Dear Fellow Parishioners,
We are now approaching our second weekend without public Sunday Masses in our Church. I cannot think of another such time in the history of our parish.
Fr. David has been posting daily Mass from our own beautiful church, so that you can continue to worship in a familiar place. I have posted Sunday Mass in Spanish, so that the prayer life of our parish can continue as seamlessly as possible. These Masses are available “on demand”.
Our rectory office remains open during business hours for answering phone calls and doing whatever can be done while preventing potential contact with the coronavirus. Ignacio, our maintenance man, is sanitizing the church and making needed repairs which are difficult to do when the church is occupied.
I was pastor of St. Apollinaris Church in Napa when a powerful local earthquake struck early Sunday morning on August 24, 2014. The power went off and it was still dark outside. As I got dressed and prepared to leave my room, I had to be careful not to cut my feet on broken glass. I rushed across town to check on a priest who was recovering from recent hip replacement surgery. He was shaken, but fine.
By the time I hurried back to the church, the sun was rising and parishioners were gathering in the parking lot, offering help. One came with a wrench to shut off the gas. Another came to check out the electrical systems. Still another came with flashlights. And some gathered simply because they wanted the reassurance of being near their church, even though we could not enter it for several more days. Later that morning, all Masses took place on schedule, outside. National Public Radio was on hand to report on the events.
(In the collection that morning, we received a note from a couple visiting from Kansas. They were so moved by the Mass that they wrote a check for $10,000 for repairs. After I announced that at next Sunday’s Masses, parishioners applauded. I then received a note from another couple visiting from Texas, saying that their state would not be outdone by Kansas, and enclosed another $10,000 check.)
By the next weekend, we were back into the church, though it suffered significant cosmetic damage. As it turned out, there was over $1,000,000 in repairs needed for our relatively new church and gymnasium. The gym was repaired in less than 6 months, and we were able to salvage some of the remaining indoor sports seasons. Somehow, we got through it all.
Pope St. John XXIII often said, “History is the teacher of life.” St. Vincent’s has experienced, and grown stronger, through challenges in the past. The Great Depression. World War II, whose final outcome was not at all assured. The Bay Area wartime blackouts to fend off potential enemy bombings at night. The polio scares of the 1950’s, which terrified parents and closed public playgrounds and pools. The Cuban Missile Crisis (within days of the opening of the Second Vatican Council), in which the whole world came as close to nuclear war as it had ever been, before or since. The spiritual shelter and solace provided by our parish, together with your prayers and good works, have given witness to the providential love of God which is always near.
Fast forward to the present. This has been a very challenging couple of weeks. The end is not yet in sight. Most of us are worried about the health of our loved ones, our community and our country. Some households have experienced limited inconvenience, while other families are experiencing illness, significant or total income loss, and anxiety about the future. Still others have no one to pray or care for them.
At the same time, there are many coming to the aid of those in need: medical professionals, public safety workers and providers of essential services. We have a renewed appreciation for all those who now risk their health to provide services we depend on. Together with continued support of our parish, the Lenten penance of giving alms is especially fitting now for helping the neediest among us.
In all of this, we know that “we conquer overwhelmingly through Him who loved us,” and that “nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Romans 8) May the Holy Spirit continue to guide, protect and strengthen us now and in the days to come.
You are all in our prayers.
Rev. William Donahue