Dear brother priests,
I wish to extend my prayerful gratitude for all the wonderful attention you continue to give to our people during this COVID-19 pandemic. I am aware of the many priests who are live-streaming the Mass, various prayer devotions, messages of support and care for your parishioners, and the varied ways that you are reaching out to folks especially those who are suffering from personal fear and/or financial hardship. I know that many of you are anointing the sick where possible and are doing your best to be present to your people while still respecting the demands of social distancing. None of this is easy and certainly we have no personal experience of dealing with these conditions.
I am thankful that none of our priests have contracted the virus, while in many dioceses in our country some priests have contracted the disease and, in some places, priests have died from it. I personally know of three priests whose lives have been taken by this infection and a good number of friends and acquaintances as well who have died as a result of the virus. Perhaps you too know of friends, relatives and parishioners who have gone home to the Lord. May they rest in peace!
In addition, in response to the financial difficulties we face in our parishes and in the diocese as well, I am aware of the generous sacrifices many of you are making to help your parishes at this time: those who have declined to accept two or three salary payments; those who have personally assumed responsibility for expenses that the parish or diocese are usually responsible for (e.g. food purchases, gasoline reimbursements, internet fees, etc.) I am most edified and appreciative. Our parishes, schools and the diocese are all struggling financially and so many of our people who are also struggling cannot offer the generous help that our parishes need during this crisis. Catholic Charities has been very busy in trying to keep our food pantries filled in the midst of tremendous demands, and I know you have been very generous in assisting in those needs as well.
We also face other challenges as we try to deal with disaster relief in Seneca as a result of the recent tornados which destroyed hundreds of homes. Ordinarily, we would authorize a special collection to assist those affected, but without congregational gatherings, it becomes difficult to raise even more funds; hopefully we can find ways to access some available disaster relief funds from Catholic Charities USA and ask those in our diocese who can respond, to do so by sending any offerings to the diocese.
These are indeed difficult times, but we are a people of hope and we will not be dragged into the valley of despair. Together with the assistance of the Holy Spirit we will manage not only to survive this pandemic, but to thrive as we overcome these difficulties. I pray that this Pentecost will be a new opportunity for all of us to rejoice. Deo Gratias.
In the Lord's Peace,
Robert E. Guglielmone
Bishop of Charleston