We are family


Parishioners viewed one another “Brady Bunch” style on computer screens from their individual homes during a virtual parish council meeting last week, happy to see one another and even happier to have figured out how to log on! This scenario has been repeated throughout the Diocese of Davenport during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. However, technology took a back seat at this particular parish council meeting to focus on communicating with other parishioners the old-fashioned way: a telephone call to let them know the parish cares about them. More than ever we all have a need to feel loved and not forgotten. We are a family of faith, and the family requires some extra bonding in these unsettling times.

Two members of the parish’s Vision 20/20 evangelization team asked the parish council members about their willingness to call other parishioners. One council member, a busy wife and mom, shared a short story to affirm her response. Weeks ago, when Mass and all other liturgies and activities were suspended because of the coronavirus, she received an unexpected phone call from a fellow parishioner. “I value the church family,” the parish council member said. “It meant so much to me that someone called to say, ‘Hi, how are you doing?’”

We are living in a world undergoing seismic change. We discover day by day our dependence on one another to see our way through the chaos and uncertainty. Who could have imagined that nearly 5 million people worldwide (to date) would contract the coronavirus and that 329,000 would die of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus? Who would have imagined that 1.5 million cases would be reported in the U.S. and that 93,000 would die from COVID-19?

Who could have imagined that nearly 40 million U.S. workers, and counting, would lose their jobs? That Easter Sunday Mass wouldn’t be celebrated in person? That many of us would be working or studying online? That people would hoard toilet paper and hand sanitizer? That we would consider health care workers, grocery store cashiers and delivery persons our heroes? Or that we would be looking for someone to blame?


Ten weeks of social distancing has left some of us feeling a little more wary around others. We wonder if the person walking past us at the grocery store or on the sidewalk might unknowingly have contracted the coronavirus. Now more than ever, we need to remind ourselves that we are one human family. Wave and greet the other person warmly with a “smize” (smiling with one’s eyes since masks cover mouths). It can make someone’s day.

News reports indicate that domestic abuse is rising as families cooped up for too long take their frustrations out on loved ones. Families struggle in other ways that exacerbate a sense of isolation. A mother of a child with disabilities expressed despair to a TV reporter as she described how she and her husband struggle to work full-time while educating their son at home because of the pandemic. When we know families are struggling, we need to make a phone call, listen to the stressed-out person, and offer resources if possible.

Send a card with an encouraging message in the mail. Send a text message to someone recuperating from illness to ask if it would be OK to talk. Think about the grocery cashier, the restaurant server, the delivery person, the health care worker as family. Think about family the way Pope Francis described: as “places of communion and prayer.”

Owen Phelps, director of the Yeshua Institute, wrote in the May 23 issue of his online publication “The Catholic Leader” that we should “pray often for guidance. Pray for those who are suffering and suffering losses, and those who are at particular risk so long as the virus continues to prowl. Pray even more often in gratitude for the life you have, no matter how it happens to be constricted at the moment. Discuss things with your spouse, other family members and friends — and listen not just to their opinions but to the reasons they hold them.”

In the United States, some dioceses are taking different approaches to when and how to resume public celebrations of the Mass and other liturgies. In our diocese, Bishop Thomas Zinkula and his advisors are taking a cautious approach because, as he told an online gathering of diocesan staff, “we’re doing the best we can for the love of the people of the diocese.” That’s what it means to be family.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor

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