Post COVID Ministry – Part 2
Bishop Broderick Pabillo
Apostolic Administrator, Archdiocese of Manila
April 13, 2020
An effect of the Corona virus pandemic that is here to stay is social distancing. The consciousness and the practice of social distancing will be with us long after the quarantine is lifted. What would this imply in our ministries in the Church? How do we limit the attendance of the people in our services? This may mean additional masses on Sundays and asking the people to come on the times when there are less people in order to reduce the density of mass goers in any given time. This can also mean the re-training of our ushers. We should get younger ones who can politely ask the people to keep social distancing. Each parish is to determine the adequate spaces to be observed between the mass attendees. Perhaps big celebrations should be done outdoors to follow the social distancing protocols. The churches can also invest in big LCD screens and a good outdoor sound system so that people can remain outside and still be part of the celebration.
Another thing that is here to stay is our consciousness of the need for constant handwashing. A regular feature of our churches will now be the alcohol bottles or hand sanitizers that will be made ubiquitous at the door of our churches and offices. A foot bath is to be provided at the door steps of our churches and offices. A new ministry can be started in the parishes – perhaps to be called “sanitation ministry” – whose task is to disinfect or clean the pews in between masses. This would mean that masses should no longer be on an hourly basis. Some time should be given between services for the cleaning of the pews and other “high touch” surfaces much used in the church.
An important Filipino social custom may also change – that of the mano po. Instead of getting the hand of the elderly or the priest and putting it on one’s forehead, or much worse, kissing the ring of the bishop, the people would be taught to show their respect by a polite bow and similar gestures.
As Filipinos we are a tactile people. We want to express our nearness by touching. This we do to one another and also to the objects of devotion. Thus we see people lovingly and devotedly touching the statues and even the casing of the statues. We have to be educated to do without this form of reverence anymore. A slight bow or a moment of silent prayer in front of a statue is also a worthy expression of our desire to commune with God and his saints.
We have been telling the people during lent that if we cannot go to confession, we can obtain God’s forgiveness by a sincere contrition of our sins with firm resolve to come to confess our sins to a priest as soon as there is the opportunity. One of the conditions to fulfill in order to receive the plenary indulgence is to confess our sins to a priest. After the lockdown, it would be good if the vicariates can organize a kumpisalan ng bayan in all the parishes so that the faithful can avail themselves of this sacrament. Perhaps it would also help if parishes can re-design their confessional boxes that it would no longer be stuffy but that there be enough room for social distancing during confession. Proper physical distance should still be kept during the kumpisalan ng bayan.
Let us use our creativity on how to serve our people in the new situation that we are now in. If the new practices that we will adapt are properly explained to the people, they will understand. They will even appreciate that we are making changes so that we can serve God without jeopardizing our loved ones.