During the Year of Mercy, I sought to deepen my own practice of mercy through my service as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. That summer during Notre Dame Vision, I encountered a young man profoundly moved by his reception of the Eucharist. As I prayed with this encounter, I experienced a profound renewal of my call to serve as an Extraordinary Minister, and I committed to serving regularly at my parish’s Sunday Mass.
I glanced up as the young man approached, next in line for Communion. He lifted his face, his eyes brimming with emotion as I held up the host and said, “The Body of Christ.” Looking into his eyes as I placed the host on his outstretched hand, he held my gaze with an intensity that took my breath away. He breathed out a soft “Amen” as he closed his hand around the host and lifted his clenched fist up to his chest. Grasping the Bread of Life, clinging to the source of love, he took a deep breath and with every fiber of his being uttered “Thank you!” as tears filled his eyes and flowed freely down his face. His response evoked something deep within me and I could only watch in awe as he consumed the host, a smile breaking across his face as he turned to make his way back to his seat. An encounter of no more than a few seconds, yet one in which God’s abundant mercy and love touched both his heart and mine.
Pivot. We are doing a whole lot of pivoting in life, aren’t we? Personally, professionally, socially, and even spiritually.
Summer, for many of us in ministry, is our time to slow down, to pause, to reflect, and to recalibrate for the coming year of ministry. Often, it is the time we give ourselves permission to take time off, go on vacation, or even make time for a retreat. Due to the realities of life at the moment, even our rest this summer invites us to explore new and creative ways to rejuvenate and reconnect with the source of our ministry and call.
Every baptized Christian is directly responsible for the primary mission of the Church: evangelization. Pope Benedict XVI recalled this in an address in 2012, saying that lay people “should not be regarded as ‘collaborators’ of the clergy, but, rather, as people who are really ‘co-responsible’ for the Church’s being and acting.” Pope Francis has claimed that “in some cases, lay persons have not been given the formation needed to take on important responsibilities” (Evangelii Gaudium, §102), to the extent that every member of the Church is empowered as distinctly but fully called and co-responsible for the Church’s mission.
The nature of the COVID-19 outbreak presents parishes with a very new challenge. People cannot leave their homes, but most people are still able to do things, just only in their homes. Thus, for now, ministry must occur primarily in the digital sphere. As an Echo student, I live with church ministers and work at a parish. I know firsthand that transitioning ministry online is hard, and, honestly a little weird. But even in the past three weeks, it’s clear that making the transition is far from impossible, and it can actually be quite beautiful. Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. One of the implications of this truth is that humanity, sufficiently open to God’s grace, is creative—and with a virtually brand-new ballgame of ministry, a lot of creativity must be had, so I hope to offer a few ideas here that parishes can implement to digitally engage their parishioners, as well as provide a good bit of hope.