We want to have more money in that pot so we can respond and that our response can be flexible enough that it doesn’t exclude some weird case” in a particular city, she said.

She added that it’s also an opportunity for all Catholics to grow in how they see current events through the lens of Catholic social teaching.

“It’s a really interesting opportunity to practice our faith in a way we have not before,” she said.

Parishes

Also facing challenges are parishes, where, with no congregation on Sunday, there is no passing of the collection plate, even as bills continue to come in.

“Our parishes are on a spectrum of how much emergency reserves they have,” said Franz Hoefferle, chief financial officer of the diocese. Some have enough to weather months, while others don’t.

That could mean potentially reducing staff hours or furloughing people, essentially temporarily laying them off, although Hoefferle said parishes are trying to maintain staffing to the best of their ability and continuing to try to employ people, even if they are temporarily “re-purposed” to different tasks than they normally do.

“I think the parishes are doing everything they can to work with what they have,” he said.

Many parishes that do not already have online giving options are working on that, Hoefferle said. Parishioners can also mail in their offering.

He encouraged parishioners to be aware of the needs of their parish, even as he acknowledged that parishioners are facing their own financial difficulties in the situation, sometimes including job loss.

“You just have to look at what you can do,” he said.

Joe Lichty, director of development for the diocese, says Catholics should think of it first and foremost in terms of their faith.

“All of us have a need and desire to give,” he said. “We give to the church as part of the sacred offering, as an act of worship, joining the whole of our lives, and yes all our gifts, with the ultimate gift offered on the altar — Jesus Christ!”

“Just because activities at churches are suspended doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still offer God our first fruits,” he added. “Making a financial sacrificial offering isn’t a fee for service but an act of worship.”

No public Masses? Pastors takes liturgies and more online

By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

The faithful being temporarily unable to receive Holy Communion has been a matter of tears both for some of the faithful and for some of the clergy.

In the attempt to stay connected in a time of “social distancing,” technology has become a real boon, as many pastors from across the diocese have begun broadcasting Masses, rosaries, Divine Mercy Chaplets, the Liturgy of the Hours, parish updates, and more on Facebook, YouTube, or parish websites.

Nothing can substitute for being present at Mass, but at least 16 priests from Brainerd to International Falls are or have livestreamed Masses for the faithful to have some sense of participation in the liturgical life of the parish, joining a host of remote options that already included the televised Sunday Mass on WDIO/WIRT-TV sponsored by the Diocese of Duluth and other broadcast Masses, such as those from EWTN.

Father Paul Strommer celebrates a private Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth March 29. The Mass was livestreamed for parishioners on the Cathedral’s Facebook page.

One priest of the diocese who has drawn attention even from the local secular media is Father Brandon Moravitz, pastor of Holy Spirit in Virginia. He has been an eager adopter, using his Facebook page and parish website and YouTube page to broadcast Masses and prayers as well as doing frequent live updates and coordinating initiatives with parishioners, such as choosing a local small business to support each day.

“It’s been a great light into our community,” he said.

One thing he’s been doing is leading night prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. He said the couple of hundred views on the videos, when translated into the families that accounts for, means there are 500 or 600 people a night praying along. “There’s families of eight that are there praying at night,” he said.

Getting people to pray in their homes has always been a goal, and through recent events he sees it “happening in ways I could never have imagined.”

“We literally have homes all over this town with altars,” he said.

Father Moravitz said he’s getting half a dozen messages every day from people telling him they are experiencing God at home like they never have before. The experience is even reaching non-Catholics and people who have been away from the church and discover they’re missing Mass.

“There’s people in this community that have never set foot in a church that are praying every night,” he said.

“I’ve never felt more like a priest in my 10 years as a priest,” he added.

Father Ben Hadrich, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas in International Falls, said he been expanding his online presence in recent years, for instance posting his homilies and other talks on a blog and podcast, and had recently come back to Facebook, inspired by Bishop Robert Barron.

He’s found Facebook to offer ways to connect beyond the written word.

“It’s a new opportunity and kind of the connection of speaking,” he said, in the days before his first livestreamed Sunday Mass.

He said he likes that people can hear his voice and get what he’s trying to say better than with just text. The challenge is that not everyone uses Facebook, and some don’t have a computer or smart phone at all.

