Deacons maintain their ministry in face of COVID-19

Friday, Apr. 17, 2020
Deacons maintain their ministry in face of COVID-19 + Enlarge
Deacon Guillermo Mendez assists at the April 9 Chrism Mass as Bishop Oscar A. Solis presides. The Mass was livestreamed from the Cathedral of the Madeleine.
By Laura Vallejo
Intermountain Catholic

SALT LAKE CITY — Deacons have always formed a big part of the clergy in the Catholic Church in Utah, as the demands on priests is high and in many areas the distance between the parishes and missions is great.
The Diocese of Salt Lake City has 67 active deacons providing ministry at the 80 parishes, missions and Newman Centers located all over the state of Utah.
Some deacons are bilingual, others speak only English or Spanish, but overall they provide service day and night as their pastor, parishes and community require. The need for their ministry has increased now, with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These times are filled with challenges, uncertainties, unknown and unplanned situations,” said Deacon Gerardo Marrufo, who is appointed to St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish in Midvale.
Deacon Marrufo and his wife have a 10-month-old granddaughter who lives at their house with her parents.
“We really have to take care of each other,” he said, adding that the family’s biggest challenge is to keep themselves healthy, following the government and Church recommendations.
“But we also have to keep ministering, and also find comfort in these times because, besides the disease, we have also experienced earthquakes and the multiple aftershocks, and this has put us in a constant stress, wondering what’s next,” Deacon Marrufo said.
Despite that, he keeps ministering. He also watches the daily transmission, on social media, of the Mass.
“We are trying to accept that all these happenings are not in our control, and that with God’s help and mercy we will come out of all this,” he said.
He and his family have been praying, and reading multiple verses in the Bible.
“That has been very fulfilling for me and my family, spiritually and at the Church level,” he said. “Knowing that I can help alleviate some of the pain that people are feeling gives me comfort and helps me to keep on going, and to keep preparing so when this nightmare is over I can keep serving with my brothers at my parish.”
For Deacon Guillermo Mendez, who serves at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, the COVID-19 pandemic has made him fall in love with and trust the Catholic Church even more, he said.
Besides serving at the Masses in the cathedral, Deacon Mendez, who like Deacon Marrufo is a husband and grandfather, has been the link between the cathedral and the catechists and RCIA teachers.
“I have kept communicating with them [through these times] so they can support the moms and dads of the children in catechism and motivate them to continue learning about our Catholic faith,” Deacon Mendez said.
Similarly, he is in continuous contact with the adults who were preparing to enter the Church at Easter, and receive the sacraments for the first time.
“I have been sending them readings from the Holy Bible so they can reflect on them,” he said.
In his eyes, these times have been very trying.
“It’s very hard to see so many people suffering around the world. It’s impossible not to feel their pain,” said Deacon Mendez, adding that, unfortunately, in every tragedy those who are the most vulnerable usually are the ones who suffer the most.
“As a deacon, a servant of our Lord, I have been praying for all the people of God who are suffering,” he said. “I try to listen to our pope’s daily Mass, and I go three to four times a week to Adoration.”
He also serves at the Spanish Mass that is transmitted through the cathedral’s YouTube channel every Sunday. 
“With all my heart I want people to know that I have missed seeing them, but it is very important that they stay home and follow the government instructions,” he said.
He added that he hopes people put their trust in the Lord “so we can see this as an opportunity to reflect and to evaluate our attitudes and see which ones we need to modify so we can be better people of God.”
Now that Holy Week is over, Deacon Mendez expects that because people accompanied Jesus through his journey to the cross, “they have resurrected with him on Easter Sunday,” he said.

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