For newcomers to Portland, finding a faith community can be difficult in the best of times. During a global pandemic, finding a community when events and ministries across the archdiocese are on hold can be impossible.

Still, the need for spiritual nourishment comes to the forefront during today’s trying times.

There is a danger of being too much inside our homes, too much inside ourselves, too much on the computer,” said Sister Teresa Harrell, campus minister at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Southwest Portland. “More than ever we need to have daily routines of prayer, personally and in our families.  We need to turn to the Lord for all of our needs.”

Sister Teresa, a member of the Society of Mary, advised turning over fears and anxieties to the Lord, whether those fear and anxieties emerge from the pandemic, the elections, social unrest or job insecurity.

“We need to feed our minds and hearts on the truths of the faith,” she said.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, newcomers shouldn’t just sit it out until the crisis subsides.

“If there’s one thing that we all need during this time it’s to be as close to God and as close to each other as possible,” said Father Tim Furlow, pastor at St. Patrick Parish in Northwest Portland. “There’s no better way to do that than finding a solid Catholic community that’s able to address one’s spiritual needs even during a time of pandemic.”

To find a community during the pandemic, Father Furlow suggests seeking out a parish that provides safe access to the sacraments and also offers soul-enriching spiritual programs online.

Sister Teresa encourages newcomers to check out parish websites to see what they’re offering at this time. Different parishes offer different ways to get involved, she said. Many parishes have information on such offerings available online, along with daily and Sunday Mass schedules.

I believe it’s always essential for people to find spiritual nourishment, and the holy Mass is the greatest nourishment, because it is Jesus giving himself to us,” said Sister Teresa. “So the most important thing, for those who are able, who do not have serious underlying health issues, is to go to Mass, to participate actively and in person in the Mass, and to receive the Lord in holy Communion.”

During the pandemic, different parishes are offering different ways to be involved in the community. St. Patrick, for instance, has been holding a monthly “Living the Faith” series over Zoom. St. Michael is preparing an online Advent retreat and a retreat book of reflections for daily prayer. Many parishes in Portland and beyond are hosting similar online events.

St. Charles Parish in Northeast Portland has welcomed a handful of new members during the pandemic.

“Each one has plugged into our worship options, either Sunday Mass or Zoom Liturgy of the Word on Saturday evenings,” said Leif Kehrwald, pastoral administrator at St. Charles.

The beauty of having so many events online is that location doesn’t dictate one’s ability to attend. St. Charles has had more than one person from out of state watching the Zoom Liturgy of the Word each weekend. These out-of-state folks have even gone beyond participating in the liturgy. They’ve also joined the church’s online adult faith formation classes, have volunteered to conduct an Advent reflection series and have joined the confirmation preparation team. One mentioned that she really appreciated the virtual opportunities via Zoom since she is not venturing out of her home. “Parish life is certainly different these days, but it is by no means shuttered,” concluded Kehrwald. “Our staff and volunteers are as busy as ever and we welcome newcomers to share their gifts.”

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org