Chattanooga, Tenn. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Tennessee cleric is making house calls amid the pandemic to sustain the spiritual health of his flock.
Father J. David Carter of the diocese of Knoxville is going house-to-house blessing families while honoring social distancing requirements.
Father Carter and his team — Sr. Imelda Quechol, Fr. Colin Blatchford and Fr. Valentin Iurochkin — make their stops at the homes of parishioners of Chattanooga's Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.
The priest scheduled his stops with families ahead of time. When he and his companions arrived, they gathered outside where he would hear their confessions. As can be seen in the live-streamed video posted on the parish Facebook page, people driving through the neighborhood could not help noticing the robed priest and the cloud of incense so they would pull over and join the prayer session.
Others, who heard about the scheduled Holy Week activity via Facebook, left their addresses in the Facebook comments section and got on the schedule of stops. The priest credits the use of Facebook for the success of this unique type of outreach. He estimated about 100 households were visited.
Witnesses say they were touched by the sight of families kneeling before the traveling altar in their front yards and a priest blessing their desire to be in the presence of their Savior.
The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that Carter found that "the prayers and blessings from at least 6 feet away can seem odd at first" but he also found that "going out into the community and working with families face-to-face brings encouragement."
This is not a one-time activity. Again, it was reported that Carter and his spiritual cohorts have been making their forays through the highways and byways several times a week since the Wuhan virus forced the diocese to stop offering Mass publicly. And he plans to continue reaching out to his flock until they can return to Mass.
"Instead of people coming to the church to process around, we are going out to the neighborhoods. In a way, it's what Jesus did," Carter told the local newspaper.
Carter appears to be a pastor who wants to meet the needs of every sheep in his flock. A review of the Basilica's Mass schedule reveals a lot about his ministry. There are Masses in English, Spanish, and Latin. Some Masses are ad orientem, some Novis Ordo. Both high and low Masses are offered.
Chattanooga is in the diocese of Knoxville where Bp. Richard Stika is encouraging his priests to keep their churches open daily so parishioners can participate in eucharistic adoration and make their prayer intentions on behalf of the people who are providing essential services during the Wuhan pandemic.
Bishop Stika, who said canceling public Mass was the most difficult decision he has made as a bishop, used social media to encourage the faithful saying, "Grateful to all those who stop into our churches to pray. I have asked all parishes to have adoration throughout the day."