We’ve devoted a lot of time, energy and pages over the past few issues trying to show Catholic New Yorkers how the Archdiocese of New York is adjusting and coping, often in the face of tremendous tragedy and obstacles presented by the coronavirus.
You don’t have to look much further than the obituary for Msgr. Richard Guastella on Page 13 of this issue to see an example of the toll being exacted on the local church here in New York. Msgr. Guastella was one of the most respected pastors in the archdiocese for more than 30 years at two Staten Island parishes, Holy Rosary and then St. Clare’s. We’ve been touched to read pieces sent along from the Staten Island Advance showing his devoted interactions with Catholics who are well known, such as singer and musician Harry Connick Jr., as well as others not well known at all.
We’ve also tried to show how parishes, schools and Catholic Charities have tried their best to respond in faith and continue to serve as they encounter unplanned circumstances far from their normal comfort zones. Our stories have captured each of the three reaching out in new ways, including livestreamed Masses from St. Patrick’s Cathedral and other parish churches, teachers at Catholic elementary schools and professors at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie using the Zoom video conferencing app to reach students, and Catholic Charities discovering new ways to help clients meet needs for food and other basic services while keeping their employees safe.
Like everyone else these days, employees are working outside their offices. 1011, as the New York Catholic Center on First Avenue in Manhattan is familiarly known, has been closed for weeks.
For Catholic New York, working outside our normal office environment was quite an adjustment. First, we had to secure a connection to our network server for as many employees as possible, which was no small feat and is an ongoing quest. The daunting task required the cooperation of an outside technology vendor and herculean efforts from our advertising and business manager Matt Schiller, who did much troubleshooting as one by one we linked our home computers with our office desktops.
Of course, all that was being done as we were painstakingly working through the growing pains of mastering a new working system that is less streamlined than the old one. I’m still not quite sure how we got the first issue to the printer. The last one was generally smoother, and as I write this on Sunday evening from the couch in my family room, I have hopes that the third one this week will be the best yet.
There are limitations. We can’t push down as hard as we normally do, so we have to be a little more selective with our stories. Advertising, as you can see, has been in short supply in the last few issues, which is understandable, so we have to hold back our page counts, since there is a direct correlation between the two.
Also, understandably, we haven’t been out in the field nearly as much. Almost all of the reporting for more than a month has been done over the phone or by watching televised or livestreamed Masses. We miss being present on the scene, but right now it’s just not possible except in small, tightly controlled bursts. Normally, parishes and schools are happy to make room for CNY reporters and photographers, but in this environment we’ve had to pull back to keep everyone safe and abide by the rules of social distancing, as everyone must.
The work of our talented photographers has brought a distinctive look to our pages for many years, as readers regularly attest. As an editor, I miss the craftsmanship and individual styles they bring to their work, and I hope we can have them back on regular assignments right here in the archdiocese before too long.
As we hope and pray for that new day, we’ll continue to put our very best into each issue.