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Parish responds to crisis by creating a new ministry


At Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in South Orange, a new ministry has been born out of the coronavirus crisis. It’s called Homebound Connections. It started with parishioners simply wanting to help fellow parishioners.

“This coronavirus has made everyone more alert. We all want to do something,” said Sister Mary Selina, S.C.C., the pastoral associate at the parish.

Parishioner Joan Delaloye said her first concern was for those from her parish who are homebound or sick and can’t get out for groceries. That’s when she called Sister Mary, who then provided her with a list of about a dozen names.

“I called everybody,” Delaloye said. “There were people who were so happy that they got the call. They gave me a list of items they needed.”

Other parishioners who expressed an interest to help then took care of running the errands and delivering the items.

Delaloye said she followed up with those who were assisted to make sure everything worked out. She recalled one woman with COPD being especially thankful because she desperately needed distilled water for her breathing apparatus. “If that wasn’t the Holy Spirit (at work),” Delaloye stated.

Sister Mary said she spoke to the same woman. “She called to say how grateful she was that this was being coordinated, grateful that they showed their care from the parish,” sister said.

The new ministry is quickly expanding beyond physical needs; it’s also providing spiritual needs. Sister Mary is sending emails containing prayers to the sick and homebound, other parishioners are making cards, and even choir members are eager to sing for them over the phone.

“What a way to bring some sunshine. Music is powerful,” said Delaloye, who has a background in social work and education. “People need connections, to not feel so isolated, (to know) someone is out there, someone cares, and coming from your parish is that much more meaningful to them.

“Physical needs are very important, but emotional and spiritual needs are also vital,” she continued.

“The idea is simply that the church is here to serve you,” said Father Brian Needles, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows. “We recognize that so many of our parishioners are alone and can’t necessarily leave the house, especially at this time. We, therefore, really want them to see the church as a source of assistance, encouragement and hope. I’ve been inspired by members of our parish who have volunteered to become engaged in this new ministry. I guess one welcome consequence of the coronavirus is that it has made us see and respond to a previously unmet need in our parish.”

The hope is that the Homebound Connections ministry will continue to grow during these difficult times, and the plan is for it to continue even after the crisis ends. 

“We realize in a great way how important it is. I think we’ve come to love one another better,” reflected Sister Mary.

“When this is over, I hope to say hello to these people and get to know them a little,” Delaloye said.

Follow RCAN on Twitter: @NwkArchdiocese.