News & Updates
When God shuts a door, He opens a window.
In mid-March, doors were shuttered across the District of Columbia and Maryland as our local communities attempted to slow the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the same time, windows were being opened throughout our local Church. For example, Father Scott Holmer, pastor of St. Edward the Confessor in Bowie, gained national notoriety with his “parking lot confessions.” Joe McHenry, one of our seminarians serving at St. Edward’s, had his hands full organizing volunteers to channel the flow of vehicles, while also managing the many media inquiries from both local and national outlets!
As in our parishes, change has been the norm within our Archdiocesan ministries since the pandemic began. Here, you will find stories from across the Archdiocese that show how God has opened windows through acts of creativity, compassion, and resolve. Thanks to your support of the Annual Appeal, our missionary work will continue – even stronger than before.
“At first, we lamented. Then, we adapted.”
Julie Cilano, campus minister at George Washington University, mourned the loss of her time with students at GW following the coronavirus outbreak, but soon came to see God’s hand at work.
“When the pandemic hit, it was at the same moment we were experiencing great fruits in our ministry. We began hosting Zoom bible studies; we live-streamed talks, prayers, singing, Mass, and more; we picked up phones. Most importantly, we stayed connected.”
Similar fruits were seen throughout our five other Archdiocesan campus ministries. At the University of Maryland, when campus ministry staff shifted their Bible Study program online, participation increased from 175 to 200 students. At St. Mary’s College, spiritual directors began to meet with students biweekly instead of monthly. Mentoring programs at American University, Howard University and Gallaudet similarly continued personal outreach for prayer and support.
Through the work of our campus ministers, God’s love and care has continued to shine within and for the students they serve. For Julie, that light is brighter than ever: “Our students have been resilient in practicing their Catholic faith against all odds, and that brings me great hope.”
Outside of the Classroom
Seminarians, like college students in the Archdiocese, had their world turned upside down by the pandemic. At the time of the outbreak
in the U.S., many of our seminarians were in Jamaica serving at Mustard Seed, a community that ministers to vulnerable populations. Others were studying in Rome. All were brought home and relocated to rectories throughout the Archdiocese where they could continue their formation online. Within parish communities, seminarians could assist by serving at daily Mass and helping with pastoral initiatives.
At the John Paul II Seminary, the faculty continued formation remotely with daily reflections, formation talks, spiritual direction meetings, formation advising, apologetics nights, and rector’s conferences. After the seminarians finished their exams in May, they held a remote seminary-wide gathering to celebrate the school year – complete with a video prepared by each class.
The fruits of our vibrant Archdiocesan vocations and seminarian programs can be seen in the eight men ordained to the priesthood this June. We are blessed to have them embark on their priestly ministry during this unusual time of need.
Rethinking Sacraments, Pastoral Presence and Accompaniment
On the spiritual front lines of our local hospitals and prisons are ten chaplains – seven archdiocesan priests, two religious priests, and one religious sister – whose special ministry is to care for the sick, dying and imprisoned within our Archdiocese. Physically distanced from those whom they serve, our chaplains have had to rethink how to celebrate the Sacraments, remain pastorally present, and accompany those in need.
Father Michael Bryant oversees ministry in D.C. prisons. Knowing how quickly the coronavirus spreads among those in confinement, Father Bryant recognized the need to release nonviolent offenders, early release candidates, and other vulnerable adults such as pregnant women. Father Bryant organized a letter campaign to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan advocating for those who fit these specific measures to be granted early release.
For our hospital chaplains, administering the Anointing of the Sick —especially to Covid-19 patients—has continued, although in a manner that avoids physical contact. Families have reached out to the Archdiocese’s Office of Social Concerns to request ICU visits to family members suffering from Covid-19, and our chaplains have continued to respond courageously to those calls.