With COVID-19 spreading in Louisiana faster than anywhere on Earth, the Archdiocese of New Orleans faces empty pews usually filled with church-goers.
As a sign of the times, Archbishop Gregory Aymond celebrated Sunday mass on March 22 in St. Louis Cathedral without his usual thousand-people congregation.
“It’s only the second time in my life, of over 40 years as a priest, that I’ve celebrated mass without a congregation at all,” he said.
The archdiocese cancelled all public masses in order to help stop the spread of the virus, but faith leaders say, they still have a job to do.
“The church building might be closed but the church is not closed,” Aymond said.
Across the archdioceses, parishes began live-streaming mass, urging parishioners to tune during a time of crisis.
Now, as the archbishop announces he tested positive for COVID-19, priest have a dangerous job of providing hope and guidance to people that might not have it.
“We believe spiritually that whenever there is a great crisis Jesus always brings something good out of it,” Aymond said.
But churches aren’t just taking a leap into the digital age. Rev. Andrew Gutierrez prays with his parishioners from the safety of their cars at St. Catherine of Siena.
“Sure, it looks differently but in a sense I even feel more connected because I feel like it’s a sacrificial reality,” he said.
The first-year priest says that handling the virus outbreak gives him valuable learning experience.
“I think the Lord was preparing was preparing my heart a certain way for this,” he said.
Gutierrez says he feels it’s necessary to be there for his congregation, an ideal that is shared by many faith leaders across the archdiocese.
“There’s a sacrifice and there’s a risk, and part of that sacrifice and risk is for the love of my people,” he said.