Parishes find creative ways to reach their flocks

Precious Blood of Christ Church on Pawleys Island continues to provide food to those in need. (File photo)

Parishes are doing their best to provide a wide variety of ways to keep members connected and spiritually uplifted while COVID-19 keeps many people isolated.

Besides live streaming Sunday Masses, the outreach efforts include everything from daily messages from pastors to parishioners praying together via video chats. People are looking out for the needs of the elderly, homebound and those facing economic difficulties because of the crisis. Youth groups, Bible study classes and other groups are finding ways to hold meetings online.

Here’s a look at what a few parishes from around the state are doing:

St. Joseph Church and School in Columbia is sponsoring a drive-through food pantry from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, April 30, and Friday, May 1. Donors may drop off food at designated locations in front of the school at 3700 Devine Street. All donations will go to the food pantry run by the St. Vincent de Paul Society at the parish. Most needed items include canned soup, canned meat and tuna, canned vegetables, cereal, peanut butter, pasta and snacks. Monetary donations are also welcome. All donations will help feed people in need around the Midlands.

Snail mail is making a comeback at St. Andrew Church in Clemson thanks to a new “pen-pal” project being launched at the parish, according to Franciscan Father Dan McLellan, pastor. Volunteers are connecting senior citizens and kids in the parish and encouraging them to send letters and cards to each other using old-fashioned mail. It’s a way for both young and old to stay connected and for the different generations to learn about each other, Father McLellan said. The pastor also stays in touch with his parishioners through phone calls and sends out a Wednesday morning “Wake Up” message through the Flocknotes app.

At Corpus Christi Church in Lexington, Father Joseph Romanoski, the pastor, has been reaching out in a variety of ways, including pre-recorded messages through phone calls and online. He makes himself available to answer spiritual questions from parishioners or simply chat with them during specific morning office hours Monday through Saturday. The parish Assistance Ministry has remained open and is helping parishioners and members of the community with utility bills, rental expenses and food through their food pantry which runs Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 to 11 a.m. Youth group members still keep in touch through meetings using Zoom software on Wednesdays and Sundays. Besides live streaming Masses each week, the parish is also offering midday prayer services at noon daily and will soon feature members of the parish praying the rosary via livestream as well. Faith formation materials for children and young adults have been added to the parish website, and families are invited to share photos of themselves watching Mass from home.

St. Mary Church in Greenville has started a phone outreach to all parishioners over the age of 70 and those who are homebound. If they have any needs such as shopping or errands that need to be run, volunteers are lined up to assist. Other volunteers are helping out at Our Lady’s Pantry run by Catholic Charities at San Sebastian, St. Mary’s mission in Greenville.

COVID-19 has not stopped the popular Father Pat’s Lunch Kitchen at Precious Blood of Christ Church on Pawleys Island. Even though diners can no longer sit together inside, volunteers continue to serve meals to hundreds of needy people in the area through drive-up service. During the first week of April, they provided 200 boxed breakfasts and 100 hot meals. Parish staff and volunteers also recently gave out 100 boxes of fresh produce and non-perishables from Lowcountry Food Bank at a food distribution event in the neighborhood, and 100 hot meals were served to the needy on Easter Sunday.