Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., was interviewed March 23 on Domestic Church Media’s radio segment “Come to Me,” with hosts Jim and Cheryl Manfredonia.
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., was interviewed March 23 on Domestic Church Media’s radio segment “Come to Me,” with hosts Jim and Cheryl Manfredonia.
Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., has some advice for those feeling anxiety during these turbulent times.

“The first thing I would say to everyone is to try your best and remain calm, be calm in this time of upheaval,” Bishop O’Connell said. “I think when we have that faith in God and [know] that he has not abandoned us – nor have we abandoned him – we can see through this. I often say to the people, ‘The Lord’s got our back, and he certainly does.’”

To hear Bishop O'Connell's interview, click here

The Bishop’s guidance came amid a number of secular and faith-based public interviews he has given over the past weeks, the latest of which was March 23 on Domestic Church Media’s radio segment “Come to Me,” with hosts Jim and Cheryl Manfredonia.

During the segment, the Bishop offered spiritual insight on the COVID-19 situation and its impact on the Diocese, its faithful, parishes and schools. He also reviewed the decree he issued March 20 pertaining to the celebrations of Holy Week and Easter liturgies and discussed how faithful can participate in the liturgies via livestream and video productions. He also fielded questions from listeners.

During the hourlong segment, Bishop O’Connell acknowledged the range of emotions people are feeling. Even though individuals cannot gather in groups out of concern for spreading the virus, “We certainly are together in mind and heart and spirit and soul,” he said.

“I think adversity, stress and anxiety, when it’s shared by everyone, does have the effect of bringing people together,” he said.

The Bishop went on to note the eeriness of the situation and how it reminded him of “the feelings I had and what was in the air” after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, during which time he was president of The Catholic University of America, Washington. It also reminded him of when he traveled with N.J. State Police around the Diocese in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

“So much with this pandemic is unknown,” he said. “You hear so much in the media, you hear so much on TV, you read so much online or in the newspapers, and honestly sometimes you don’t what’s true, what’s right, what to believe, so you have to presume that our public officials, especially our public health officials, are giving us good advice. So far, I think that’s true; they certainly have.”

Among the questions the Bishop fielded during the show were those pertaining to the spiritual side of the pandemic. The Manfredonias spoke on how some are questioning if the pandemic is a sign that the world is coming to an end or whether it is a punishment from God.

Responding to the question, “What do you say to the people who are going to the extremes and looking for answers in other places?” Bishop O’Connell said, “I think extremes are always to be avoided … I think at times like these, people are having a sense of their own mortality, that they are not going to have life forever on this earth, certainly life as we know it. I think it’s a wake-up call for all of us.”

For another question, the Bishop clarified a misconception on how the Holy Week liturgies will be celebrated in the Diocese. It was understood by the listener that the Diocese would focus on the Bishop’s celebration “of these high holy days and whatever adaptations need to be made,” but the listener questioned if the liturgies would also be celebrated by parish priests.

The Bishop responded that he will celebrate Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday in St. Rose Church, Belmar, without a congregation in attendance. However, all liturgies will be livestreamed and can be viewed by the faithful.

He also stressed that parish priests with livestream capability would do so, but the liturgies must be recorded live and not pre-recorded.

When asked to explain why general absolution is not permissible, Bishop O’Connell said that he told priests of the Diocese “that we have not eliminated Confessions.”

People are still going to Confession, he explained, but the priests are not having big crowds and are not having a penance service like they would during Lent or Advent. That would go against the restriction of bringing large crowds together, he said.

Bishop O’Connell said he finds it bothersome to hear the “new normal” way of life reference that reflects how society has been impacted by the pandemic.

“It’s the ‘new normal’ if you add the word temporary,” he said, but really, “It’s not the new normal. To me, it’s just the new now, and that’s just the way I would look at it. All indications say that [the pandemic] is temporary, although it might be awhile before we can back to our normal way of life.”

The Bishop also reminded listeners that faith and patience are good partners “because when they work together, they are going to reach into love and charity, and that is really the commandment of the Lord – ‘Love one another.’”

Referring to the various measures the Diocese has put in place over the past weeks, Bishop O’Connell said, “What we’re doing in the Diocese we’re doing out of love for the faithful, to protect them, to help them, to try to eliminate this threat so they can continue to worship and practice their faith. This will pass, and we will be back better and stronger than ever.”