He said he’s been assisted in that endeavor by his ordination classmate, Father Moravitz. “The stuff he’s doing is just unreal,” Father Hadrich said. He added that there is a lot of sharing behind the scenes among the priests to learn to use these technologies.

Father Moravitz said the technology actually doesn’t come so naturally to him.

“I had never heard of a YouTube channel in my life until a couple of weeks ago,” he said.

He said he surrounds himself with people who know how to do things and has three or four people he can call to help him record things, put together videos and podcasts, and use social media site.

“If this was just me, none of this would be happening,” he said.

Coming back to Mass

One possible concern with using this technology is that people might get too used to it — to the point that after they get the all clear to return to Mass, they will mistakenly think watching it on TV or online is the same thing.

Father Hadrich said he thinks most of the faithful Catholics will be back in the physical church and that with the those reached by the technology, parishes may pick up some new people.

Father Moravitz says as long as the focus is on inviting people to a deep relationship with the Lord, churches will be packed when the “all clear” is given.

“If we are evangelizing people and leading people to conversion, we have nothing to fear,” he said.

He has hope that it’s going to be a bridge and an avenue to greater things.

“I just sense the stirring of the Spirit in all of this,” he said.

Finding a local livestream of Mass

Following is the list of parishes and priests in the diocese who are known as of this writing to be livestreaming some or all of their Masses. See www.dioceseduluth.org/coronavirus or the individual sites for additional details. Please share updates to [email protected] org so that the list can be kept current on the diocesan website.

• Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, Duluth (on its Facebook page)
• Holy Angels, Moose Lake (on the parish website)
• Father Joseph Sobolik, of St. Cecilia and Mary Immaculate (on his Facebook page)
• St. Andrew, Brainerd (through Facebook Live)
• Brainerd Lakes Catholic Churches, Brainerd (through its parish website)
• St. James and St. Elizabeth, Duluth (on its Facebook page)
• St. Benedict Church, Duluth (on the parish website, via father Joel Hastings’ YouTube page)
• Father Blake Rozier, of Immaculate Heart, Crosslake (through his Facebook page and Immaculate Heart’s Facebook page)
• Father Mike Schmitz, of the University of Minnesota Duluth Newman Center (on the Ascension Presents YouTube channel)
• Father Brandon Moravitz, of Holy Spirit, Virginia (on his Facebook page)
• St. Joseph, Grand Rapids (on its Facebook page)
• Blessed Sacrament, Hibbing (on HPAT cable Channel 5 or on the Hpat.org internet channel online)
• Father Nick Nelson, of Holy Cross, St. Martin, and St. Mary (on his Facebook page)
• St. Anthony Church, Ely (on its Facebook page)
• St. Patrick’s, Hinckley, and St. Luke, Sandstone (on their Facebook page)
• St. John’s, Grand Marais, and Holy Rosary, Grand Portage (on their Facebook page)

Public Masses suspended, Holy Week liturgies to be celebrated without congregations

The Northern Cross

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in the United States and Minnesota in March, with civil leaders eventually closing schools and many businesses and issuing “shelter in place” orders, all the dioceses in the country and across the region had to react, sometimes with extraordinary and unprecedented steps, and the Diocese of Duluth was no exception.

With advice from the Minnesota Catholic Conference and local health experts, Diocesan Administrator Father James Bissonette took the first steps on March 13, reaffirming liturgical options already in place for flu season, urging good sanitary practices and staying home when sick, asking the faithful to stay informed, and dispensing Catholics in the diocese from the Sunday Mass obligation.

In this initial letter to the faithful, Father Bissonette encouraged those unable to attend Mass to “still do what we can to keep holy the Lord’s Day.” He suggested such practices as following Mass on television, the radio, or online; making a Spiritual Communion; and other practices, such as silent prayer, reading Scripture, praying the rosary, or other prayerful devotions.

“As all of us rise to the challenges presented by the coronavirus, let us remember to pray for one another and to support one another as children of God and brothers and sisters of the Lord, most especially those affected by this virus and those who care for them,” he said.

