By Dave Jolivet
EASTON, Mass. — Safety first is the mantra of the day and with that comes some hardships and sacrifices. The staff at Holy Cross Family Ministries, for the time being, is no longer there to run the Father Peyton Center and welcome the thousands of guests who visit each year.
That means the priests, following in the footsteps of their founder, Venerable Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., are the task masters making sure faithful in the diocese and across the world still have a haven of Spirituality, prayer and peace at HCFM.
“We’re reaching out like never before,” said Father Willy Raymond, C.S.C., president of HCFM. “People are isolated and we’re helping them get through it in this time of need.”
Helping them get through it means the handful of priests there are taking phone calls, posting on social media, producing online programs, operating soundboards and working in front of and behind the cameras.
One of the productions is a daily Rosary recital and Mass on the Family Rosary Facebook page Monday through Friday at 11:30 a.m.
“Normally, we would have our staff working the cameras, setting up the lighting, taking care of sound and handling all the other technical issues,” Father Raymond told The Anchor. “However, they are all working at home right now because of the emergency situation, so we priests have had to step up and run things. It has been a baptism by fire since most of us have little familiarity with producing the programs. It’s been quite a learning experience!”
“There is a thirst in the hearts of the faithful to be in communion with the Lord,” said Father Pinto Paul, C.S.C., international director of HCFM. “I feel it is our duty as priests to pray for the faithful and offer Eucharist for them. Media is the only possible way to be in touch with people during these troubled times.
“One of my friends wrote to me during the Easter week: ‘Please remember me in your prayers when you receive the Communion.’ It really struck me. As priests, we are privileged to have Mass and receive Communion every day, particularly during this pandemic. I believe it is our duty and privilege as priests to represent the faithful as we offer Eucharist and pray for God’s intervention during this pandemic. We realize the longing for the Eucharist and receiving Communion even more particularly in its absence.”
Despite the challenges the priests are facing without their dedicated staff on hand, the call off the faithful remains. “This life is about saying yes to God, to listen and to follow where He leads,” Father James Phalen, C.S.C., national director of Family Rosary told The Anchor. “Would we have planned working this way? Certainly no, but in being faithful to where He leads, He can work miracles.
“In the face of a crisis, we knew we needed to respond and reach out — first with just an iPad, saying the Rosary: super simple, but then we started to get ideas. Father Jilson Tom, C.S.C., took it upon himself to figure out the video technology, while enlisting help from some colleagues working from home. But to the point: we have simply done our best, trusting in God! Now we pray with thousands every day from our chapel at the Peyton Center. It’s an offering, and act of love. The Lord and Our Lady really will do the rest!”
Prior to the pandemic the HCFM Facebook page was already home to a four-minute daily homily, with plans for a daily Rosary and Mass. “The pandemic forced our hand,” said Father Raymond. “Once people were isolated at home, we realized we needed to move ahead with them as quickly as possible because the faithful really needed this to help them through such a challenging time.”
Sharing the honor of celebrating the Mass and reciting the Rosary are Fathers Raymond, Paul, Phalen, and Tom and also Holy Cross Father Leo Polselli, and Father David Marcham.
Father Raymond told The Anchor that the response has been very good. “People will call and let us know how they are doing or will send us email with intentions,” he said. “We have people watching us from all over the globe, some as far away as New Zealand. We are a big hit in metro Manila, the Philippines. It is really very encouraging to get that feedback, especially since we are so used to celebrating Mass or reciting the Rosary in front of a congregation.”
In an online homily Father Paul said, “The family is God’s masterpiece. We want to continue to pray as a family.”
He told The Anchor, “Our mission of ‘helping families pray’ is God’s work entrusted to us through Venerable Patrick Peyton. Prayer is the most powerful force on earth. If we use the pandemic as an excuse for not pursuing our mission and doing God’s work, we will be irresponsible. Therefore, we are responsible for finding a way to bring the comforting presence of God to families. God first, everything else next.”
“Whether through phone calls or email, we are only too glad to help our followers with whatever their Spiritual needs are and let them know that we care — that God and the Holy Mother care — and that we are here for them,” added Father Raymond.