Just ahead of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations May 3, priests in the Archdiocese of Vancouver took to video to send their flocks messages of encouragement and inspiration during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Father Paul Goo, vocations director for the archdiocese, encouraged priests to create short video messages to the faithful to create community and raise awareness of the value of the work of priests.

A compilation of these videos available here. (The lay faithful have responded! Their responses can be read here.)

May 3 is also celebrated in the archdiocese as Good Shepherd Sunday, when a second collection is held in support of local seminarians and priests; more information available at www.vocationsvancouver.ca/give.

Father Lucio Choi
Assistant Pastor, St. Matthew’s Parish, Surrey

During this difficult time I had a profound realization on the importance of prayer. As a priest, I have to offer intercessory prayers, praying for the safety and protection and wellbeing of all the members of St. Matthew’s Parish but also members of our archdiocese. I’m praying for all of you, praying that God will continue to watch over us and protect us and he will guide us through this difficult time.

Dear St. Matthew’s parishioners, I miss all of you in this empty building. I’m praying for all of you and I can’t wait until we can come together to listen to God’s word, to receive the Eucharist, and to remember God’s blessings together. Until then, I pray that you be safe and healthy, and let’s pray that we can come together very soon.

Father Bryan Duggan
Priest of the Archdiocese of Vancouver, recently returned from studies in Washington, D.C.

I’m so conscious of the challenges that so many of us are facing and especially the sadness around our empty churches and how hard it is to be away from the sacraments. It’s certainly a challenge for us as priests.

I’ve been concelebrating here at Corpus Christi Parish and livestreaming our Masses and it’s quite an experience to be celebrating Mass day after day in an empty church. But [I am] so moved by many of you who are viewing these Masses and making such an effort to stay connected with the church and our spiritual lives despite the limitations we are currently under. Praying for you, love you, miss you, and I’m delighted to be back here at least for a few months before finishing up my last year of studies.

Let us pray for each other.

Father Paul Goo
Vocations director for the Archdiocese of Vancouver

One thing that’s become clear to me at this time is that people need priests. Perhaps more to the point, people need pastors, pastors who are willing to reach out to their people no matter what, using whatever means necessary. Pastors who want people to know that God still loves them, that he is still in charge.

On this Good Shepherd Sunday I would like to thank all the pastors for their example of showing the goodness of the priesthood. I’d also like to thank the faithful of the archdiocese for affirming and supporting their pastors.

Father Bruce-John Hamilton
Pastor, Corpus Christi Parish, Vancouver

One of the things I’ve come to appreciate about my priestly ministry during this time of the COVID-19 crisis is missing my people being present at Mass and being able to offer the sacraments to them. That’s the reason I’m a priest. It really is to offer sacrifice, to forgive sins, and to teach and to offer the people the faith, and it’s something I really miss. As well, I miss the children not being in school and I pray with all my heart that this will come to an end very soon.

There are three things I would like to communicate to the members of my parish. Number one: God loves you very much. This is something so important for all of us to remember and tell God you love him in return. Number 2: Be faithful to your prayer. This is so important. At any time in life, be faithful to your prayer. This will sustain you through so many things in life and it will help you during this time. Number 3: we are truly a community of people, the Body of Christ. It is so important that we remember this. Nobody is in this alone and nobody is alone. God loves you very much.

Father James Hughes
Pastor, St. Patrick’s Parish, Vancouver

In celebrating Good Shepherd Sunday I just want to shout out to all the parishioners of St. Patrick’s Parish and parishioners throughout the Archdiocese of Vancouver: a special Happy Easter.

I want you to be assured of my own prayers for you especially in this time of isolation and challenge. I want you to be assured that we’re praying faithfully as priests each day when we do celebrate the Mass and also in my personal prayer times. I miss you very much and I look forward to the day when we can reunite in the pastoral activities and events, particularly worship, here at St. Patrick’s.

No doubt all of us are facing many challenges during this great pandemic, but if I were to recall something in my own prayer and appreciation of the gift of the priesthood of Jesus Christ in my life, it would certainly have to be the creativity of many people around the world. 

Although there are many restrictions that have caused them to this creativity, we in the Church also have to do that. No doubt hearing confessions, particularly through drive-thru and walk-thru, has been no doubt very edifying. Jesus’ message of salvation has not changed and more than ever we have to be creative in the Church.

Father Juan Lucca
Assistant priest, Holy Rosary Cathedral

Something I've really come to enjoy as a priest during this time of pandemic is how creative I’ve had to become. I see priests, pastors doing different things. How do we hear confessions? How do we say Mass? How do we bring our Lord into the hearts and homes of the faithful, keep them connected to the community, to the Scriptures? It’s been a joy to do. It’s been difficult and this is not the new normal, it’s not what’s going to continue, but I think we’re doing the best we can with the guidelines we’ve been given.

