BLESSED SACRAMENT, SEMINOLE, FL
Parish Strategies in the Time of COVID-19
Blessed Sacrament is a parish of about 2,000 families located in the Diocese of St. Petersburg on the southwest Florida coast. Its population is majority senior citizens who have emigrated from other parts of the country. Greater Mission was invited to help the parish with a $1.9 million capital campaign to build a Family Life Center.
Shift in Focus
As the campaign was about to begin its most active phase, the Diocese decided to close all the parishes. In response, the Greater Mission staff person immediately shifted the focus from work on the capital campaign to pastoral compassion for parishioners. Given the parish’s large number of Seniors, the Greater Mission staff person worked with the parish staff to develop new services using parish volunteers to shop for Seniors and check in with them by phone daily. To assist families with their school-aged children at home a number of children’s activities were posted on the parish website.
A mail packet was developed that featured a warm personalized letter from the pastor, which included a request for parishioners’ financial support; a form to indicate the need for the help of a volunteer, or to volunteer help; the live streaming schedule of religious services; the Online Giving Registration; a self-addressed stamped envelope for the return of forms, requests and offertory gifts; and a palm.
In the first three weeks since the mailing, Mass viewership has soared on the parish’s Facebook page from about 150 households to 1,100 for Daily Mass and 1,700 households for Sunday Mass. Additionally, Online Giving has increased by 500%, and Offertory gifts, received by mail or thru the newly installed slot in the parish office door, have risen by 50%. Also, parishioners from childhood to adulthood have sent letters and notes back to the Pastor thanking him for his kindness and offering their prayers.