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by Jennifer Snider, Director of Social Ministry, St. Edward

When the pandemic hit Virginia in mid-March and life as we knew it came to a screeching halt, my experience as a parish social minister completely changed.

“How can I lead parishioners to be the hands and feet of Christ when we can’t meet to do the work,” I wondered. “How can we be the Body of Christ without bodies?”

I quickly adapted parish ministry to connecting with parishioners virtually. Once a week, I continue to present parishioners with new opportunities to help others from home. The first several weeks were exhausting as new needs in the community constantly came to my attention from local organizations like Commonwealth Catholic Charities.

When, at the beginning of the crisis, Commonwealth Catholic Charities helped more than 80 individuals in Richmond move out of tents and into safe shelters and hotels, those individuals needed to be fed. For weeks, parishioners donated funds which I used to purchase meals from local restaurants. In this way we helped two groups—individuals experiencing homelessness and local small businesses.

As the crisis continued, parishioners who had not participated in social ministries before but now could not attend Mass found new ways to be “Church.” As a parish, we have provided food on a weekly basis to food pantries at Sacred Heart Center and Bainbridge Community Ministry. Our Ladies’ Auxiliary had a diapers and wipes drive for the Baby Clothes Closet at Commonwealth Catholic Charities. We also supported the clients at Commonwealth Catholic Charities’ Housing Resource Center and Youth Hub with new t-shirts, socks, and bottled water.

These acts of charity are just one part of our baptismal call to build the Kingdom of God. Our Church teaches that our mission is to carry out and continue the work of Jesus in the world. We walk this path of love with two feet – charity and justice.

The last five months have been a time of growth and unique opportunity in parish social ministry. This prayer to the Holy Spirit has helped me get through: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth.”

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