Two weeks ago, Rev. Father Dave T. Concepcion, Sta. Maria Gorreti Parish priest, found himself in the middle of United Nations Avenue in Paco, Manila feeding street dwellers under the scorching heat of the sun.
“We have to be prudent, the virus chooses no one. We have to live with it. We’re doing this three times a week,” he explained before the government implemented a two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal (NCR+).
It was the nation’s strictest quarantine classification in a bid to control the further spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) after the recent surge in number of cases in the country.
Fr. Dave shared that these street dwellers previously resided at the Luneta Park. Due to the lockdown, however, police instructed his crew to halt the feeding program or face arrest.
It was just one of his priestly missions affected by Covid-19.
More than a year into the pandemic, Fr. Dave also found that he could no longer always perform the anointing of the sick — a sacrament in which a priest anoints with oil and prays for a person dying, in danger of death, or otherwise critically ill, infirm, or disturbed.
“First, hospitals don’t allow priests to enter hospitals and perform the sacrament because of the protocols they are implementing. That is the saddest part of this pandemic. When you are sick, you will die alone, no goodbyes from the family,” he said.
He added that the sacrament cannot be done virtually.
Parishes find ways to adapt to the current situation using technology to reach people in their homes.
Livestreaming or online Masses through Zoom or social networking sites like Facebook is being used by the Catholic church to continue spreading the gospel.
Unlike other parishes, though, Fr. Dave said their parish has been doing this even before the pandemic. As for the small number of attendees, he said “season or out of season, a priest must celebrate the Eucharist as it was the last Mass of his life.
“The enthusiasm must be there, regardless if there will be attendees or not,” he said.
Baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, marriage and holy orders must be done physically, however.
Funeral Masses are allowed but with a limited number of attendees inside the church. A Department of Health Memorandum 2020-0158 for properly handling the remains of suspect, probable, and confirmed Covid cases, including cremation within 12 hours after death, had made the church adjust to the realities of the times.
What he is concerned about, however, are cases of depression brought by the pandemic to the people.
“The church must give hope,” he said.