Generous parishioners undeterred by closed doors

by Susan McFarland

North Texas Catholic

April 14, 2020

St. Bartholomew Parish volunteers load groceries at the church's drive-thru food pantry. (NTC/Susan Moses)St. Bartholomew Parish volunteers load groceries at the church's drive-thru food pantry. (NTC/Susan Moses)
St. Bartholomew Parish volunteers David Moses and Kum Ho load groceries at the church's drive-thru food pantry. (NTC/Susan Moses)


FORT WORTH — With Covid-19 spreading and tight restrictions in place, parishes are finding creative ways to help those in need. Mass is being livestreamed online, Zoom meetings now organize details for drive-through food pantries, and household items are delivered to porches, sans human contact.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the outpouring of love and care from parishioners across the globe. Many organizations within the Fort Worth Diocese are seeing an increase in volunteers with so many now at home.

“It’s about connecting with people, coming together, and praying,” said Father Michael O'Sullivan, pastor at St. Stephen Parish in Weatherford.

Fr. O'Sullivan recently was on a conference call with 30 people, planning ways to reach out to the parish’s 1,500 families. As stay-at-home restrictions tightened, the parish decided on purchasing grocery store gift cards instead of doing drive-through meal delivery.

Also a need: communication, Fr. O'Sullivan said. For many, gathering for fellowship after Mass is an important part of the experience.

“It’s how you make connections,” he said. “So I thought, wouldn’t it be something if we were reaching out to everyone?”

Fr. O'Sullivan, with help from parishioners, is calling each and every church member.

“Just to say hello and assure them of our prayers. We are not there physically but spiritually,” he said. “We tell them we are praying for them, ask if they have any needs, or need food delivery.”

Finding the help was easy. He said once the word was out about the need, many people began asking to help, saying “just give us the number.”

Phone calls also are made to wish everyone a happy Easter and let them know they can watch Mass online.

Father Wilson Lucka, TOR, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Azle, said he is slowly getting used to having online Mass.

“It is different celebrating without a congregation,” he said. “But that’s the way it is for now. We have to do it.”

Despite an empty building, Fr. Lucka said God’s love can be seen throughout the community as people come together to pitch in and help.

Holy Trinity Parish volunteers show the medical masks they are making for health care workers. (Photo courtesy/Ginger Benes)Holy Trinity Parish volunteers show the medical masks they are making for health care workers. (Photo courtesy/Ginger Benes)
Holy Trinity Parish volunteers show the medical masks they are making for health care workers. (Photo courtesy/Ginger Benes)


At Holy Trinity, people are dropping off food to fill the pantry in the mornings. Those who need it swing by in the afternoons and a staff member loads the vehicle. Groceries for the elderly are delivered to their homes.

Another project at the church, which serves about 220 families, is making masks for health care workers.

Ginger Benes, coordinator of the project, said the Holy Trinity Women’s Guild started the undertaking, which is funded by the Men’s Club. The group posted videos on the parish’s Facebook page with instructions on how to make the masks.

“We put out a plea, and a lot of people came forward to help sew and donate sewing supplies,” Benes said. “If you don’t have material, we go get it for you.” 

On Mondays and Thursdays, the masks are blessed by Fr. Lucka before being distributed at doctors’ offices and area hospitals including Cook Children’s and Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Azle.

“I’ve always known our community is generous and kind,” Benes said. “Even if you can’t come to the church building, you can look for your own way to contribute.”

Elizabeth Soriano, parish secretary at St. Mary of the Assumption in Fort Worth, said despite not being able to worship together, the parish community is still thriving and growing.

“We are still able to worship together online, and we are grateful to be able to do so,” Soriano said.

She said Father Jaison Mangalath, SVD, is offering daily Masses online via Facebook in English, Spanish, and bilingual. Stations of the Cross and the Rosary are live on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. The church also offers online Adoration on Wednesday after the 7 p.m. Mass.

The parish’s food pantry is available the first Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., with a pantry volunteer, gloved and masked, stationed outside while families wait in the cars.

“The recent pandemic has caused less donations in the past weeks as many are without jobs and our office is closed with staff working remotely the majority of days,” Soriano said, adding the church is still available to parishioners via phone and email. “With the help of Catholic Charities food drive [April 4], we should be able to be restocked with food and non-perishable items for the May food pantry.”

Catholic Charities Fort Worth is also helping with resources for the Gabriel Project, an organization offering free help to pregnant women and their families through spiritual encouragement, emotional support, and baby items. The organization also connects women and families to resources that help them achieve financial, educational, and employment goals.

Angela Walters, coordinator of the Gabriel Project, said they have many more volunteers now with so many people out of work. Meetings that were once held face-to-face once or twice a month are now held via phone.

“Praying, talking, listening,” she said.

Walters said the organization, which has about 300 clients, is still accepting new ones, “just accepting them in a different way” and helping them in a different way.

If someone needs a crib, for instance, it is delivered on the doorstep. Diapers, wipes, and cleaning supplies are not only costly, but hard to find nowadays, so volunteers handle the shopping.

“If you are a single mom, how do you go to the grocery store?” she asked.

Walters said, “We just want to help moms that are in need. And assure them they are loved and there is help out there. Jobs, food, whatever they need.”

FORT WORTH — With Covid-19 spreading and tight restrictions in place, parishes are finding creative ways to help those in need. Zoom meetings now organize details for drive-through food pantries, and household items are delivered to porches, sans human contact.

Published (until 12/5/2041)
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