Lay Ministries are Growing in Covid time

Covid-19 has created a tragic situation which we have all had to face: loss of health, of loved ones, of housing, property and employment. It has brough high levels of stress to everyone, especially to the poor, the socially vulnerability, people of color, immigrants, homeless, women and children, the elderly and the homeless.

As a church we are here to ease the stress, reduce these vulnerabilities and bridge the barriers that separate us. Here at San Juaquin, in Hayward CA, we have prayed for discernment about what we could do as a community. We wanted to reach out beyond the confines of the parish and unite with other communities as a single people. This led us to contact Héctor Medina, coordinator of the Hispanic Ministry of Oakland diocese, and together we organized an online space for reflection, dialogue and action. This initiative aims to awaken in our community the capacity to generate love and trust, anda hope-filled spirit of creative dialogue as together we deal with our common problems. This is a program that would be very dear to Pope Francis for it depends completely on the laity—both the youth and adults.

Regarding our outreach to the youth and by the youth, we can look to the example of 17-year-old Ángel Pérez Montes, who hails from an immigrant family. Ángel was born in the parish, served as an altar boy at age 7 and then joined our Guadalupano Group. He is technologically talented and, since the pandemic hit, has helped outwith the live broadcasts of parish Masses in Spanish and English. He was confirmed only last year but is already helping the youth with their confirmation classes. He also helps direct the adult reflection group that the diocese encourages.

On the adult side, we have the example of Giovanna Alarcon, who came to the US as a child from Mexico 30 years ago. Since then, she and her family have been involved in various ministries in the parish, especially those involving our large Hispanic community. Three years ago, she joined the parish’s Social Justice Ministry which reaches out to our ever-growing number of undocumented refugees. As an integral part of this, she helped set up the Forum on Immigration which offers them assistance in various ways. One very current aspect of this assistance is caring for the many unaccompanied minors who arrive daily without a family or any kind of support. Through the generosity of our parishoners and with the help of lay volunteers, we have been able to provide clothing and blankets, and we have helped them get set up in local schools with their backpacks and school supplies. We coordinate these activities with teachers and social workers from the Hayward School District.

As priests in Covid time, we have learned to be more creative in offering our sacramental ministries, but one of the hidden benefits of our Covid caused extraburdens is that it has opened up more ministerial opportunities for the laity, and they are responding most joyfully.

– Fr. Ricardo González Delgadillo SVD

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