WILDWOOD – The Diocese of Camden is one of the largest in New Jersey, encompassing communities both rural and urban. Congregations are finding new ways to connect with one another and the world around them.
Michael Walsh, director of communication for the Diocese of Camden, gave an update on how the Catholic Church was handling the situation March 20.
“In general, the responses from the parishioners have been overwhelmingly positive,” Walsh said.
“Of course, no one is happy that the cancellation of public Masses has happened,” he continued, “as well as the cancellation of most, if not all, spiritual events.”
According to Walsh, “everyone must come together by staying apart.”
How are clergy remaining available to parishioners during the coronavirus outbreak?
“While the Mass and group services have ended, when the need arises, the priests of the diocese make every effort to visit those in need, while maintaining strict social distancing precautions,” Walsh said.
Technology is proving helpful as congregations cannot meet. Walsh is pleased that many parishes have “become social media experts” in recent days.
Zoom and Google Hangouts provide “virtual youth group meetings,” said Walsh. Approximately 450,000 Catholics live in South Jersey.
Walsh remains confident in parochial teachers’ abilities to adapt as schools are closed.
“The reports we’re getting from the schools is that with one week of work under their belts now,” Walsh said.
“He (son) says that while he misses his friends, he says the studies feel the same as when he was in class. He just doesn’t need to wear a Catholic school uniform while he does them,” Walsh added.
How can congregants practice faith while complying with government guidelines?
Walsh encourages using social media and attending services either online or on television.
Reading the Bible and praying as a family will help families deal with uncertainty.
“We’re (diocese) here to make sure the clergy and lay ministers can bring Jesus’ message to the people,” Walsh said.
As Easter approaches, guidelines for celebration are already in place, according to a March 23 diocese release (https://bit.ly/33LZEDz).
According to Rabbi Ron Isaacs, of Beth Judah Temple, these uncertain days are ripe with opportunities to reach out and grow.
"If you have your health, food, and a roof over your head, you find what you can do," Isaacs said in a phone interview March 23. He spoke with the Herald from his home, in Bridgeton.
Isaacs and his wife Leora are utilizing technology to keep in touch with friends, family, and congregants at Beth Judah Temple.
Isaacs also leads virtual prayer and Sabbath services. Isaacs described the online services as "very successful."
Isaacs was pleased to report that members of Beth Judah were well and persevering.
"This is your opportunity," Isaacs said. He also urges congregants not to "separate from the community."
Isaacs said he plans to hold four virtual services during Passover. He looks forward to Passover, a celebration of freedom, and even to Easter, a celebration of new life.
"It's (Passover and Easter) all about the Messiah," Isaacs said, "and better times ahead."
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