© 2020 FATHER VINCE CORSO

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Father Vince Corso

Resources in the Time of COVID-19

Much of my professional life has been devoted to supporting people in their spiritual journey. I have done this both as a priest and as a social worker. The common thread linking these two vocations has always been grief and coping with loss. As a parish priest in the early 1980’s, the parish to which I was assigned had a demographic that included a high percentage of frail and elderly parishioners. I learned firsthand the challenges faced by family members as they struggled to understand the illness and death of a loved one. Much of my ministry provided support to people as they faced such significant losses. I found myself navigating the age-old questions asked by those left behind: “Why is this illness, pain, loss, separation, happening to me or my family?”

As my professional path led me to become a social worker, I reluctantly accepted a request from my field instructor to engage in an internship at an upstate New York hospice program who was seeking a mature student to work with the bereavement team. I remember shaking my head and saying to my mentor, “Are you kidding me?” That was in 1995. I wound up spending close to 21 years working in the world of end of life care and bereavement.

Fast forward to present day. Like many people, I am disoriented with the recent and very necessary restrictions that have resulted from the Covid pandemic. Life is not as it has been. With this new reality I have tried to build order into my day as my wife and two college-aged children find their own space to work from home and to attend classes on line. Normal routine is restricted, the health of my family is at risk, our daughter will not have the well-deserved recognition of the completion of her college career, not to mention financial uncertainty and a host of other concerns. Everyone’s lives—and way of life—are being turned upside-down. Needless to say, we all have had to adapt to this new terrain.

In the midst of COVID-19 uncertainty, people around the world are preparing to commemorate sacred events expressed through the ages-old rituals of Holy Week and Passover. These sacred stories, which have provided a foundation and grounding for people throughout the centuries, have taken on an increased significance this year. I find myself compelled to reexamine my personal beliefs as I question why things are happening this way.

The Stations or Way of the Cross is a traditional Christian devotion used especially during Holy Week as we lead up to Easter. The Stations mark the final hours in the life of Jesus Christ; moving through these stations—as a spiritual practice—offers participants time to recall the sacred story, reflect on their place in it, and acknowledge with gratitude the selfless actions of The Christ.

Praying The Way of the Cross during a Pandemic is my response to questions that have emerged for me in this time of uncertainty, and it is my offering to you. Using the format of the traditional stations of the cross, I have incorporated the emotions, reactions, and questions common to loss and grief—and particular to this moment in our history.

I believe we have an unprecedented moment to reorient ourselves to a new way of thinking. I pray that these stations become  opportunities to stop, reflect, grieve, begin to rebuild, and yes, hope!  Is it how we expected to experience Holy Week? Definitely not, but the opportunity to make meaning of this moment is right before us.

Loss never happens on our schedule. My work with the bereaved has told me repeatedly that life can grow out of the unthinkable, the unexpected, the painful.

I wish you peace as your path reveals itself to you and yours.