Father Peter James R. Alindogan
Father Peter James R. Alindogan

Editor’s Note: The past year has been overwrought with countless stories of people here and around the world having to bear their pandemic crosses.

As Christians live through a second Lenten season with COVID-19, four clergy from the Diocese share personal reflections of encountering Christ during sickness, isolation, sacrifice and loss. Though these experiences will likely extend beyond Lent, the Lord, they agree, will continue to carry them through.

 

I am now part of the growing statistic. 

Since I have been infected with COVID-19, my additional family members are my fellow survivors.  Some of them were asymptomatic, while others had the debilitating effects brought about by chills, fever, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms. It was just like what I had for more than a week.

However, it was the isolation that affected me deeply. Being in quarantine was no fun.  Though predicated by virtual presence through social media and the ubiquitous iPhone, the virus kept me literally apart from my priestly ministry and work.  I was too weak to pray, and I had to rely on our priests from neighboring parishes to celebrate Masses.

I was looking out from the rectory window the afternoon I had my test results. I saw the cars parked outside our church as they got ready for the Communion Service.  It pained me at that time not to celebrate the Liturgy with them. But during the span of time after I had announced my infection, I received a lot of support and encouragement from Bishop O’Connell, our clergy, our sisters, parishioners and friends.

The initial isolation was turning out to be more comforting. It was more consoling to realize that I was not alone. The kind words people shared, and significantly, the prayers said, helped me immensely in the days after, when I had to battle the symptoms.

Being infected with the virus as God’s priest, I believe, is part of doing the work of God. I was asked once where or how I got the virus. My response was that the question should be, “Why do I, Fr. PJ, have the virus?”

It is because I am too trusting. I trust in the goodness of people – that they would be honest with me had they been exposed, that they wore masks, distanced and sanitized, that they realized how pernicious this virus is and that we needed to help each other. 

Never have I regretted being too trusting, though. Isn’t that what our good Lord said? Trust in Him at all times. Never have I doubted in experiencing God’s presence at the onset of this disease. He confronted me in my pains and surprised me in my quarantined silence. The way God cares never ceases, though those moments can be taken for granted. 

Somehow my COVID-19 infection became my early preparation for Lent, a moment of grace. Amidst this pandemic, our good Lord is still making Himself and His love known. He never gets tired of showing us the way to Him.   

I found this all out, not just during prayer, but also in the actions exhibited by my fellow pilgrim-Catholics. Truly I am grateful to them, who have mirrored God’s love to me, their COVID-19 infected priest.

Because of what I have seen and felt during these past few weeks, I am blessed to be another statistic of God’s saving love.

Father Peter James R. Alindogan serves as pastor of St. Veronica Parish, Howell, and diocesan director of missions.