A Catholic Monthly Magazine

A Faith Greater Than Fear

By Fr Anthony O’Connor SM

This article is adapted from the SM Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) blog
It is used with permission




San Felipe de Jesus Catholic Church, Brownsville, Texas

Here we were: ministering to Central American Minors in their centres and in the parish; taking food, clothes, and provisions to the asylum seekers over the border; and to the poor ‘ranchos’ on the other side of the river, in cooperation with the valiant people there; getting our children ready for First Communion and Confirmation; 30 R.C.I A. candidates, adults and children; fully attended Sunday Masses; baptisms; weddings; 15-year-old birthdays; zumba; yoga; praise; adoration; adult education; Bible study; food bank; social assistance. Then Covid-19 arrived.

On the border here and in communities living on the underside of society where everything is always changing, there is always a way forward.

Obviously, Jesus is not only to be found in a church, the sacraments, and the community physically united. Jesus is to be found in amazingly novel ways as we search for him. It is about finding what will unite people generally; and particularly in what answers their deepest yearning, especially in a time of great stress, fear and insecurity.

The path we took:


We concentrate on traditional Post, emails, WhatsApp, telephone messaging, messenger, and telephone reaching out, keeping in contact, reassuring, meeting needs -- “Faith is greater than our fear” (Hebrews 13.6).


This became our principal means of communication. By means of photos of events, announcements, homilies which make the connection between the Word and Covid-19 and offer encouragement, Facebook is for us a very important point of contact with our now-virtual community. The weekly bulletin no longer needs printing, as it is on Facebook.

Digital ceremonies on Facebook

Through Facebook, with daily virtual Masses and weekly adoration, we connect the Word and Covid-19. The numbers following have been surprising, with between 200 and 1000 strikes a time. Responses include prayer requests, with the names of the sick, dying, and dead. We are permitted to have ten people at the Mass. Community participation is widened by each of five musical groups coming once a week for Mass.

Drive-in food bank distribution

Our food bank has developed since 2015 thanks to the Rio Grande Valley Food Bank that trusts us with quite a lot of products. We have some thirty volunteers who help willingly with distribution. To avoid contagion, the masked majority come in their beat-up and not-so-beat-up cars to collect. Those without cars walk through the parking lot wearing masks. I make a point of standing there, helping when necessary. It’s like being at the door of the church after Mass.

Even wearing masks, we can communicate and, more importantly, show that we are all in this together, God Is good and our community has adhesion. You can feel the adhesion. God is found not only in the church, or the large community physically united, but in these meetings like two ships crossing in the night, not just once, but up to three times a week.

I do feel a bit uncomfortable because by being present in this way I personally tend to get a bit of ‘kudos’, as if I am giving them free food -- which is far from the truth and the Marist way -- thank God and the Food Bank. Don’t thank me!

Meals prepared for those in need

With classes on the internet rather than at school, some pupils miss out on the two school meals a day. We run a programme for about 80 youth and children. Their caregivers come to pick up a meal at 3.00 p.m. Monday to Friday. The minors who receive this food are the neediest of the community.

Many of our people over 60 don’t get to the end of the month solvent at the best of times, so from Wednesday to Friday we give out 120 meals to those over 60.

The people of the Rio Grande Valley are generous and conscious of the need to share with the sick, the hungry and the needy. It is something ingrained in their psyche from their own experience. Those who suffer because the doors of their church are closed and who yearn to return to the Real Presence of the Eucharist and the community physically united, and they are many, are discovering that God’s presence is everywhere, even in the altamira oriole, which, in this time of shut down, is returning from the ranch land to our streets and gardens.


And the asylum seekers over the river, the Central American minors, other migrants, and those in the US in Cvid-19 infested detention centres? They are all for us “beyond the pale”. All court sessions have been deferred to 1 June for asylum seekers, minors have been deported back to where they came from, and the same for other migrants too. Those in detention centres are in God’s hands. “God’s time is perfect”, but definitely, it is not just yet.

There will be a time for First Communions and Confirmations and R.C.I.A. I just hope that the children have not grown out of their outfits by then! Baptisms and marriages and 15 year birthday celebrations will all happen in good time.

Meanwhile, in the words of a wise woman, “We do what we can and that is enough”. I feel that “all manner of things will be well” -- even as hunger grows and the Covid-19 increases, we will find God in the crisis and “faith will be greater than fear”.

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