I think we’ve all experienced the pain of the silence and the solitude. You look at the church, it’s so empty. It really forces us to grow in humility and to grow in kindness to one another. When we suffer, then we can have compassion for others. We know what it’s like.

Our Lord will reward us. Let’s keep up the good fight, keep our chins up during this time of pandemic, and our Lord will be merciful and he will be kind. Rejoice in the Lord. He is risen and he is with us. One day this church will be full again and we’ll have a great celebration.

Father Larry Lynn
Assistant pastor, St. Helen’s Parish, Burnaby

Because of the way things are  – everything is stripped down to its bare essentials – I have to say the thing I appreciate the most is the fact that I can offer the Mass. This is a great thing. I can offer the Mass; all priests can offer the Mass. 

My message to parishioners and others would be in spite of the fact that we can’t be at Mass, just know that the Mass is bigger than any of us and each of us. It seeks to draw all into one with Christ.

The suffering that you offer to Christ is not in vain. Even if you can’t be at the Mass, Mass is being offered and through the Mass your sacrifice is joined with Christ. Your sacrifices, your offerings, are carried throughout the universe and they go around the world; the priests’ intentions go around the world; and they all come back and are laid at the feet of Jesus.

Father Felix Min
Assistant pastor, St. Patrick’s Parish, Vancouver

One thing that I’ve come to appreciate more about my priestly vocation during this pandemic season is the very aspect of the priest’s role as the intercessor for all the faithful and all the people who are going through such a hard time. A priest is really able to offer sacrifice at the altar and his own sacrifices and prayers for the sake of others and unite himself to the pains and sufferings of the faithful through the prayers with Christ, in Christ. That has been a very fruitful experience for me.

Dear parishioners, don’t get discouraged or disheartened too much, but always remember that the priests of the diocese or of the whole world are offering much sacrifice and prayer for all of you. Remember that we are united spiritually in Christ, even though we are not able to celebrate the sacraments together. 

Remember and always look forward to that day we will come together again to celebrate Mass together.

Father Pablo Santa Maria Watson
Priest of the Archdiocese of Vancouver currently studying in Spain

It certainly has been a very different Easter, different that what we are used to. I’m here in Pamplona, Spain, finishing my degree in canon law, and Spain is one of the epicentres of this pandemic. I’ve been witness to some powerful moments of generosity of many in the midst of this very challenging time. 

I was able to celebrate the Triduum here at the cathedral of Pamplona with the archbishop of this city and it was bittersweet. First of all I really don’t enjoy the social distancing, even in the liturgy, the excessive forcing us, the constant reminder to social distance. But also the emptiness of the church; it’s not the way it’s meant to be. Also there is a third sorrow, that was the death of a good friend, Father Fred Buttner, who passed away shortly before the beginning of Holy Week. 

Hopefully during this pandemic, in which we fasted of the sacraments of the Eucharist, it helped us grow in a deeper longing for the Holy Eucharist, that we may have a new awakening of what the sacrament really is, how can enter more deeply into the mystery of the Holy Eucharist and all the sacraments – and also as a church community, not to take for granted so much our parish or our wider church, the Church in Vancouver, but really to appreciate what a great gift the sacraments and our parish communities are.

Father Manoj Xalxo
Assistant pastor, St. Joseph the Worker Parish, Richmond

Dear friends and faithful of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Richmond, my virtual high five to you all! I pray and hope for you all that you are fine and safe at this moment of time. Be assured of the prayers by the Franciscans of Richmond. 

Be connected to your family, to your friends, and above all, to God. Be hopeful, be courageous, and we will persevere through this hard time. May God bless you and keep you all safe.

Father Richard Zanotti
Pastor, Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, Vancouver

I’ve learned that I really need to be together with my flock. I really need to smell the sheep and I really can’t have the smell of the sheep on me through livestreaming. I hope this comes to an end soon and I hope can be together with my people once again.

God bless you. Dios les bendiga.

Father Guy Zidago
Assistant pastor, Star of the Sea Parish, Surrey

The coronavirus pandemic has shaped a bit the ways I understand my priestly ministry. Today, I clearly see that this is the Church’s moment to shine, to come out of her comfort zone. It is true that it has been a true challenge for me, not seeing my parishioners coming to church. Maybe it is a providential moment for me to bring the church to my parishioners. I really think that it is the Church’s moment to shine because I can use every means possible to share the good news with them.