Parish Appreciation Series: St. Patrick

From Fr. Leo Walsh

“Obviously, the biggest challenge is that we are not meeting as a congregation and that is one of the very things that defines a congregation…we congregate! So we have had to get creative. I started live-streaming Mass from the parish church so that people could at least see their pastor and their church building online.

The second challenge in not being able to gather is to help people stay connected. Technology again comes to our rescue here. Teleconferencing and video conferences, social media all provide ways that folks can keep in touch. We have had to get very creative. For example, a very generous parishioner helped us reorganize our website so that important information can be more easily found.

The third challenge is financial. Most people are used to giving to their church in the Sunday collection. Since that is not happening, we have seen a marked drop in stewardship of treasure in the parish. Online giving helps tremendously and many are mailing in their envelopes and donations. Still, when folks are experiencing their own financial uncertainty, that will be reflected in what they are able to give to their parish.

A fourth challenge is formation, catechesis and evangelization. Like the school districts, we have had to go online for much of our formation and catechesis. Our confirmation retreat was cancelled and the ceremony is postponed until the fall. A virtual retreat is simply not possible. Although we can keep the information flowing. This points out the difference between “formation in the faith” and simply passing on information “about” the faith. We are formed in community. That is a challenge when we do not gather as a community.

Despite these challenges, I think there is a lot more personal prayer going on among the people of God. Folks have a little more time and have been very creative in setting up prayer spaces and “cyber chapels” in their homes. I hope they continue to make as much time for personal prayer when this is over as they are now. Personally, I’ve had enough time to get working on the chapel in the new parish house here at St. Patrick’s. It’s a slow process, but it is coming along.

Being in East Anchorage, we have a very large senior population. Many of them are not as familiar with technology and therefore are not connected in that way. However, our St. Pat’s Seniors ministry has really risen to the occasion and established a prayer chain and phone tree as soon as it became apparent that we would be hunkered down for several weeks.

When all this is over, we are going to get together and have one heck of a party!”

From John Gagnon

“We are very fortunate at St. Patrick’s to have Fr. Leo Walsh who is very adept at dealing with technology. We also have several volunteers who regularly assist our staff with technology issues, and they have been very helpful. Fr. Leo has been able to successfully live stream Masses on a daily and weekly basis. As parishioners, our family has been very grateful to be able to watch the Masses and join in prayer with Fr. Leo and many others. With much kind assistance, we have been able to update our parish website with a lot of very helpful resources and information. We also continue to post our weekly bulletin with updated information.

My biggest challenge has been trying to keep my office work in order with very limited time actually in the office. Blessed by our relatively new cloud based accounting program, I am happily surprised by the ability to do a significant amount of bookkeeping right here at my home computer. As a parish staff, we have been richly blessed by how well our online staff meetings have worked.

As Fr. Leo wrote several weeks ago, we are now not able to receive God’s Grace through the ordinary means. This has given me a new appreciation of those ordinary means of receiving God’s Grace through the celebration of Mass and the sacraments. Fr. Leo encouraged us to discover “extraordinary means” of receiving God’s Grace. I have been blessed by having more time, more time to pray. A prayer I have rediscovered from my early years is The Angelus which includes the words “Pour fourth, we beseech you O Lord, your grace into our hearts….” I have found this, and many other moments in prayer to be those extraordinary means by which God is bestowing His Grace on me and my family.”

From Deacon Mick Fornelli

“The challenges to ministry are in many areas. The Mass in general is very different without the assembly present. The video streaming is helpful to those unable to attend mass. On other levels and in other areas, most liturgical ministry events have had to be cancelled.

In addition, Diaconate formation classes have been cancelled in March and April, and the Engaged Encounter Weekend scheduled for May has had to be cancelled. We have been using video conferencing to stay in touch but the complexity of the classes and session would be almost impossible to present even with Video. Staff meetings have worked through video conferencing but the physical presence of people is difficult.

The blessings I have received have centered around a more focused family time. Many more hours spent with Michelle and actually in face time conversations with my sons. The joy of being able to do a little recreational reading has been a great resource for some of the down time.

Still, ministries still occupy many of my hours. I have been working with the Bishop on various liturgies, dealing with the administration of another parish and its staff, and fulfilling my on-call hours as an APD/AFD Chaplain. This latter ministry has allowed me access to AK Regional Hospital to be able to minister to the Catholic patients where the hospitals, due to COVID-19 have restricted visits by even family members.

I have also been trying to call all the parishioners of St. Patrick’s to check in with them to make sure they are well and if they have any needs. I had started with the elderly and those individuals who have been living alone and will ultimately expand the calls to the rest of the St. Patrick’s community.”

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About the Parish Appreciation Series:

We asked several parishes 3 simple questions:

  • What challenges are you facing right now?
  • How are you addressing these challenges at your parish?
  • How has your parish community been blessed, despite these difficult times?

The responses have been nothing short of overwhelming: we received over 6,000 words from over 15 parishes, full of hope and courage to face the unknown in service to God’s people. Through this series of posts, each parish shares their story as we’ve received them, with minimal editing, to allow the voice of each person to speak, in all their humanness.

We pray that they inspire you to hope, just as they have inspired us. Stay safe out there, guys.

How to Get Connected:

Here are a few ways to stay in the loop with the latest news & updates:

  • Follow along online. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for other news and updates, or email Anna Schulten to be added to a special email list:
  • Connect to your parish. Make sure you know how your parish communicates: via website, bulletin, MyParish app, phone tree, or other means. If you’re not sure, ask!
  • Offer to help. Contact your parish to learn about volunteer opportunities.
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