Like many priests, Father Raymond Buehler has been sad not to see his parishioners around Good Shepherd Parish in Hillsboro since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.
But as a good shepherd would do, Father Buehler brought Christ to his flock.
On a recent Saturday morning, he and Deacon Paul Martin and a small group of helpers organized two caravans to visit more than 40 households, offering a eucharistic blessing and praying together.
“I just wanted to be able to bring Jesus to people who have been separated from Him sacramentally for so long,” Father Buehler said.
Father Buehler, who has served as parochial administrator at Good Shepherd since June 2019, spent more than seven hours on May 2 — the day before Good Shepherd Sunday — going from house to house with the Most Blessed Sacrament. Deacon Martin had a smaller route, finishing up in about two-and-a-half hours.
At each stop, parishioners came outside of their homes, and while maintaining social distancing guidelines, prayed the Litany of the Holy Eucharist, made an act of spiritual communion and sang a hymn, and received the blessing from Father Buehler. Communion was not distributed, in accordance with the Archdiocese of St. Louis’ guidelines during the pandemic. Members of the Knights of Columbus and ladies’ auxiliary also joined the caravan in separate cars, staying afterward to ask each household if they wanted to share any prayer intentions.
Father Buehler spread the word about the procession via email and at the end of livestreamed Masses. Households were invited to sign up for a visit. With parish boundaries larger than the City of St. Louis, Father Buehler also said it was an opportunity for him to visit with parishioners in areas that he hadn’t before visited since becoming parochial administrator.
“I even got a little sunburn on the top of my head,” he joked.
Tim and Terry Eimer, four of their children, and Tim Eimer’s brother, Allan, who lives down the road, were waiting on their porch when Father Buehler arrived with the Blessed Sacrament at their house. Emerging from a silver minivan, the priest approached the family with the monstrance as they knelt for prayer.
The Eimers conveyed their gratitude for the gift of visiting with Jesus in the Eucharist. The family has been watching livestreamed Masses, along with watching faith-based videos and movies, praying together every day and visiting the church, which is open around the clock for prayer.
“We’re blessed to have Father Buehler,” Terry Eimer said. “We are very blessed that our church is always open. I love just going to sit there in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It’s comforting to me. But there’s kind of a sadness, too, because I long for the Eucharist so much and I miss it so much. I told the kids it would be a great Mother’s Day gift if I could go to Mass — but it doesn’t sound like that’s gonna happen.”
Steve and Denise Haverstick said they, too, appreciated being able to visit with the Blessed Sacrament. Denise Haverstick has been staying at home because of underlying health concerns, so she has not been able to visit the church for prayer as she would like.
“I miss receiving the Eucharist,” she said. “Father (Buehler) has been very good, reaching out to the community and keeping us involved as much as he can under these circumstances. It was great being able to see the Eucharist, and it fed me just a little bit more.”
Parishioner Tori Aubuchon, a member of the parish’s adult spirituality committee, volunteered to drive Father Buehler and the Blessed Sacrament. She counted herself fortunate to spend the day — even as hot as it was — in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and enjoyed watching people’s reactions when they arrived at their houses.
“It was such a prayerful experience,” she said. “Here I was doing it all day, but it was new and fresh for each of them. To see the faces of the people of our parish light up with smiles and gratitude when we brought the Blessed Sacrament to them for adoration was such a beautiful testament to the reality that our hearts desire and long for Christ. You could really tell the people have missed being able to be in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.”
As Father Buehler has told his parishioners, Aubuchon said that “to adore Jesus is a wonderful gift, but ultimately we want to be able to receive Him — that’s the goal.”