Post COVID Ministry – Part I
By Bishop Broderick Pabillo
Apostolic Administrator, Archdiocese of Manila
April 13, 2020
After about a month of quarantine, many people have gotten used to it. Now, the challenge to us in the church is no longer on adjusting to the lock down. We should instead start looking forward to what we will do after the quarantine!
It would be too naïve to imagine that come May 1, we will all jump back to the life that we had before the quarantine. No! There will be a very gradual period of adjustment. Many of our ways of doing ministry will change. This early let us already project the changes that can come about based on our experiences during this past month and plan for them accordingly.
Some realizations become clear to us. First, the importance of the social media. Parishes who have well-developed social media ministry are able to reach their people easily and offer them services. Thus we should develop our social media ministry. Online religious services are here to stay. Many of our elderly people will hesitate to go to church; the social distancing cannot be easily done in our churches because we do not have that many churches. So the media apostolate is here to stay and will play a greater role in the life of the Church from now on. Thus all Church institutions are encouraged to set up good social media ministries.
If many of our elderly people would prefer to participate in the mass online after the lock down, we should be able to offer them the possibility of receiving communion in their homes. We should deploy more our lay ministers to bring communion to the sick and the elderly. In many parishes, we either do not have enough lay ministers, or many of our lay ministers are old, or both. The elderly ones can no longer give communion in the homes because they themselves are susceptible to be infected. Thus we need to recruit more and younger lay ministers. Can we fast track their recruitment and their formation? We can get from the older altar servers, or older choir members, or even ask the religious sisters and brothers to help in this ministry of bringing the Body of Christ to the elderly.
The pandemic has shown us the importance of the ministry to the sick. Not many parishes have this. In Manila we have only five priests of the archdiocese who are in the hospital chaplaincy. Most of our hospital chaplains are either religious or guest priests. We should seriously think as an archdiocese to strengthen our ministry to the sick, even down to the parochial level. This ministry does not only cater to the sick in the hospitals but also to the medical staff, and also to the sick and the elderly in their homes.
At the beginning of the lock down there were criticisms that the church to use its reputedly big money to help the poor. These criticisms soon died down when it apparent that we have churches, schools, and religious houses who were the first ones to open their facilities to house and feed the street people, the medical front liners and the uniformed personnel. People will not fault us for having big and good facilities as long as they see that these are open to serve those in need in times of emergency. This should be a deliberate choice by our institutions from one on since nowadays emergencies are a new normal in our life.
One thing that caught the admiration of the business community and the government is our silent but rapid mobilization to distribute more than 1 billion pesos worth of gift certificates (GCs) to the poor. Each family was given 1,000 pesos worth of GCs. This was done through the organizing capacity of Caritas Manila and the enthusiasm of more than 668 parishes in MegaManila and their volunteers. Our parishes would not be able to identify the poor families if there was no good networking with barangay officials. Many times the good relations with the barangay are forged because of the BECs. This is one thing that we have to develop more – better relations with the barangay especially through the BECs. Naging mabango ang simbahan sa buwang ito dahil sa ang simbahan ay bumaba sa mga tao. Talagang naramdaman nila ang simbahan, hindi sa kanyang gawaing pangsamba ngunit sa kanyang pagtulong sa mahihirap.
These are my reflections as of now. Others are to follow, that is why this is entitled PART I. I offer them as jumping points that can lead to still other reflections that would set some paths for the ministry of the church after the lock down. Please join, deepen and widen the conversation on this topic of challenges to the ministry these coming days.