A few days later, in the rapidly changing circumstances, additional steps had to be taken. In a March 17 decree, Father Bissonette suspended public Masses from March 20 through April 20 and canceling all events of more than 10 people, including the annual Women’s Conference. He noted that priests should continue celebrating private Masses (Masses without a congregation) and should continue to offer confession and keep hours for the church to be open for private prayer, as well as caring for the sick in need of the sacraments.

The document also contained guidance for Holy Week liturgies, as well as questions regarding first Communions, confirmations, and funerals.

In a communication to clergy, these directives were further elaborated and clarified in the wake of Gov. Tim Walz’s Emergency Executive Order 20-20 ordering Minnesotans to stay at home in most circumstances.

Among other things, this means that the Triduum liturgy of Holy Week, as well as Easter Sunday, will be celebrated without congregations, although Father Bissonette asked that churches be open for a period of time for people to come and pray individually. Baptisms, receptions into the church and confirmations set for the Easter vigil are to be postponed to a later date.

The Chrism Mass will still be celebrated as scheduled during Holy Week but with only Bishop James Powers, of Superior, Wis., along with Father Bissonette, Father Joel Hastings and the priests who are consultors, representing each of the dioceses deaneries, in attendance.

Although the current guidance from the diocese covers through April 20, from the outset diocesan officials have emphasized that it’s an evolving situation that could continue beyond that date, potentially affecting first Communions and confirmations.

“I do not take these temporary measures lightly and I strongly encourage you, the faithful and the clergy, to do the same,” Father Bissonette wrote in his March 17 directive. “Let us pray that I will be able to lift them soon, that we will remain safe and well as we stand with Mary at the foot of the Cross during this time of crisis, and that we will be able quickly to resume the public sharing of the Gospel and our Catholic faith.”

Prayer of Spiritual Communion

A prayer of Spiritual Communion may be made at the appropriate time of the Mass, or at any time of the day or multiple times of the day:

My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.

No public Masses? Pastors takes liturgies and more online

By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

The faithful being temporarily unable to receive Holy Communion has been a matter of tears both for some of the faithful and for some of the clergy.

In the attempt to stay connected in a time of “social distancing,” technology has become a real boon, as many pastors from across the diocese have begun broadcasting Masses, rosaries, Divine Mercy Chaplets, the Liturgy of the Hours, parish updates, and more on Facebook, YouTube, or parish websites.

Nothing can substitute for being present at Mass, but at least 16 priests from Brainerd to International Falls are or have livestreamed Masses for the faithful to have some sense of participation in the liturgical life of the parish, joining a host of remote options that already included the televised Sunday Mass on WDIO/WIRT-TV sponsored by the Diocese of Duluth and other broadcast Masses, such as those from EWTN.

Father Paul Strommer celebrates a private Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth March 29. The Mass was livestreamed for parishioners on the Cathedral’s Facebook page.

One priest of the diocese who has drawn attention even from the local secular media is Father Brandon Moravitz, pastor of Holy Spirit in Virginia. He has been an eager adopter, using his Facebook page and parish website and YouTube page to broadcast Masses and prayers as well as doing frequent live updates and coordinating initiatives with parishioners, such as choosing a local small business to support each day.

“It’s been a great light into our community,” he said.

One thing he’s been doing is leading night prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. He said the couple of hundred views on the videos, when translated into the families that accounts for, means there are 500 or 600 people a night praying along. “There’s families of eight that are there praying at night,” he said.

Getting people to pray in their homes has always been a goal, and through recent events he sees it “happening in ways I could never have imagined.”

“We literally have homes all over this town with altars,” he said.

Father Moravitz said he’s getting half a dozen messages every day from people telling him they are experiencing God at home like they never have before. The experience is even reaching non-Catholics and people who have been away from the church and discover they’re missing Mass.

“There’s people in this community that have never set foot in a church that are praying every night,” he said.

“I’ve never felt more like a priest in my 10 years as a priest,” he added.

Father Ben Hadrich, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas in International Falls, said he been expanding his online presence in recent years, for instance posting his homilies and other talks on a blog and podcast, and had recently come back to Facebook, inspired by Bishop Robert Barron.

He’s found Facebook to offer ways to connect beyond the written word.

“It’s a new opportunity and kind of the connection of speaking,” he said, in the days before his first livestreamed Sunday Mass.

