The Faithful's Testimony 

A small focus group was assembled to inform the next aspect of this study. Through a brief online survey forwarded to believers, participants engaged in sacramental dialog. The purpose of this part of the work, was to request, prayerful and joyful insight sharing.  Respondents provided heartfelt and qualitative replies to four questions dealing with sacramental praxis in these pandemic interrupted days. Individuals selected for the focus group required minimal computer literacy. Clergy, lay catechists, educators, music ministers, and medical professionals describe the group's vocational composition.  The bishop's office and pastor, granted permission and the inquiry proceeded. Analytics affirmed, although, admittedly generated from a small sample group, several themes presented throughout this project. The following paragraphs, detail the invitation and questions, presented for discussion. Statements from each of ten anonymous respondents showed passion, for the complexities aroused, when a pandemic scrambles both secularists and sacramental practitioner to the nation’s side. 

 

The Impact of COVID-19 on Sacramental Praxis

COVID-19 arrested the world's citizenry in ways unknown since the Second World War. From the Silent generation (1928-1945) to Generation Z (1997-2012), factions of today’s population experience the disease in discrete and complex ways. Will sacramental praxis be a casualty of this contagious virus or a beneficiary?  In what creative ways can religious leaders modify sacramental praxis balancing sacred tradition with ministerial outreach?

 

  1. How has Covid-19 influenced your sacramental praxis?

 

           Since I reside at MSF Retreat Centre with the Friars, Mass continues but in a very liturgically                                   truncated way. There is no music, for instance, and communion is served only in the bread. The                         giving of the "Peace" is only gestured, lacking the added sense of connecting that physicality lends.                 The number of people who can attend is minimal, making the communal aspect even more                               diminished. I no longer connect with the larger parish of St. Mary's in Cochrane on Saturday evening               as I would typically do at least twice per month. St. Mary's tends to be a parish that celebrates the                    sacraments well. I am a musician of sorts, and I miss the musical aspect in the celebration of the                      sacraments at Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours." Respondent Nine

 

           I am grateful for 'live streaming, the opportunity to share Celebrating the Word by email with Jean                   Dinning. Miss the community, as I am restricted not just by COVID-19, but I am also Ken's caregiver.                   His memory loss has affected our lives minute to minute, despite our sacramental praxis.                                     Respondent Eight

     2. How do you imagine history, theology, science, and politics shaping people's response to COVID-19?

 

          Even after so many months of dealing with the pandemic, it is apparent that, as a culture, our                            response deals with physical safety AND only one aspect of our physical security. What has been                      exposed is the minimal vision we have of the 'fullness of life.' History: We have looked back at the                        post WW1 pandemic, but almost exclusively, for whether they wore masks. We could use accounts                    of impact on peoples' lives, mental health, family and community support, etc. Theology: We should                not be afraid to consider Covid-19 as chastisement from God and an opportunity for repentance                      and a return to sacred values. We are the first culture in history not to consider its relationship with                  God in such conditions. Science: has been weaponized against those who have various                                        interpretations of data, i.e., we have not to gain permission to have an open and honest public                          discourse on interpreting and evaluating the available scientific data. Respondent Seven

 

          Science is helpful if the evidence is correctly interpreted and conveyed consistently. Ideological                        interference and lack of strong leadership have disrupted science's ability to have much effect on                  people's responses to COVID-19. Inconsistent messaging leads to people making irrational                                  decisions because messages are confusing. Similar, political ideology, without attention to science,                 is currently driving policies about how individuals must respond to COVID-19. Thus, other groups of                   scientists and clinicians are doing 'end runs' around the political directives about responding to                       COVID-19. This condition further confuses and ultimately leads to complete distrust of both science                 and politicians. It is sad to know that policymakers respond to ideological views rather than science               in the face of the pandemic. Respondent Six

 

          HTSP all shape our responses to the pandemic; however, each individual will respond in different                      ways. Similar to the prisoners in the concentration camps in Nazi Germany. They were all prisoners                  bound for an almost inevitable end; however, some of them kept their minds intact, while for                              others, the stress and the horrible conditions were too much for them to bear. I am not sure how I                    would respond if I were there with them. I pray that I would not lose my hope in Christ amidst that                    turmoil. I need to work on hiding more of God's Word in my mind and heart so that when and if I am                in a similar situation, I could remain steadfast in my hope in Christ. Respondent Five

 

     3. How do you expect future generations will evaluate the current generation's sacramental response             to this present-day pandemic?

 

              With doubts & confusion, they will approach the situation. Changes that took place can be a                              question mark for them. Respondent Four

 

             One would hope that governments would have in place better strategic emergency plans. People                   will be more willing to make short-term sacrifices for the health and safety of all. Public facilities                       and services will have in place expected levels of cleaning. Respondent Three

 

     4. What sacramental ministry opportunities might emerge from exposure to this public health crisis?

 

              Spending more time with people via reconciliation, prayer, and counseling. Respondent Two

               

              I can see a deepening appreciation for the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, leading to                                thinking through how we work with our families in follow-up and seeking to make sacraments                            more personal. Respondent One