My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
On the first weekend after the quarantine began, my first task before individually calling each of the pastors of our parishes in Brooklyn and Queens, I placed a call to each of our hospital chaplains. Truly, they were on the front lines in their ministry in the hospitals of Brooklyn and Queens.
We have 30 priests, five sisters, four deacons, and a laywoman working as chaplains, and each one was very thankful for my call offering them words of encouragement. Unfortunately, about four became ill with the coronavirus. Thanks be to God all have recovered.
Being a hospital chaplain during this time of the pandemic was not an easy responsibility. Our fear and anxiety of catching this virus were certainly theirs; however, they stayed at their posts and made sure that they comforted the faithful, and some of the non-faithful, in those difficult situations. Since that first Saturday and Sunday of the quarantine, I have received numerous thanks from the chaplains for that call of prayerful support.
Last week, at the DeSales Media 25th Annual Bishop DiMarzio Golf Classic, our hospital chaplains who were ministering during the pandemic were honored at the dinner, which follows an afternoon of golfing. This is one of the few golf outings that seems to have survived the pandemic; however, social distancing during the entire day was followed according to our new way of living at this time.
In addition to the chaplains, the DeSales Media Emergency Task Force, headed by Vincent LeVien, Director of External Affairs, was honored for the yeoman work done during the pandemic.
He put together a team that distributed more than 300,000 masks, 100,000 bottles of sanitizer, and some 40,000 pairs of gloves to police departments, fire departments, hospitals, nursing homes, and more throughout the city, but mainly in Brooklyn and Queens. The team is also responsible for facilitating the delivery of over 50,000 pizzas to our essential workers.
Also, by working with Catholic Telemedia Network, nearly one thousand iPads were given to our Catholic schools to help with remote learning. I am really proud of the work of this task force and the ability they had to organize their efforts so quickly.
Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens (CCBQ) was also extraordinarily organized during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We thank Msgr. Alfred LoPinto, Vicar for Human Services, and Father Patrick Keating, Associate Vicar, for
their leadership and vision in coordinating the tireless efforts of the staff and volunteers of Catholic Charities.
CCBQ has provided tremendous relief to thousands of unemployed people of Brooklyn and Queens through the distribution of debit cards to be used for the purchase of food. At the same time, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, in partnership with parishes in the Diocese, has provided nearly half a million meals through their food pantry network, emergency pop-up food distributions, and home-delivered meals programs.
Pop-up pantries were held during the height of the pandemic at the Catholic Charities Therese Cervini Early Childhood Development Center in Corona, St. Bartholomew in Elmhurst, Our Lady of Sorrows in Corona, St. Michael-St. Malachy in East New York, St. Michael’s in Sunset Park, St. Finbar in Bensonhurst, St. Therese of Lisieux in East Flatbush, Sacred Heart of Jesus in Cambria Heights, and Our Lady of Victory Church of St. Martin de Porres in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
I am truly proud of how individuals and organizations within the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens, notably the Knights of Columbus and other such organizations, came to the assistance of many people in need during the pandemic.
All met, and exceeded, the mandates of their organizations and went above and beyond the call of duty.
This was also an important time for all of us to reflect on what we each owe to our neighbors. Social distancing really comes from the social responsibility we have to assist one another as sisters and brothers in Christ. Truly, our neighbor during this time could have been anyone; those who were ill, those who were recovering, and even those who died because of the virus.
We do not know how much longer we must keep being prepared with these types of precautions and the emergency relief that we are giving. As long as it is necessary, however, I am sure that we can count on our diocesan organizations to do their best to assist those who are so important.
I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the faithful back to Mass — daily and Sunday — which is slowly becoming the experience we are used to it being. It is a difficult time for us all, especially those who are older and those. who have underlying conditions, to come to Mass. Remember, the dispensation from Mass is still in effect until we see our way clear from this virus.
This is a good opportunity to also thank in a special way all of our priests in the Diocese of Brooklyn who have done whatever is possible to continue their ministry in new ways here in Brooklyn and Queens during the pandemic.
So many have live-streamed their liturgies and found new ways of administering the sacrament of penance, for example via social distancing in parking lots. We have all put out into the deep during this coronavirus pandemic. First, deeply into our own psyche and lives, realizing the value that life has and how fragile life sometimes can become. Also, we have put out into the deep by assisting others either directly or indirectly through our diocesan organizations. We continue to do the best that we can to assist all in need during this pandemic.