Kerry Alys Robinson

The church in action

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Catholic Church is not empty, it has been deployed.

The COVID-19 pandemic has served as the backdrop for Lent, Holy Week, the Triduum and the season of Easter, rendering our churches, schools and other facilities closed for public gatherings and worship. Yet, the church has never been more present, more active and more responsive to people in need. 

My work enables and, in times of crisis, compels me to be in direct communication with the leaders and CEOs of our country’s largest Catholic ministries: Catholic Health Association, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, the National Catholic Educational Association, the philanthropic consortium FADICA, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, Catholic Extension, the Leadership Council of Woman Religious, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference and the papal nunciature, among others. It is an uncommon privilege to learn from their collective perspective and to witness their commitment to action, care and collaboration in response to human suffering.

Our church is on the frontlines of providing health care, food, safe shelter, education, financial support, protective equipment, medicine, supplies and pastoral care at the local level, across the nation and in every part of the globe. The church is on the frontlines of providing advocacy and support for people in prison, refugee and immigrant families, people without homes, people newly or chronically unemployed, elderly persons in isolation, persons who are disabled, persons who are trafficked or vulnerable to domestic abuse and teenagers who can’t go home.

The only true common denominator for those our church is serving is that they belong to the human family and they are in need. As the famous saying goes, we don’t care for people because they are Catholic, we care for people because we are Catholic.

Examples of life-giving ministry and pastoral care during the pandemic abound. The daily acts of courage and compassion that women and men, ordained, religious and lay, are performing as essential personnel to come to the aid of people in need is staggering.

Food banks and soup kitchens have found ways to safely distribute take-out meals and bags of groceries. Catholic school children are sewing masks in Massachusetts. Catholic schools in Minnesota have been deep-cleaned and converted to daycare for children of parents whose frontline work is essential.

A young chef in Washington has expanded a movement of Little Free Pantries, wooden boxes regularly stocked with donated non-perishable items placed in neighborhoods, free for anyone in need. A college senior in Connecticut whose commencement has been indefinitely postponed turned her sorrow into service, volunteering to deliver bags of groceries to newly resettled refugee families.

Thousands of pastoral teams have figured out creative ways to remain spiritually close while physically distant in order to save lives, providing liturgies, communal prayer and small church communities by livestream and social technology reaching people eager for the word of God wherever they are. The president of Albertus Magnus College and staff conducted a “Calling Campaign of Caring,” making personal contact with every student to express their care and to remind them that they are missed and valued and help is available if needed.

A concomitant challenge the pandemic presents is economic. Demand for the services the church offers is growing while its financial resources are plummeting. Particularly vulnerable are faith communities relying on the collection basket, without online giving capabilities or practices.

Lay leaders with expertise in finance, philanthropy, technology and communications are rising to meet that challenge. Online giving platforms can inspire generosity and direct much needed support to Catholic parishes, schools, direct service agencies and charities. 

These personal and collective acts of solidarity and action, advocacy and healing are signs of hope, of life-giving acts of mercy, of testaments of love, of conscious decisions to bear witness to new life. It is our church in action.


  • coronavirus