As I sit down at my desk to write this blog, the United States of America has just surpassed a new milestone: we now have over 3 million cases of coronavirus, and sadly and disturbingly our numbers are rising. We actually added 1 million cases in the last month alone, and 14 states are increasing so rapidly that intensive care unit beds are at a premium. In one major city, they are down to less than 25 intensive care beds. We are on the verge of an actual meltdown.
I have watched during the last few weeks all the infighting throughout our nation, as we here at Saint Miriam have made several changes, totally unselfishly and out of love, to accommodate people back to gathering for Mass safely in person, as well as bringing children back to our school and daycare, and to plan the opening of our retreat center. But, as we have moved forward in love, so many others are engaged in decisions that will result in harm. It is hard for me to see the failure of so many in leadership to think ahead. Now, the current Administration says schools must come back in the fall or they are threatening to limit federal funding, even as the CDC holds firm on its stance not to do so. This is unbelievable. It is basically tantamount to an unregulated research study. I find it appalling.
As a pastor who oversees the complexity of two campuses now that contain a parish, a friary, a school, a daycare, a cemetery, and a retreat center, I literally make decisions every day that can immediately affect people’s lives and possibly result in their harm or even death, even my own and my family. I know that many would not even understand this; after all, we are small by comparison to others, but literally if one or two people get sick under my watch, it is enough to ripple effect to others. My decisions would impact hundreds, if not thousands, of lives that those infected would then touch or infect or harm. I could not bear that, and so I deliberate and pray, and I watch and remain vigilant with every decision.
I take my position seriously and I find these demands to reopen in the face of an unprecedented worldwide pandemic, and a nation with such huge numbers of infections, to be reprehensible. If we are really concerned about bringing children back to school full-time in the fall, then we need to learn how to sacrifice today. Stay home as much as possible, practice good hygiene, wash your hands often, wear a face mask when you are in public, avoid indoor dining and restaurants (instead support them through takeout orders directly to the restaurant), when you gather in public places and venues, like church, be sure to practice safe social distancing, avoid physical contact with those who are not in the same household, stay current on physicals and your vaccines, avoid going to crowded beaches, or any place else where people are in close proximity to you and especially where they don’t/won’t practice distancing. When you are required to travel, be extra cautious, and when you return, self-quarantine.
Recently, due to unforeseen circumstances, I was forced to unexpectedly travel to bring back our RV from Florida. Many of you remember that we actually lived in the RV on our property near the garage for almost three years until we built the Friary. Sean and I sold our condo in Philadelphia and donated the money to Saint Miriam to buy the campus we now call home, but that left us without a home and the motorhome was the best way to live near the church and still have a roof over our heads. Afterwards, we owed so much that we couldn’t sell the motorhome, so we moved it down to Tampa and rented it through a vacation company for families going to Disney! It helped us save the RV and our credit! But, the company recently changed hands and the RV was being abused, so we brought it back and we had plans in place to do so safely, but they changed abruptly and so I found myself on a quick flight to get to the RV and the drive it straight back to home; a trip that lasted a total of 26 hours. I was extremely cautious, and I even paid more money for a safer individual seat on the aircraft. I controlled my own bag, took very little with me, washed my hands every stop and sprayed more sanitizer on me and my surroundings than I could ever imagine, and immediately I turned around to return home, stopping only twice for gas. But, in the end, even with almost no contact, I did fly on two commercial flights and so I am staying away from you for two weeks. In love, I am distancing.
I realize that these measures require a little bit of sacrifice but think of all the people who died who were impacted by the actions – or the inactions – of others. If you want administrators, such as me, to make decisions about opening a school in the fall, then damnit! sacrifice today and stop whining about it. People’s lives are at stake! And, if that isn’t worth anything to you then Saint Miriam isn’t the place for you either because we love everyone and welcome everyone and never would we intentionally harm anyone.
And for those of you who keep advocating for churches and nonprofits to pay taxes and not to receive any support during the pandemic, I will remind you that we have literally in the case of Saint Miriam spend thousands of dollars – almost $72,000 to date – on safety equipment, renovations, construction, programming, technology, signage, and consulting in order to keep you safe in any of our environments all the while we are literally out on the streets caring for those who are experiencing homelessness. We have done it all out of love and sacrifice and without a single dime in support from the local government. We even renovated our sanctuary and asked many times (I even begged) for everyone to sponsor a chair. It is only $200 and so far, we are stuck with 60 more to go. If you watched our social media, the last 50 chairs arrived. No, we don’t have any sponsors (I, personally, have sponsored 8 chairs, so I am in it with you). We let the order process despite no sponsors, because we need them and are hoping someone hears our pleas.
Yes, a church that loves us so much that they spent this much even when no one was there for over 4 months is worthy of a sponsorship of a $200 chair, right? Well, you would think so, anyway, I think so many are preoccupied with their own lives that they forget about our life together and that one day they will need to return home. That is as sad as the way we find ourselves as a nation today. It is time we think and care for others, too.
So go ahead, keep bitching and moaning about having to wear a mask, go to your beaches and your restaurants and advocate for a president who could care less about any of you, and when you call your local church to bury your dead infected and killed by this pandemic, you may just find that we are closed because no one cared to help.
Yes, it is a time that history will judge record the way we loved; or not…