Province Holds Day of Prayer to Bring Unity During Pandemic

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

Last month, with the pandemic already a reality for eight weeks, friars and fraternities-in-mission throughout Holy Name Province joined in prayerful solidarity to help heal and connect those who are apart yet experiencing similar anxieties and fears.

The Provincial Administration designated May 19 as the “Day of Prayer in Time of Pandemic,” when at 5 p.m. the entire Province and friars from other provinces across the U.S. prayed for all those living in the shadow of the pandemic, those stricken with the coronavirus and their caregivers, and for the thousands who have died from COVID-19.

“We asked all of our contemplative fraternities-in-mission to join together in their friaries in a spirit of solidarity with all the friars of Holy Name Province for this Day of Prayer in Time of Pandemic,” said Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM.

Kevin had suggested two ways to join in the prayerful community: either by celebrating the “Mass in Time of Pandemic” released by the Vatican, or by celebrating the “Evening Prayer in Time of Pandemic.”

“Through this time, as the inequities of our society have become more apparent, may we receive the grace given us in difficult times to come together for the long-term welfare of all others,” the friars of Mt. Irenaeus said in an email message to their community members. “We have been praying with you, for you, and for your intentions daily – particularly for those you had asked us to remember through this time of pandemic.”

The message of The Mountain went on to say, “We will pray for the caregivers, all who are ill from the virus, all who have died from the virus, all who are more threatened by the virus due to poverty or lack of health insurance, and for an end to this pandemic and the recovery and renewal of our lives.”

The Day of Prayer initiative was conceived by Provincial Councilor David Convertino, OFM, who said it was a way for friars around the Province to pray together with one heart.

“Praying together creates a strong bond of fraternity,” said Provincial Councilor Robert Frazzetta, OFM, who worked with David in arranging the prayers. “We felt it would be beneficial if everyone prayed around the same time as a symbol of unity and solidarity. We also encouraged friars to make the entire day one of prayer and contemplation.”

The Provincial Council asked all fraternities in mission either to celebrate the “Mass in Time of Pandemic” released by the Vatican or to say the “Evening Prayer in Time of Pandemic.”

The evening prayer for May 19 began with the hymn, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” and included Psalm 46 with its message that God is a refuge and strength, a helper close at hand in time of distress.

Franciscan friars from provinces across the United States joined Holy Name Province in the Day of Prayer.

“It was very good to be in prayer with others at the same time and about the same need,” said Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, provincial minister of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province.

The friars at St. Michael’s Mission in Arizona live-streamed their prayers – the ones prepared by HNP – at the Navajo Nation, a place that has been hit hard by the coronavirus.

“The people there very much appreciated knowing that we were praying for them and that they had the ability to pray with us. If the Navajo Nation were a state, it would be defined as the one with the most deaths due to COVID-19,” said Jack.

“Praying together creates a wonderful sense of knowing that you are not alone – and there is real power in knowing that you are not alone. People have said during this pandemic that we stay apart in order to stay together,” Jack continued. “When I am away from home traveling, I often find that I pay attention to the time and I think of what other people are doing. It makes me feel connected, which is a positive thing. The Day of Prayer had that effect on everyone.”

Collective Prayer
On June 1, just two weeks after the Province’s Day of Prayer, religious and civic leaders around the country memorialized COVID-19 deaths with a moment of silence and ringing of bells at noon. This designated time of national mourning was organized by Sojourners, the evangelical social justice organization, and was endorsed by many religious groups.

People of faith around the U.S. joined in another national prayer and remembrance effort from May 29 to June 1 for the more than 100,000 people who, up to that point, had died of the coronavirus

The friars in Butler, New Jersey, practice social distancing at prayers. (Photo courtesy of Octavio Duran)

Places of worship from many faiths sought to memorialize the dead during liturgies and religious services, inviting local officials to call for flying flags at half-staff, along with a moment of silence and/or tolling of the bells to acknowledge the grim milestone of the pandemic.

In the call to lament and mourn, they asked God “to help heal our land with a moment of mourning and honoring those many who have died, often without their loved ones around them.”

An announcement from Native communities, the original caretakers of the plains and mountains of the U.S. that have been severely affected by the coronavirus outbreak, said, “Our lament will honor hard truths we have learned during this pandemic: our suffering has been unequal, elders have been vulnerable and alone, black and brown neighbors have borne disproportionately both the brunt of sickness and death and having been drafted to the front lines of fighting this disease. Asian Americans have been targeted by hateful words and actions.”

Online Reflections
During the pandemic – since the order to shelter in place was given to virtually all communities in March – friars around the Province have shared reflections online, enabling many to listen, watch and to pray together. Among the HNP ministries that have been posting friar reflections on their websites and Facebook pages are:

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.