He said he likes that people can hear his voice and get what he’s trying to say better than with just text. The challenge is that not everyone uses Facebook, and some don’t have a computer or smart phone at all.

He said he’s been assisted in that endeavor by his ordination classmate, Father Moravitz. “The stuff he’s doing is just unreal,” Father Hadrich said. He added that there is a lot of sharing behind the scenes among the priests to learn to use these technologies.

Father Moravitz said the technology actually doesn’t come so naturally to him.

“I had never heard of a YouTube channel in my life until a couple of weeks ago,” he said.

He said he surrounds himself with people who know how to do things and has three or four people he can call to help him record things, put together videos and podcasts, and use social media site.

“If this was just me, none of this would be happening,” he said.

Coming back to Mass

One possible concern with using this technology is that people might get too used to it — to the point that after they get the all clear to return to Mass, they will mistakenly think watching it on TV or online is the same thing.

Father Hadrich said he thinks most of the faithful Catholics will be back in the physical church and that with the those reached by the technology, parishes may pick up some new people.

Father Moravitz says as long as the focus is on inviting people to a deep relationship with the Lord, churches will be packed when the “all clear” is given.

“If we are evangelizing people and leading people to conversion, we have nothing to fear,” he said.

He has hope that it’s going to be a bridge and an avenue to greater things.

“I just sense the stirring of the Spirit in all of this,” he said.

Finding a local livestream of Mass

Following is the list of parishes and priests in the diocese who are known as of this writing to be livestreaming some or all of their Masses. See www.dioceseduluth.org/coronavirus or the individual sites for additional details. Please share updates to [email protected] org so that the list can be kept current on the diocesan website.

• Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, Duluth (on its Facebook page)
• Holy Angels, Moose Lake (on the parish website)
• Father Joseph Sobolik, of St. Cecilia and Mary Immaculate (on his Facebook page)
• St. Andrew, Brainerd (through Facebook Live)
• Brainerd Lakes Catholic Churches, Brainerd (through its parish website)
• St. James and St. Elizabeth, Duluth (on its Facebook page)
• St. Benedict Church, Duluth (on the parish website, via father Joel Hastings’ YouTube page)
• Father Blake Rozier, of Immaculate Heart, Crosslake (through his Facebook page and Immaculate Heart’s Facebook page)
• Father Mike Schmitz, of the University of Minnesota Duluth Newman Center (on the Ascension Presents YouTube channel)
• Father Brandon Moravitz, of Holy Spirit, Virginia (on his Facebook page)
• St. Joseph, Grand Rapids (on its Facebook page)
• Blessed Sacrament, Hibbing (on HPAT cable Channel 5 or on the Hpat.org internet channel online)
• Father Nick Nelson, of Holy Cross, St. Martin, and St. Mary (on his Facebook page)
• St. Anthony Church, Ely (on its Facebook page)
• St. Patrick’s, Hinckley, and St. Luke, Sandstone (on their Facebook page)
• St. John’s, Grand Marais, and Holy Rosary, Grand Portage (on their Facebook page)

Schools, parishes, families, and the needy all coping with coronavirus

By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

Catholics are praying for those afflicted with COVID-19, their loved ones and caregivers, those who have died from it, civil leaders trying to control it, and all those afraid of it.

But its effects are rippling out in a variety of other ways, too, among families and schools and parishes and the vulnerable in our communities.

Schools

Cynthia Zook, director of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Duluth, said the past weeks have “been challenging days” with a lot of hard work at each of the diocese’s schools.

As Gov. Tim Walz closed schools across the state and moved to remote learning, Catholic schools have made the same transitions. Zook said one of the challenges is that communities and schools — and the families of students — may have very different levels of access to the technology and infrastructure needed for remote learning, an issue she’d like to see the Legislature address in the future.

“They’re figuring it out in each individual site,” she said.

That has meant creativity and an acceptance that glitches may pop up at times. The schools in our diocese are sharing ideas among themselves and gleaning wisdom from what other schools around the country are doing, but Zook said the speed with which everything happened left little time for collaborating.

“We just had to jump in with both feet and trust in the Lord,” she said.

She said the teachers are working hard with a “spirit of can-do,” and getting patience and support from their communities, where parents are learning from the experience too.

