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Capitol Hill parish takes adoration to the streets for Divine Mercy Sunday

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by Christine Rousselle

Washington D.C., Apr 20, 2020 / 03:10 pm MT (CNA).- Catholics around the world marked Divine Mercy Sunday at home, as public liturgies remain cancelled in many dioceses due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But one parish in Washington, D.C., found a way to bring the Lord to people even amidst the citywide stay-at-home order.

Msgr. Charles Pope, pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Catholic Church on Capitol Hill, has been organizing a daily Rosary walk during the quarantine, together with six religious sisters of the Servants of the Lord the Virgin of Matará (Servidoras) who live nearby, and the three seminarians who live at the parish.

For Divine Mercy Sunday, they switched up their routine: instead of departing at their usual 12:30 p.m., they met up in the church, prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet and, at 3 p.m., the hour of mercy, they turned their daily walk into a procession with Msgr. Pope carrying the Eucharist in a monstrance.

There was a “lot of beautiful response” to seeing the Eucharistic procession, Pope told CNA on Monday, April 20. He said people came out of their homes to adore the Eucharist, made the sign of the cross, and some even pulled over in their cars for a brief moment of prayer.

“For whatever reason we hit a good time when there were a lot of Catholics out in Lincoln Park,” he said with a laugh.

After the procession returned to the parish, Pope displayed the Eucharist on a table outside of the building, and the group prayed for “an end to the plague.”

As the Servidoras wear full habits with veils and Pope wears a cassock, he said they form “a pretty visible group” as they walk through the neighborhood. Despite their visibility, Pope said he has had zero negative interactions with the police, and very minimal negative interaction with passers-by.

“They’re used to us,” he explained. Washington regulations limit gatherings to fewer than 10 people, the size of the Rosary group.

Pope told CNA that he has been careful to follow whatever norms and laws are in place regarding social distancing, even though the sisters are technically exempt, as they all live in the same household.

“We don’t want people to misunderstand,” he said. “We do follow the six feet rule.”

The Rosary walk was the brainchild of the Servidoras, shortly after the suspension of public liturgies.

“We just thought we still needed to be out in the neighborhood,” said Pope.

The suspension of public liturgies and the inability to minister in person to his parish has been “utterly emotionally crushing” for Pope, but he told CNA that he has made adjustments to continue serving those in need.

The quarantine “has opened up these other opportunities, like walking in the neighborhood more,” he said, and he has been hosting Bible studies and meetings on Zoom. His parish has been offering unannounced, informal Eucharistic adoration each day, and, he noted, the Archdiocese of Washington has not issued any decree regarding the availability of confession so penitents can still receive the sacrament.

Pope told CNA that he thinks that some of these changes may continue on even after the quarantine has lifted.

“I’m hoping a lot of the stuff that we’ve done, we can continue doing,” he said.

“Maybe this is one of the ways the Lord kind of gave us a kick in the pants. ‘I need you to be out in the neighborhood more, I need you to be online more, I want you to find more creative ways to reach people.'”

Still, Pope said that being unable to distribute communion to the faithful has been one of the biggest challenges of the quarantine.

“The prohibition of giving communion out at all is problematic,” he said, wondering why he would be prohibited from celebrating Mass with just nine other people. He told CNA that he was willing to wear gloves, a mask, or shift liturgical practices to ensure that people can safely receive the sacraments.

“I would [take whatever precautions were necessary],” he said. “Because I care about God’s people. It may feel a little humiliating, but I’m willing to humiliate myself to give them Holy Communion. I want to feed them, I want them to have communion.”

Eucharistic procession on Divine Mercy Sunday from Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Catholic Church on Capitol Hill. Credit: Robin Fennelly
Eucharistic procession on Divine Mercy Sunday from Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Catholic Church on Capitol Hill. Credit: Robin Fennelly
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