Father Arturo Romero, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Canby, blesses parishioners driving in the church parking April 19, Divine Mercy Sunday. A girl holds a Divine Mercy image to be blessed. (Courtesy Ricardo Hernández)
Father Arturo Romero, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Canby, blesses parishioners driving in the church parking April 19, Divine Mercy Sunday. A girl holds a Divine Mercy image to be blessed. (Courtesy Ricardo Hernández)

CANBY — Father Arturo Romero, pastor of St. Patrick Parish here, heeded the voices of dozens of parishioners who asked for a blessing after being isolated and afraid in their homes for more than a month.

On April 19, Divine Mercy Sunday, more than 50 cars drove slowly through the parking lot where Father Romero prayed over the vehicles and their occupants.

The request came from a group of faithful who have been meeting on Zoom to pray the rosary.

“Prayer has helped families become spiritually stronger and find comfort in the love of God,” Ricardo Hernández, a parish music leader, said in Spanish. “The pandemic has presented us with great challenges.”

The parish has received calls from unemployed people who are afraid to ask for help because they lack citizenship documents. Hernández and his wife help those they can, but then decided an online prayer group would be the most effective project.

“It has been a test of patience for me to have to guide each family step by step and teach them how to use technology, but it is a blessing at the same time to be an instrument of God to help others,” Hernández said. “God guides me through the Holy Spirit to demonstrate his love by helping others.”

All the patience and communication led to the drive-by blessings.

“I really felt down after so long not going to church,” said Oliva Nolasco, a parishioner who lost her job as a hotel waitress because of the pandemic. “The priest’s blessing lifted my spirits, renewed me. Seeing Father in person was very comforting.”

Wendy Tapia said the blessing was a reminder that God is with the people.

“We are living through a difficult time with a heavy emotional burden and prayer helps us strengthen our faith,” she said. “Every day we pray and we ask God for mercy, to grant us the grace to pray and intercede for the end of so much suffering.”

Nelsy Guevara, another parishioner, said being close to the priest and receiving the blessing was rewarding. She said she felt like she came back to life.

Mary Barajas was not accustomed to praying so much. But during the pandemic, she joined the group. “The only thing we need is to strengthen ourselves spiritually, pray with great faith and trust in the mercy of God,” Barajas said.

Father Romero said he was excited to see his parishioners and know that they are well in the middle of so much difficulty. He was gratified to see them embrace their Christian life.

At the livestreamed Divine Mercy Mass that day, Father Romero invited the community to reflect upon and encourage the Divine Mercy devotion.

“Physically we are separated, but we are united, we are a church, we continue to be a community with a church in each home,” said the priest.

“The Christian church started in homes, in every house with families gathered to pray. At this time, God wants us to return to our domestic church, where God is essential and central in our lives.”

patriciam@ocp.org