Zook see a potential silver lining in that the whole thing may end up expanding opportunities to use this kind of technology in new ways in the future, a kind of “pilot project for what could be.” So there is hope and excitement too.

Still, Zook said the situation is hard on families and on students. Some families are experiencing disrupted schedules, challenges arranging childcare, and financial difficulties, even just from kids eating more meals at home.

For students, Zook said they are missing in-person connection with their friends and the experiences outside the classroom, like music lessons, sports, or drama, that may give them a real sense of joy and progress.

“I feel very compassionate toward them,” she said.

At the same time, she said some school families are bonding through these experiences too, in old fashioned ways like board games and picnics on the living room floor.

“Many of them are also, during this holy season of Lent, taking advantage of the churches and going to say their prayers in the church as a family, spending time in the Lord’s house,” she said.

Families
The Hacker family is spiritually coping by remaining grateful and sharing what they’re grateful for with neighbors. (Submitted Photo)

Families are coping too. Clergy are reaching out in various ways and encouraging people to find ways to pray together, especially on Sundays.

Some, like the Hacker family from St. Anthony’s in Ely, are coming up with little practices of their own, trying to “do small things with great love.”

Michelle Hacker said the family shares one thing it’s thankful for on a sheet of paper each morning and hangs it in the window. “We then ask the Holy Spirit to inspire us to reach out to someone outside of our home,” she wrote in an email. Those have included notes to neighbors, making snowmen outside the windows of loved ones, sending letters to friends and family and even a mini reception in their home to honor a cousin whose marriage in Texas had to be canceled.

“We also capture each day on Facebook to encourage and uplift others,” she said.

Reaching those in need

For the agencies caring for the most needy in our communities, there are a variety of challenges depending on where you are in the diocese, said Patrice Critchley-Menor, director of social apostolate for the Duluth Diocese.

One such agency is simply closing down for two weeks as a result of state emergency orders.

“So I’m sure that’s going to seriously impact the people in that area,” she said.

She said that many agencies are being creative and adapting to the difficult circumstances, caring for people who are among the least likely to seek out medical help.

“The agencies I’m working with are really rising to the occasion,” she said.

But with people working from home and even some county offices closed down, money is running short for many agencies. And the anticipation is that the need will increase.

Critchley-Menor said that in addition to praying and staying informed through the diocesan Office of Social Apostolate and the Minnesota Catholic Conference, financial contributions to the diocese for these efforts would also be a way to help, especially given that needs are going to be different in different communities across the diocese and in the rapidly evolving situation.

“We want to have more money in that pot so we can respond and that our response can be flexible enough that it doesn’t exclude some weird case” in a particular city, she said.

She added that it’s also an opportunity for all Catholics to grow in how they see current events through the lens of Catholic social teaching.

“It’s a really interesting opportunity to practice our faith in a way we have not before,” she said.

Parishes

Also facing challenges are parishes, where, with no congregation on Sunday, there is no passing of the collection plate, even as bills continue to come in.

“Our parishes are on a spectrum of how much emergency reserves they have,” said Franz Hoefferle, chief financial officer of the diocese. Some have enough to weather months, while others don’t.

That could mean potentially reducing staff hours or furloughing people, essentially temporarily laying them off, although Hoefferle said parishes are trying to maintain staffing to the best of their ability and continuing to try to employ people, even if they are temporarily “re-purposed” to different tasks than they normally do.

“I think the parishes are doing everything they can to work with what they have,” he said.

Many parishes that do not already have online giving options are working on that, Hoefferle said. Parishioners can also mail in their offering.

He encouraged parishioners to be aware of the needs of their parish, even as he acknowledged that parishioners are facing their own financial difficulties in the situation, sometimes including job loss.

“You just have to look at what you can do,” he said.

Joe Lichty, director of development for the diocese, says Catholics should think of it first and foremost in terms of their faith.

“All of us have a need and desire to give,” he said. “We give to the church as part of the sacred offering, as an act of worship, joining the whole of our lives, and yes all our gifts, with the ultimate gift offered on the altar — Jesus Christ!”

“Just because activities at churches are suspended doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still offer God our first fruits,” he added. “Making a financial sacrificial offering isn’t a fee for service but an act of worship.”