By Lara Pickford-Gordon
As resources are mobilised to ease the suffering people are experiencing during the COVID-19 lockdown, parishes have been directed to establish Social Needs Committees (SNC) to support the Archdiocese’s hotline 607-HOPE (4673).
Archbishop Jason Gordon has asked clergy to engage with their Ministry Animation Teams (MATs), parish councils and deacons to assist in creating networks of solidarity in their parish and all 256 parish communities.
The aim is to ensure each person in need receives “what is necessary in keeping with their human dignity”.
Archbishop Gordon proposed a food bank in each parish community, and if things worsen, a soup kitchen may need to be functioning every day.
Clergy were asked to coordinate all their groups in their parish, including deacons and parish leaders alongside persons already working in the caring ministry of parishes. Based on the level of need identified, parishes can enter into solidarity with other parishes.
Archbishop Gordon stated should things get worse, he preferred for the Archdiocese to be prepared with a well-organised, structured care ministry functional daily in every parish community.
The Archdiocese Hotline will facilitate meeting the needs—social, prayer/moral support, Ministry to the Sick—of people. For the hotline to be operational every parish needs to have a functional SNC. It will interact with the Archdiocesan Social Needs Team led by Fr Dwight Merrick.
The six regional Episcopal Vicars will work on this in collaboration with each priest in their vicariate. Vicars and priests will form a “solidarity network” to ensure parishes receive what is needed to respond to social needs requests. Acknowledging some clergy may fall into the group particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 or live with others at risk, Archbishop Gordon appealed for them to do what they can to create the network of solidarity while taking all necessary precautions including social distancing. “Do not interact unless you are not at risk”.
At last Tuesday’s Mass at the chapel, Archbishop’s House, Archbishop Gordon disclosed that vicars had decided to use from a “stabilisation fund” to feed to the poor. He added, “We are moving whatever we have in service of the poor today”.
Underscoring the fallout of the COVID-19 lockdown, he stated, “I don’t know how to say this to you today in ways that are not alarmist but we have thousands of people in this nation who are starving right now; thousands of people who do not know how to feed their children right now”.
Weeks ago, he continued, they were earning a living and getting by but now they are struggling and have lost hope in today and tomorrow. Paraphrasing a verse from the day’s First Reading, Acts 4: 32–37, he said “The whole community of believers was one in mind and heart. No-one claimed private ownership of any possessions; but rather, they shared all things in common….” This is difficult but, “this consciousness of possession being an absolute right is really a false consciousness. It is not the consciousness of the spirit”.
Archbishop Gordon announced distribution points will be set up in every parish and parish community to ensure people receive what they need. He said, “that’s the teaching of the early Church, we share what we have and if we come out poorer for it, thanks be to God”.
The Church would come out with dignity and witness the dying to self so a brother and sister “can get through this time with some dignity”. Referencing Catholic social teaching, St John Paul II’s concept that “all private property has a social mortgage” he said, “What we own has been given to us for the needs of everyone”.
In the day’s Gospel of John 3:7–15, he said Jesus is teaching “those born of spirit and water—baptism, have a different consciousness from other people”.
Catholics need to live their baptism with generosity and allow the Spirit to be the dominant force in their life, he remarked.
Archbishop Gordon stressed the urgency of the situation, “We only have two options in the country right now; we either meet the needs of those in need or we will see things in this country we do not want to see”.