April 1, 2020 - Sacred Heart Church, the Jesuit Parish in El Paso, continues to find creative ways to serve the local community. Like many area food pantries, Sacred Heart’s is experiencing increased demand as many people have less income. New measures are in place to keep both guests and staff safe.
Participants are now asked to sit outside the parish building to await their biweekly grocery bag, in order to maintain social distance. To make the wait more enjoyable, staff play traditional music from northern Mexico and served coffee and pan dulce. Father Rafael Garcia, SJ, leads them in prayer. Last week, they served more than 100 people over six hours and expect to serve a similar number each time.
Since the suspension of Masses, Sacred Heart has offered online Masses through the parish Facebook page and instructional videos through their YouTube channel. For parishioners who do not have Internet access, the parish is participating in the Diocese of El Paso’s vecino a vecino (neighbor to neighbor) program, encouraging parish leaders to call groups of one another. For example, lay communion ministers are calling the people they visit; liturgical ministers are calling each other, etc.
“Overall, the COVID-19 crisis has provided an opportunity for us to adapt our methods while continuing to fulfill our fundamental mission of accompanying the people of the Segundo Barrio and greater El Paso in their spiritual and material needs,” said Fr. Stephen Pitts, SJ.
The quote above appears on the parish's Facebook page. It comes from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (Annotation 20). Here is the English (from Dave Fleming's Draw Me Into Your Friendship p. 19):
Ordinarily, if we want to give ourselves over to the movement of these Exercises, it is most helpful to go apart from what usually surrounds us -- both friends and family, job and recreation, and our usual places of home and work. There are many advantages which come from this separation, for example:
1) if we are so intent on responding ever better to the love of God wherever it will lead us in our life, we will find the kind of quiet in which the movement of God in our life becomes all the more apparent;
2) our mind will not find itself divided over many cares, but rather its one concern will be to follow the lead of God;
3) in a similar way, our powers of loving, too, will be focused for this period of time solely upon God, and the response which we will be able to make is all the more intense and intimate because the demand for such a response is so single.
Father Pitts says, "It's a really helpful way to look at this period - a sort of forced retreat (like super Lent) - which we can choose to use to deepen our relationships with God and one another."