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    Outdoor Rosary Feeds Hunger for Prayer during COVID Pandemic

    Drone photos of a large-scale rosary on church drive

    Sally Rico was looking for a new way to keep parishioners connected with their faith after churches closed as part of the statewide COVID-19 precautions. Her idea, an outdoor, walkable rosary, soon went viral on social media.

    Rico, coordinator for religious education at St. Lawrence Martyr parish in Hanover, Md., and Father Victor Scocco, OSST, the pastor, noticed that parishioners would park outside the church to say their prayers, while neighbors, who now were working from home, were using the park side of the 29-acre church property for exercise.

    The parish, which is the faith home for nearly 800 families, has a circular driveway that could be blocked off while the building was closed. The idea for a walkable rosary was born.

    Logistics of creating the rosary

    The challenge was how to make it happen. The rosary could not be permanent since the driveway would need to be used by cars once the church reopened. Working with the Ayoub family, including their five children, Rico found a cornstarch and flour recipe for the paint and together they measured the driveway — 102 feet — and worked out the size of each bead.

    On a cold and windy day, the team gathered for more than 10 hours to lay out and paint the rosary, using the feet of 11-year-old Grace to measure out the placement of each bead. They placed signs to help people pray.

    “We put the prayers of the rosary close to where they would be prayed for those who don’t know how to pray the rosary. We picked joyful mysteries. We need to be joyful regardless of our situations,” said Rico.

    Then Rez LaBoy got a call, asking if he could come over. LaBoy, a recreational drone operator, recently joined the parish with his wife, Karen, after moving to the area. He has been preparing to become Catholic through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at St. Hugh of Grenoble in Greenbelt, his wife’s longtime parish, where they received marriage preparation and have been helping livestream Sunday Masses this spring.

    Within minutes of the call, he headed to St. Lawrence with his drone and took photos of the rosary, which the parish posted on social media. That’s when things took off. Calls and emails have poured in from around the country. 

    People really have a hunger for Christ

    At the parish, Scocco said that “over the last weeks, we have seen people quietly walking and making use of the rosary.”

    They have come not only from the parish, but from other parts of Maryland, and a neighbor who is not Catholic asked Rico to walk through the rosary with her. Rico explained that the rosary is a meditation on the life of Christ.

    “The beautiful part of this story is that many parishioners were hurt in not being able to come into the church. No one ever thinks about the church having to close its doors,” LaBoy said, noting this was a “creative and unique way” for parishioners to still come to church, although outside.

    While the past two months have meant many changes for the parish, Scocco said, “What I’m amazed about is the cohesiveness of the parish. We have managed to stay together.”

    “While people are of varying opinions on how and when we should open up, one thing is clear: they have an obvious hunger for the sacraments,” he continued. “People really have a hunger for Christ.”

    In speaking about the changes, Fr. Scocco noted that he has acquired more digital skills and said parishioners write daily and have been grateful for online Masses. The parish’s young adult lectio divina group moved their meetings to Zoom and, using the parish directory, coordinated outreach to seniors in the parish. Online Adoration has drawn strong numbers and when Fr. Scocco offered the Sacrament of Reconciliation outdoors, following social distancing guidelines, people came for 2-1/2 hours.

    Parishioners also have been directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with nine families, including the father-in-law of an RCIA participant, affected.

    Fr. Scocco expects some online ministry will continue after restrictions are lifted. The parish looks forward to worshipping in-person again, welcoming their eight RCIA participants into full communion, and to celebrating an ordination to the priesthood that will be held in the fall. Brother Josh Warshak, OSST, has been assisting as a transitional deacon at St. Lawrence while preparing to become a priest.


    Please note: The Rosary was not designed to be permanent as the driveway will be used for cars again soon. The parish may create another outdoor rosary next May. Photos by Rez LaBoy, recreational drone photographer.

    Sally Rico provided the recipe used to create the Rosary: 

    Chalk paint

    • 1:1 flour to water
    • 1:1 cornstarch to water 

    (1/2 c. of cornstarch + 1/2 c. of water) + (1/2 c. flour + 1/2 c. of water) = just over a cup of solution

    Food dye for approximately 1 cup of solution

    • 10 drops blue
    • 2 drops pink
    • 2 drops black

     

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    Health Ministry and Safety during COVID

    Health care ministry during COVID-19

    With a hospital and several assisted living, rehabilitation and nursing home facilities nearby, health care ministry is an important outreach at St. Peter Parish in Olney.

    “We may have as many as 75 to 100 people at a time who have an extraordinary health care need, for whom we provide accompaniment and sacraments,” said Fr. Tom Kalita, pastor at St. Peter’s. “Often, they are feeling lonely and bereft, which affects their ability to heal.”

    The restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic have been difficult for carrying out this ministry. Parish volunteers, priests, and deacons who once brought the Eucharist weekly, and prayed and visited with patients and residents have not been able to go into local medical care facilities and retirement residences for the past two months. The parish continues to pray for those who are ill or elderly, but in-person visits are on hold.

    Fr. Kalita has been allowed one visit, to minister to a woman nearing death. He had to wear proper protective gear and follow strict protocols, which included using a Q-tip dipped in the sacred oil to anoint her.

    “It took as long to get suited up as the time I was there praying. I think of the people who need to put on and take off the protective gear. It is hard,” Fr. Kalita noted.

