Some parishes in the archdiocese are keeping in touch with their parishioners an old-fashioned way — with personal phone calls.
St. Anthony of Padua Parish in High Ridge recruited 40 parishioners to make phone calls to 844 households listed in its 2020 parish directory. Callers expressed concern for fellow parishioners and prayed with them, paying close attention to anyone who is elderly and living alone. Besides showing parishioners that someone cares about them, the COVID-19 Parish Phone Chain callers checked to determine if parishioners are safe and if they need anything.
The callers received a positive reaction.
“We let everyone know that we are actually a family and that we care about each other and are concerned about everyone doing well during this epidemic,” Frank Kohn said.
He asked them to call the parish business manager if they have questions or if they need help from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference and the food pantry.
Kohn and his wife, Pat, were heavily involved in the parish when they were younger. He took part in the men’s club and sports program, including coaching soccer and helping raise money for uniforms by volunteering in a booth at Fair St. Louis. “I kind of drifted away,” he said. “This tells me I need to get more involved in what’s going on at church. I helped out at fish fries, but I’ve given a lot of thought to getting back into some of the organizations there that are still helping.”
Kohn said that the parish stresses that “everyone out here is important, and we’ll go the extra mile to help anyone who needs help.”
Betty Livengood said she was moved to tears because the people she called were so appreciative. “Most of us can’t go any place, and it was a nice, friendly talk,” Livengood said of the calls she made. “It was a good feeling.”
Before public Masses were suspended because of the
COVID-19 coronavirus, she attended Mass every day and served at Mass every other day. “I’m very, very lost, especially that first week,” she said. “Watching the Mass on television, cellphone or iPad is the same, but it’s not the same. You don’t have the camaraderie that you have when you go to church.”
Jim Brouk said one older man “was really, really happy we called. He sounded like he was pretty lonesome.”
For Brouk, “it was rewarding to get the people’s thanks for calling.”
Tina Hartung said the phone calls were “an awesome idea.” She wasn’t too enthused about doing it at first because she makes phone calls to people at her job. “But everyone was so excited that we were calling and thinking of them,” Hartung said. “It was a really good experience for me.”
She called it a good evangelization effort. Her niece picked up on the idea and is interested in having her children call people from her church.
Other parishes also are checking in on parishioners. At St. Joseph Parish in Bonne Terre, Father Stephen Bauer said he is calling to check on a list of parishioners, “from A to Z. I’m calling to say, ‘Hi. We’re here. We’re still Church.’”
He’s making about 20 calls a day, and as of March 29 was calling names that began with P. “I’m enjoying it,” he said. “People want to hear from us. We’re all in this together.”
Father Bauer said Deacon Donald Kintz is calling parishioners from St. Joseph’s mission parish, St. Anne in French Village.
>> A simple call
St. Anthony of Padua Parish in High Ridge sent letters to parishioners noting that “where we could easily feel anxious, afraid, or alone, our Lord is inviting each of us to reach out to each other, especially reach out to those we love, need to forgive, those marginalized, and alone. If you know of someone who is by themselves, call them to check and see how they are holding up.
“A simple call, that says that someone cares, witnesses the divine love of Christ, especially (is needed) now. Such a call can also be life-saving, especially for those most vulnerable who live alone.”