Parishes Finding Different Ways to Serve During the Pandemic

Responding Generously

Boosted by the generosity of the faithful, parishes and agencies in the archdiocese have modeled Christian service throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.


Father Michael Morris is waiting for the snow to melt and for warmer weather to bring confessions back outdoors in a garden outside Regina Coeli Church in Hyde Park.

“I really enjoyed having confessions outside. I miss it,” the pastor of Regina Coeli since 2016 told CNY.

Father Morris began hearing confessions in the outdoor garden during the Covid-19 pandemic last spring and continued holding it in the garden until November when it was moved into a crying room inside the church to practice social distancing.

“We never missed a Saturday of confessions during the pandemic,” he said. “When the weather is nice, I’m gonna bring it back out in the garden. I loved it out there. One day I was hearing confessions and it started snowing.”

Outdoor confessions were only a part of the outreach done during the pandemic by Father Morris, who also began hearing confessions before daily Mass from Monday through Thursday.

Father Morris, who once served as archdiocesan archivist, started writing messages as well as lengthy theological and historical articles each day on Flocknote.

Father Morris said between 400 and 450 people from his parish and beyond were receiving his daily messages through Flocknote. His followers came from as far away as Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Bermuda. 

When churches opened for Mass in June, Father Morris continued writing each Wednesday on Flocknote in addition to his pastor’s column in the weekly bulletin.

“Some people were saying to me, we wish you could still do it every day,” he said. “I said it’s a lot of work. Sometimes it took upwards of four hours to write one article.”

Joyce Pfirman is president of the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, which is based at St. Columba in Hopewell Junction and serves the parishes of St. Columba; St. Denis, Hopewell Junction; and St. Kateri Tekakwitha, LaGrangeville. She said the pantry is serving between 90 and 100 households or about 300 people per month, a 10 to 15 percent increase since the start of the pandemic.

“We had such an outgiving of generosity in 2020 and it really has helped us be able to keep our ministry going and serve these clients,” she said. 

“I’m very grateful. It’s just a wonderful outpouring of God’s love that people want to do what they can.”

Mrs. Pfirman, who said clients are grateful for the food they receive, also spoke about a campaign beginning to purchase a grocery store gift card for an Easter holiday meal for each of these households.

“I had such a wonderful response for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and  I’m very confident we’ll have another very good response,” she said.

Msgr. William Belford, pastor of St. Teresa of the Infant Jesus parish and St. Nicholas Chapel on Staten Island, said the parish food pantry had to suspend its service due to social distancing regulations necessitated by the pandemic.

Instead, the parish is offering its 60-plus clients the opportunity to shop at a local Met Food each month. The clients receive a letter each month from the parish and bring it with them to Met Food, where their names are on a list at the office provided by the parish. 

“They have the advantage of greater value and more opportunity to shop to get brands, sizes and the versions of the food they need because they’re doing their own shopping. It’s not just what we had on our shelf,” Msgr. Belford said.

“It was a creative idea that we didn’t want to cut people off and we didn’t want them to be hungry. This way has been very well received.”

Msgr. Belford said the parish food pantry plans to reopen when it’s safe, and all food at the parish pantry when service was suspended was donated to Project Hospitality.