Parish of the Sacred Heart, Washington, DC. Courtesy image.
– Public masses remain suspended in the Archdiocese of Washington amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the pews at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart are not empty.
Priests, parishioners, and staff at Sacred Heart Parish recently assembled 500 boxes of food and other resources to be delivered to families facing hardships like job loss or illness during the pandemic. Fr. Emilio Biosca Agüero, the parish’s pastor, told CNA in an interview that the needs he sees are immediate.
Agüero said Sacred Heart, which serves the Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights neighborhoods of Washington D.C., is a primarily Spanish-speaking community, and has many immigrant members.
“When many immigrants arrive to DC, Sacred Heart is one of the first places they visit,” he said.
Agüero said the pandemic hit the parish community hard.
“When the pandemic started, people began losing their jobs, some of them are undocumented so that presents a challenge in finding other work as well, others have been affected by COVID-19,” he said.
Agüero called the boxes “a gesture from the Church,” and added that in addition to food, they include spiritual resources like rosaries and prayer cards, as well as information about local food banks and coronavirus testing sites.
Sacred Heart parishioner Carola Cerezo-Allen said in an interview that she wants her fellow parishioners to know that “the temple doors are closed, but we are with them even though we cannot be together.”
“Sacred Heart is a big church, and so we came together as a community to walk with people in our community facing disease and unemployment,” she said. “It’s what we need in this time of so much anxiety.”
Cerezo-Allen said she hopes a time many Catholics are unable to receive communion will prompt them to think about what it means to be part of the body of Christ.
She stressed that those who assembled the boxes maintained social distancing guidelines and they will also deliver boxes to parishioners rather than having people come to the church.
“I’m a nurse, so I’m very aware of what’s needed,” Cerezo-Allen said.
Monica Zevallos is Sacred Heart’s RCIA coordinator and a member of the parish staff. She helped assemble the boxes and told CNA she is proud of the “teamwork” the parish showed by working to support members of their community in need.
“This is a very strong community, this is not a parish where people come and go,” Zevallos said.
Zevallos said she was moved to see parishioners bringing in small donations for the project because it was what they could offer.
“It’s beautiful seeing people do what they can, that’s how we are building these baskets,” she said.
Agüero, Cerezo-Allen, and Zevallos all stressed that many members of the parish contributed to the project, and mentioned parishioners Juan Melendez and Javier Alvarez as additional leaders of the project.
Being Catholic, Zevallos said, isn’t “just praying, it’s putting our faith in action.”
“This is a way to let them know Christ loves us, is walking with us, and this little thing–these boxes–are a way to say He’s going to take care of us,” Zevallos said.