    Another day, a call came into the parish from the hospital across the street. Two Catholic patients were nearing death. The hospital was closed to visitors, but could something be done? Armed with the patients’ room numbers, Fr. Kalita stood in front of the hospital and, one-by-one, turned in the direction of each of the rooms, gave conditional absolution, and said the prayers for the dying.

    Across Maryland, clergy and volunteers are finding new ways to be present for those who are medically fragile and elderly, and to continue to do what they can to serve.

    As Father Mike Tietjen, pastor of Immaculate Conception in Mechanicsville, recently told the Catholic Standard about his own ministry with COVID patients, “We are going in there because Jesus asked us to do this. We are being prudent, we are being smart, but we are doing what we always have done … We are coping with this situation. The Church has coped with pandemics before. It's the first time for us, but not for the Church.” 

    Catholic Hospitals in Maryland


    Ethics of Vaccines

    Several U.S. bishops, who chair committees for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, recently urged the FDA to to ensure that vaccines for COVID-19 are developed ethically and are free from any connection to abortion. READ THE LETTER HERE

    Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Prevention 

    Advocates and lawmakers in Maryland have expressed concern over a rise in domestic violence and child abuse incidents during stay-in-place orders. If you are being abused or if you suspect someone is being abused, please get help now.


    Mental Health Services

    • Maryland Department of Health Mental Health crisis helpline: 211, press 1, or text 898-211
    • A short video on managing anxiety during coronavirus (Saint Luke Institute)
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    June 2 is Maryland's Primary. Learn where the candidates stand on key issues.

    To help voters know more about the candidates running for Congress in Maryland's June 2 primary, the Maryland Catholic Conference surveyed the candidates on issues ranging from education to caring for the poor. The survey results are now available on the Conference website at www.mdcatholic.org/elections.

    Maryland’s Primary Election day is Tuesday, June 2, and due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the state will conduct the primary by mail. All eligible voters will be mailed a ballot, which can be returned via mail or dropped off at select locations throughout the state starting on May 21 and continuing through primary election day on June 2. Limited in-person voting locations will be available on June 2. Voters can also register to vote online through election day. 

    Catholics are called to participate in political processes like voting to work for the common good and be a voice of the Christian faith in the public square. 

    To help voters make an informed choice when voting, the Maryland Catholic Conference surveys candidates each election on a number of key issues and allows each candidate to make a brief statement. For the 2020 election, the Conference surveyed the candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Maryland's eight congressional districts.

    The Conference asked candidates whether they agreed or disagreed with positions on topics including: caring for the poor, immigration, healthcare, educational options and conscience protections. Many candidates touched on other important issues in their brief statements, including abortion. 

    "We encourage every Catholic voter in Maryland to visit our site and read the results of the survey before they vote," said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Conference. "Our goal is to help voters understand more about the candidates and know where they stand on issues that are of importance to our Catholic faith. While we cannot gather together at the polls this primary election day, each one of us still can participate in this important political process and make our voice heard."

    The Maryland Catholic Conference does not endorse candidates or political parties.

    To learn more about why these issues matter to the Church, please visit the Issues page on our website.

    To register to vote in the June 2 primary, visit: elections.maryland.gov/voter_registration.

     

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    COVID-19 and Prison Release

    prison

    WHAT IF STAY-IN-PLACE COULD MEAN RISK?

    Stay-in-place orders are meant to reduce contact between people and control the spread of COVID-19, but what happens when stay-in-place leaves people vulnerable?

    Chaplains and volunteers with Catholic prison ministry across Maryland have been concerned about the risk of COVID-19 for incarcerated youth and adults.

    The order by Governor Larry Hogan in mid-April to allow expedited release of inmates who are considered not to pose a threat to public safety, such as those who are elderly, pregnant, or non-violent, was welcomed to reduce crowding and health risks.

    “My office has received so many calls concerning their incarcerated family members that I was overwhelmed. It was truly a blessing,” Deacon Seigfried Presberry said after the governor's order was enacted. He is the coordinator for prison ministry in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

    The Maryland Catholic Conference participates in two state coalitions that focus on reforms to the system of justice. Garrett O'Day, deputy director for the Conference, noted, "The Maryland Catholic Conference has taken positions previously on legislation that is in line with Gov. Hogan’s order, such as commonsense measures allowing for geriatric parole and protection for pregnant inmates.”

    On April 27, the Maryland Department for Juvenile Services announced that 200 youth being held for non-violent or misdemeanor reasons had been released. Five young people and 11 staff previously had tested positive for COVID-19.

    Fr. Mike Bryant, who has worked in prison ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington since the 1980s and who continues to serve as a volunteer chaplain, said the reason prisons are a particular concern is that “COVID-19 is a deadly virus and people living in confined spaces are at high risk for contracting this disease, whether they are in nursing homes, jails, prisons or half-way houses. Prisons are often unsanitary places, and sometimes lack basic means by which residents can maintain personal hygiene and social distance from one another.”

    While restrictions are in place in Maryland’s prisons, Deacon Presberry noted the two full-time chaplains in the Archdiocese of Baltimore continue to serve these correctional institutions and are allowed to go inside as essential workers. He noted that the work right now “has been challenging, to say the least.”

    Prison ministry volunteers and other visitors, however, are not permitted to enter prisons at this time. Deacon Presberry said he is getting requests from parishes and others asking how they can help or donate.

    “I remind them to pray and after we can see some light at the end of the tunnel, I will be contacting them because the institutions are not allowing anything to come in” during this crisis, he said.

    LEARN MORE about prison ministry and re-entry programs: Archdiocese of Baltimore | Archdiocese of Washington

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