Too quiet, too empty. As I write, the normally intense Basilica Block Party usually set up by hundreds of volunteers would have been in full swing. With COVID-19 and the common good in mind, cancelling this summer party was clearly the right decision.
Feelings of loss and sadness for what was “normal” go far beyond this fun summer event. We are not gathering in person for liturgies and volunteering… not building Habitat homes… not gathering in person to celebrate our children and catechists’ year of learning about our Catholic faith… not offering St. Vincent de Paul daily outreach. Too quiet indeed.
Without the experiences that normally mark our liturgical, volunteer and social calendars, the shape of daily life has changed dramatically. The future feels uncertain. As a planner, there are days when I find all of this unnerving, challenging, and sometimes maddening.
However and perhaps in spite of COVID-19, I’m seeing many glimmers of hope for our parish’s future. Young adults gather Thursday evenings on The Basilica lawn for Bible Study—social distancing and discussing Scripture. Recently, 98 people joined a “Grief in the City” webinar and this session is available on mary.org any time to anyone interested. Small weddings are being celebrated. Families are having small funerals to grieve the loss of a loved one.
We are gaining new skills as we befriend new technologies. Zoom is our new noun, verb, and connecting point, and we’ve rediscovered the telephone. Teams of volunteers are “zooming” as is Thursday Morning Prayer, Wednesday Coffee and Conversation with Fr. Bauer, speakers, and committee and staff meetings. All these and more happen virtually. Staff and volunteers are staying in touch with each other and ministry participants.
While most staff work primarily from home, the Rectory is staffed for a limited daily schedule. Thanks to SVdP donations, staff serve coffee and sandwiches to those who are hungry. Port-a-potties are available to our neighbors who are homeless. Their gratitude for these basic amenities is humbling.
While liturgies aren’t the same without your presence, they are livestreamed daily and with a national and global reach. A new camera system has been installed and staff training started last week. We are learning as we go and committed to livestreaming liturgies into the future. As we learn the ropes, the possibilities for expanded outreach are exciting.
As we focus on safety for guests, staff and priests, we continue to develop health screening and cleaning protocols. People in limited numbers are now invited to daily Mass in person, with pre-registration, health screening and facemasks required. Our COVID-19 Preparedness Plan is available on mary.org, and the plan will evolve as we continue to learn about this virus. Things may look and feel different on the Basilica campus, but remember our goal is a safe experience for all.
As we seek a “new normal,” the heart of Basilica parish life, both in person and virtually, has remained the same. Together, we are committed to being a home of spiritual nourishment, a beacon of hope where all are welcomed with respect and dignity, and an advocate for change working for peace, justice and equality.