Because his parish is located in the Maryland county with the most reported cases of persons infected with COVID-19 in the state, Father Walter Tappe, pastor of St. Hugh of Grenoble Parish in Greenbelt, is making use of old and new technology to keep in touch with parishioners who are self quarantining in an effort to halt the spread of the virus.

“Phone calls, emails, Facebook, Flocknotes, and cards and letters have helped ease some of the pain of separation. Knowing that we are praying for each other is an immense comfort,” Father Tappe said. “The goal of my priestly ministry remains the same during the pandemic - to draw us together in Christ - but I have had to adjust the way I minister.”

Noting that “I miss seeing our parishioners terribly,” Father Tappe said “to counter some of the effects of the quarantine, I now livestream the Mass every day, send out daily announcements and reflections on God's Word via Flocknotes and the parish website, and make phone calls to inquire how parishioners and their loved ones are doing. I try to keep all of us focused on the Lord. I also continue to hear Confessions in a safe manner.”

Located in Prince George's County, Greenbelt has 153 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of April 28. As of the same date, the county overall has nearly 5,500 confirmed cases with 195 deaths, and the state of Maryland has more than 20,100 confirmed cases with 929 deaths.

“So far, I have not heard of any parishioners who have contracted COVID-19,” Father Tappe said. “From what I have observed, parishioners are taking social distancing very seriously, but they really miss worshiping together and receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion.”

Parishioners, Father Tappe said, have been active in using the Internet to maintain a sense of community.

“Our parish groups have not been able to meet in person because of the pandemic, but continue their activities via the Internet as best they are able,” he said. “Some of our parishioners took the initiative to livestream a prayer hour for Divine Mercy Sunday, which had viewers from as far away as Texas. Other parishioners are helping us livestream our liturgies.”

St. Hugh Parish's school of religion (CCD) “is providing resources and spiritual support to our parish families to help them catechize their children at home,” Father Tappe added.

He noted that because of shelter at home regulations some parishioners have lost their jobs and their sources of income.

“Our parishioners have always been generous. The pandemic has not changed that. Our donations are down, which is understandable, but not catastrophically so,” Father Tappe said. “We have not had to furlough or cut back the hours of any of our parish employees.”

He added that “our parish office and pantry remain open to service the parish and community. We are still collecting food for our parish pantry and distributing it to our clients, whose number has greatly increased since the pandemic started.”

Father Walter Tappe, the pastor of St. Hugh of Grenoble Parish in Greenbelt, Maryland (Archdiocese of Washington photo)

Whatever means he uses to minister to his flock from a distance, Father Tappe said, “my major theme is: God is in control.”

“God, whose wisdom eludes human understanding, works always for our welfare and not for our woe,” Father Tappe said. “Fear is useless, what is needed is faith. God's grace is sufficient - all we need do is work with it. The pandemic serves as a divine call to charity, to serve the needs of others in Jesus's name.”