By Emily Drooby
White flags have been placed on the lawn outside of St. Michael’s Church in Flushing, Queens. Each one represents a member of their parish lost to the coronavirus. The display is still a work in progress, but when it’s done, there will be over 200 flags. Many of those who’ve passed away are from nearby nursing homes.
The pandemic has made death a horrifying new normal for too many.
“I am really overwhelmed by the pain,” explained the church’s pastor, Monsignor John Vesey.
He tells Currents News he has a big job facing him: helping his flock deal with the losses, all while dealing with it himself. The flags are part of his plan.
“I think by doing symbolic things like this it’s going to help all of us to be more mindful that we are one family and that we have to be more caring and loving because as you know this could be us, today or tomorrow,” Msgr. Vesey said,
Other churches in the Diocese of Brooklyn have lost parishioners to the pandemic, too.
Presentation Of The Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Jamaica, Queens has been using candles next to the altar where they celebrate their live-streamed Masses to help remember their dead. Right now they have 14 candles, one for each member of their community that they lost.
The church’s pastor, Father Manuel De Jesús Rodríguez, says it’s a way to remember and honor those they’ve lost. They’ve also been using Whatsapp groups, a cell phone application, to reach out to and comfort their parishioners as they grieve the losses in their own family, and in their church family.
Looking ahead, Fr. Rodríguez also believes that when it’s safe to, taking part in the sacraments will help parishioners heal even further.
It’s a difficult time for clergy, too. They’ve lost their friends, their parishioners, their people. Fr. Rodríguez says personally, he’s been leaning on his faith to cope.
“When Jesus is present in ourselves as the bones that unite us together and hold us together as brothers and sisters,” he explained. “Everything becomes less painful, and everything becomes more bearable.”
From flags, to candles, to support groups to prayer, there are so many ways in which clergy are helping grieve those they’ve lost, and support those who need it.