DPC Discusses COVID-19, Racism
COVID distancing leads to first ever virtual meeting
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
June 18, 2020
DIOCESE—The world-wide health crisis of COVID-19 has not only changed the way the world operates, but it also seems to be shaping how we plan, at least in the short term. 
Also poised to change our world-view are the protests and calls for change resulting from the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers. 
Both topics were part of the planning and conversation of the Diocesan Pastoral Council.
In its first-ever virtual meeting on June 13, the DPC discussed the impact of the coronavirus on Catholic parish communities in the diocese along with a frank discussion on racism. 
Bishop David Malloy opened the meeting with the prayer on racism from United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“By necessity, so many activities in the life of the parishes and diocese have had to be canceled or postponed due to the pandemic,” DPC executive secretary Kevin Fuss told The Observer. 
“However, because the Diocesan Pastoral Committee provides Bishop Malloy feedback and guidance on current events from across the entire diocese, he was looking for a way to get the council together during this important time, even if only virtually,” Fuss continued.
“It has been a very difficult and challenging time in the Church,” Bishop Malloy said as he began the discussion about the coronavirus. 
Decisions reviewed
Bishop Malloy recapped the administrative discussions and decision-making that had taken place in the diocese before, during and since public Masses were suspended in mid-March.
The bishop then asked to hear from the 24 DPC members participating in the online video meeting on their experience of “church” during the “stay-at-home” orders.
Most all members expressed gratitude for all the online options offered by priests and parishes, as well as from Bishop Malloy who has celebrated a Sunday Mass and prepared a devotion and prayer session every Wednesday for the diocesan website and Facebook page during the pandemic.
Sister Mary Kay Moran said she appreciated the way the online Masses, offered both daily and on Sunday, “kept us united.” 
She said “it has been a very scary time,” and she appreciated the efforts of the many priests who tried to keep “people nourished and less fearful.”
Several council members agreed with Bishop Malloy in pointing out that the pandemic has taught Catholics that there is a need for more catechesis about the Mass and the meaning of our participation in the Mass whether we are present or not. 
Members also suggested that there be some “post pandemic training” offered for parishes so they can evaluate their technological preparedness, communication strategies and financial options such as online giving and direct deposit.
Council member Dan Payette agreed this would be a good strategy moving forward since it is important to realize that “some parishes are suffering more than others.”
Mike Gallagher also offered suggestions for the post pandemic planning saying that it would be good, on a diocesan level, to hold a gathering to “learn what we have learned” from the time of closure. 
Mass reopening discussed
Council members also shared their varied experience of returning to the public celebration of Mass. 
Some members said it has been a very slow return to Mass while others reported all Mass sign-ups have been full. But as different as the experiences were in all areas of the diocese, members agreed that they all have tried to avoid any divisiveness of reopening to the public.
Racism concerns surface
Racism was the next huge topic of discussion for the council. 
In the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police in Minnesota and the resulting protests occurring nationwide, Bishop Malloy listened to experiences and thoughts in regard to the Catholic response to racial issues from the council members.
Council members suggested more community engagement on the part of pastors, more preaching on the issues and more recognition of the “issues outside our doors.” 
While some council members suggested more need for Catholic action on the issues of race, others said the Church does and should consider this a “life issue.” 
Fathers David Finn and John McNamara said they felt many young Catholics believe this to be true as they participate in the annual March for Life which spotlights each year the need to respect and uphold the rights and “dignity of each person, not just the preborn.”
Bishop Malloy said there must be reform in the way people of color are treated not just by law enforcement but by all citizens. 
“There has to be reform but we need to do this also with spiritual reform that comes from real change and from forgiveness,” the bishop said.
Fuss said these discussions were important and that “Bishop Malloy wanted to be sure council members were able to provide the same feedback and information they would have if the meeting was held in a conference room. He also wanted to be sure that everyone had a chance to contribute to the discussion in a way that was comfortable to them. I think this was accomplished.
“Unfortunately, as good as technology is, it cannot replace the actual interactions, the informal chats, and the conversations that happen when people are physically present together,” Fuss said, adding he and others hope the fall meeting can be held in person.
The DPC now meets twice each year. 


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