Drive-Thru confessions at St. Ann in Bartlett on Eve of Divine Mercy Sunday
Father Ernie DeBlasio must confess, he can’t wait until this COVID 19 pandemic passes and he can be face-to-face with his flock once again. And he means face-to- face with no mask and not only from a “socially safe” distance.
Little things like this he has taken for granted throughout his priesthood.
“It’s just not the same,” he says after hearing drive-through confessions on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday.
He sat outside of the chapel at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Bartlett, Tenn., wearing a long black cassock, gray jacket, and black mask. As cars pulled up, he quietly and privately heard their confessions, occasionally bowing, his eyes peering from behind his mask into the car window.
Catholics in West Tennessee have had plenty of time to examine their consciences.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland issued a shelter-at-home executive order “directing all residents of Memphis to stay inside their homes, and immediately limit all movement outside of their homes beyond what is absolutely necessary to take care of essential needs”
For the Catholics who feel confession is essential, their priests will still be there, just in a new way.
Many households face the challenge of being together much more than usual. Parents are working from home and helping educating their children who are now learning online. Many people are feeling bored, depressed, anxious and afraid. These are challenging times for everyone.
This may not be ending anytime soon. In Memphis, experts are predicting the peak spread of the virus to be towards the end of May or early June.
In an effort to deny the virus hosts, many weddings and sacred events are rescheduled. Funerals will be kept to immediate family only; elderly in communal living spend their days with no visitors.
Church members will still have the opportunity to get things off their chest and ask for God’s blessing. But it may be while wearing a mask, through a car window with traffic roaring by.
They can still hear a message from their beloved bishop and a homily from their favorite priests, via videos posted to area websites. They won’t be able to take communion until restrictions are lifted. They won’t be able to gather together to worship.
Above a video posted on St. Ann’s website it says, “In an effort to continue the practice of our faith in these trying times, we invite you to join us for Sunday Mass with Fr. Ernie.”
During the mass, prayers are offered for those who face economic uncertainty due to the pandemic and for those who have died.
As his mass ends this past Divine Mercy Sunday, Father Ernie, speaking to an empty church, sends a message of love to the people of the parish and tells them he misses them. “Sisters and Brothers I hope and pray that soon we can all be together, where together we can worship and we can praise our good and merciful father. I hope that day is soon.”