By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

JORDAN — The congregants’ responses to the pastor escaped the car windows as murmurs in the wind. For extra affirmation, they beeped.

Father John R. DeLorenzo’s weekend rosary sessions — with prayers, hymns, announcements, and blessings — in the St. Patrick Church parking lot are keeping the parish connected in the time of pandemic, participants said.

“I think it’s a tribute to him and his devotion to this parish,” said Dick Strauss, who was among the attendees in at least 30 cars that pulled up for last Saturday’s 5 p.m. session.

Earlier this year, two parishioners suggested an outdoor rosary or at least some kind of prayer in the absence of Masses. “I said yes, of course,” Father DeLorenzo said.

Early on, “my wife brought some quilts along to keep warm,” Strauss said, “because you’re not running the car; the windows are rolled down and the wind is coming out of the northwest right out of the Arctic Circle, but it’s a great way of staying connected.”

Father DeLorenzo himself needed a coat and blanket one day when it was 35 or 40 degrees. But last Saturday it was 62 degrees as he presided with his microphone behind the monstrance at the top of the concrete ramp. The first rank of cars across the asphalt from him numbered nine, and some cars were parked on the side, closer to the Pieta shrine. To Father DeLorenzo’s left, the wind ruffled the delicate plants in the little garden below the railing.

He read the Gospel for Pentecost Sunday, John 20:19-23, which says, “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”

Different ways to serve

Father DeLorenzo sang “Come, Holy Ghost” a cappella, and he led the people in the Glorious Mysteries of the rosary, the third of which is the Descent of the Holy Spirit.

In brief remarks, he told the gathering: “None of us can follow and serve the Lord without the gifts of the Holy Spirit. There are many different ways to serve God — as a priest, as a lay person, as a father, a mother, a spouse, a teacher; there are so many different ways to serve the Lord, and all of us have been given special gifts.”

He offered prayer petitions for the clergy and others including all who are infected with coronavirus and all who have died from COVID-19; civic officials; the “courageous health-care workers”; and “all those we love …, that they will be kept safe, healthy, and close to almighty God.”

Then he recited the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, which says, “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.”

The pastor informed the congregation he would continue the 5 p.m. Saturday and the 10 a.m. Sunday outdoor rosary sessions, instead of instituting weekend Masses that no more than 10 people may attend, because it is a good way to serve 70 to 80 people. The people responded with a blend of car horns.

The pastor said he would begin to celebrate Masses in the chapel at 9 a.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, with six to eight preregistered people present. The adoration chapel will be open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. every Friday with social distancing and other restrictions; call first. He urged parishioners to check every week for announcements.

“Father cares for us very much, and that’s why we have this beautiful rosary,” said Jane Klaben, a parishioner for 44 years and a former parish secretary for 11 years. “It’s good for us, but it’s also good for him because it keeps us connected, and it gives us a chance to share our faith together; and this rosary, it just seems to strengthen us all and to give us the hope that we need in this pandemic. So all I can say is, God bless Father.”

Because of the rosary services, said parishioner Roseanne Lewis, “we can see Father, see each other, and pray together. Father is a strong leader, and we are fortunate to have him. He talks to us, and he is a good listener. Father prays for us, and we pray for him. Attending rosary service is our spiritual nutrition. We are a small parish in a small village with big faith and big hearts.”

Good for the heart

Parishioner Marie Heck said she attends “because it makes my heart feel good. … It gives you a sense of peace and tranquility. I enjoy it so much, I come both Saturday and Sunday. … It’s not the weekend without the Lord, and by doing this with the rosary with other people there you get the camaraderie … and you keep your parish family together. And hopefully it’ll continue that way.”

The Saturday and Sunday sessions, said parishioner Mary Bard, are “kind of a nice way to end or start the week, whichever day you come.”

St. Patrick’s Pieta shrine project was designed, planned, and overseen by her father, Larry Gray, in memory of her mother, Betty Gray. “I feel close to my mom when I’m here,” Bard said.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” parishioner Joan Scott said of the outdoor sessions. She added that they “renewed my realization of how important the rosary is. … And I think maybe it’s helped … the families with children when they come to the rosary.”

“We started the first week just in solidarity with Father,” parishioner Strauss said, “and discovered that there were like 30 cars here, so it was well taken. … I think this really works.”

On Sunday, May 24, Father DeLorenzo said, 42 cars showed up. He has received many letters and notes affirming the concept.

“It’s giving me the opportunity to let them know that we’re together,” he said, “we’re not going to fall apart. The church is going to survive. We’re in this together — this, many people have said; but our community stays strong through prayer, and every prayer given to God is going to help this pandemic.”

At the end of Saturday’s parking lot session, Father DeLorenzo recited the Divine Praises, sang “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name,” and held up the monstrance for the people.

“This parish has been a blessing to my vocation,” said the pastor, who on July 1 will mark his 16th year there.

The people give him credit for the rosary sessions, but he said:

“I give credit to them because I love them, and there’s nothing I won’t do for them.”

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