Fr. Yuri Kuzara, C.PP.S., is in ministry at the Missionaries’ Sorrowful Mother Shrine near Bellevue, Ohio. Here, he writes about ministry at the shrine in the time of the coronavirus.
By Fr. Yuri Kuzara, C.PP.S.
This is an unusual year for the shrine, as it is for all of us because of the coronavirus pandemic. The virus has impacted everyone’s life one way or another as well as the way we are living from day to day. Things can change so fast!
All of our big events are cancelled for the year, which makes these summer months somewhat peculiar to say the least. No hustle and bustle, no Chaldeans, African Americans, Hispanic, Polish or Italian Sundays and so on. So, I have no interesting stories or “adventures” to share with you. I must confess, I miss the Chaldean food, especially their little sesame cake-breads and stuffed grape leaves, the Polish homemade food and sausage and the beautiful singing of the Slovenian service to the Blessed Virgin Mary with Benediction.
This time has presented me with the opportunity to do some serious and peaceful reflection on my life, on the many gifts and good things God has granted me: the call to the priesthood and apostolic life as a Missionary of the Precious Blood, a personal accounting of the talents received; how I have used them or wasted them; my own mortality and to ponder more deeply the mystery of the Divine Blood; and to think back on the adventures of ministering at the shrine after so many years. The time is not wasted but perceived as an exceptional blessing from God.
I think often of a priest who was helping us with a pilgrimage on an Italian Sunday years ago. At the close of the afternoon, he said, ‘’Your shrine is like a hospital. You and your fellow priests and brothers are the doctors and nurses who tend the ill, seeking healing brought here by the head nurse, the Sorrowful Mother. But you do not give them ordinary medicine or a shot or a few pills to take. No. You give them the perfect medicine, the Precious Blood of Christ to heal their wounds and bring peace and joy back in their lives.”
The shrine continues to minister to those coming here for daily and weekend liturgies, which are celebrated in the outdoor chapel. Devotions, which are the first Sunday of each month, are outside also. Social distancing is observed; the priests wear masks while distributing the Holy Eucharist at Mass; the directives given by the bishops of Ohio are followed. Persons confess in the parking lot come rain, wind and heat. A sign directs them as to where to drive up and wait for the priest. I prefer just to sit outside so I can be seen, making it easier for the person just to drive up.
Are they appreciative? Yes, they are, very much so. Many have expressed happiness they are able to attend Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist once again. Yes, there are changes at Mass, which are experienced not only at the shrine, but at the majority of parish churches too. I believe the majority are adjusting well. I sense a greater appreciation for the Mass and sacraments for many since they had to endure a long period of time without both. During this time, the indoor chapel has remained opened for prayer.
Yes, there are still concerns and fears. How long will this pandemic last? Why has God done this to us? Does God listen to our prayers? What about the future? Not only fears and worries about the pandemic are expressed but also the present political situation in the country.
As we listen and give advice as directed by the Holy Spirit working through us, what that priest said so many years ago continues to be a living and powerful reality at work at the shrine, even during political unrest and the pandemic: the healing quality of the Precious Blood. His Blood was not shed in vain. As St. Cyril said, “The Precious Blood of Christ is the symbol of God’s justice and loving kindness towards us; the symbol and basis of our hope and the cause of our joy!”
The Sorrowful Mother Shrine is open to pilgrims every day of the week. To learn more, visit https://sorrowfulmothershrine.org/