Dear Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Mazenodian Family
I continue to hope and pray that each one of you is well.
Thanks to so many of you who have called, emailed, and texted, sharing comments and stories of encouragement and hope as we continue to struggle to deal with this terrible virus.
Despite this hardship, the positive and creative ways you are dealing with this scary virus offer inspiration and hope to many.
During last week’s provincial council meeting, we spoke by Skype with Fr. David Uribe, OMI, Director of the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville. He shared with us the desire of the Oblates ministering there to invite folks to visit the Shrine, stay in their cars and practice social distancing, all the while driving to many of the beautiful devotional sites and stop to pray awhile. The popular, recently refurbished Stations of the Cross at the Shrine have always been an inviting way to pray at each of these fourteen depictions of Our Lord’s Passion and Death.
Fr. David also spoke about how the Oblates there were speculating about ways in which pilgrims to the Shrine could stay in their cars in the parking lot, listen to the celebration of Mass over loudspeakers and, as they were driving out of the parking lot, with two Oblates at each car, dressed in hazmat suits on each side of the car, would distribute Holy Communion to those in the car.
I’m not quite sure (and Fr. David wasn’t either) how social distancing could be practiced with this method but I must say, I was edified by the ingenuity and creativity of the idea!
Several Oblates have shared with me how they are reaching out to folks, chiefly through electronic means, offering a compassionate word, a comforting message, a listening ear, a heartfelt, positive story. Members of the Mazenodian Family have shared similar stories with family and friends, especially the elderly and those feeling alone.
I have become aware that one elderly Oblate in the community of Inchicore, Ireland has tested positive for the virus. He has isolated and the four Oblates with whom he lives have also isolated. Please remember all of them in your prayers.
The situation is quickly becoming one in which Oblates and Mazenodian Family now know of someone, a family member, friend, coworker, who has tested positive. This brings the reality of this virus to them in a very different, more difficult way. They have asked the Oblates for our prayers. I have promised them our prayers and also our prayers for the heroic healthcare workers who minister to them.”
Oblates and Mazenodian Family Members have told me about how this “stay in place” situation has fostered a greater appreciation of community life, the importance of ministering to each other, the opportunity of more time for reflection and prayer, becoming better acquainted with each other in our families by spending more quality time together.
Some Oblates have also shared with me how they are struggling to prepare meals but, despite the food not being as delicious as might be the case if their regular cook was there, are lingering longer at the table afterwards! This has become an ideal time for sharing stories, becoming more aware of each others’ struggles with this health scare, and supporting one another more during this time of uncertainty and fear.
With the unbelievably easy way to spread this virus to another person, it strikes me that the adage we all learned years ago about “the power of good example” takes on new and added meaning!
Practicing social distancing is certainly the best, most effective way to help control the spread of this disease. To the extent that we are cautious and careful about the prescriptions advised to us by the medical community really does affect whether we might adversely affect another person’s health.
“Taking care of ourselves helps us take care of each other.” We really are united to each other; we are one human family, one community of faith. This virus is bringing that home to us.
This past week I received the following message from Mr. Artie Pingolt, Coordinator of the Mazenodian Family group, the Oblate Partners.
The Oblate Partners have been a blessing to the U.S. Oblate Province and Oblate ministry in many parts of the world through their knowledge, expertise and financial generosity.
Artie tells this story: Missionary Oblate Partner Renee Benson has been keeping busy, on her sewing machine, making protective masks for healthcare workers. For the past several years, Renee and a group of her friends have been creating blankets for several charities in Texas. Now they are aiming those sewing machines at the corona virus and will be making these much needed masks until we are through this crisis!
See Artie’s article here : to see a picture of Renee wearing one of the masks she has created.
Thank you, Renee, for your creativity and ministry that is helping so many!
Thank you Oblates, Mazenodian Family, for your positive spirit, engaging stories, prayers of hope and encouragement to us all!
Many of you have shared with me how you miss being able to go to church, attend Mass, receive the Sacraments of the Church.
Let’s all resolve to make this time one of deeper love and appreciation for the privilege of having the freedom to practice our faith in our country and resolve, as well, to be ever more grateful for the gift of our faith and for the support and love of family and friends.
I continue to repeat the prayer of Pope Francis, that courageous, brief, but blunt prayer: “God, end this crisis.”
God bless each of you!
Fr. Louis Studer, OMI,