Few American organizations have been around long enough to see two pandemics. Catholic Extension, founded in 1905, was on the frontlines of Catholic ministry during the 1918 Spanish Flu. A century later, we are facing another global health crisis.
The response and circumstances around COVID-19 has been both unique and reminiscent of the past.
Take a look at how American Catholics have responded to two pandemics, 102 years apart.
Catholic leaders change plans to make a difference.
THEN: Priests supported by Catholic Extension traveled by rail to minister to Catholics in remote towns. The Spanish Flu stopped the line temporarily.
In the meantime, our founder Francis Clement Kelley used his time to advocate for religious freedom.
NOW: Ministries that require travel are also postponed. People are meeting online instead. Here, Sister Gaby from our exchange program, ministers through video call.
Closed Catholic Churches
The ‘Domestic Church’ thrives, as people practice their faith at home.
THEN: Churches were closed, like St. Peter Church in Oregon, pictured here. People kept the faith at home until it was safe to meet again.
NOW: Advances in technology allow the faithful to experience Mass online.
Sisters on the Frontlines
In times of need, you can count on Catholic sisters.
THEN: Sisters nationwide, including these pictured in San Francisco, took on new roles like making masks. Photo courtesy of Oakland Public Library
NOW: Women religious are leading the way, reaching out to provide basic essentials and spiritual support to those in need. Photo courtesy of sisters we support in the Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Our founder, Francis Clement Kelley, mused in 1919:
“What will the historian a century hence have to say of us?”
Today, we ask the same question. As people of faith, we have a responsibility to stay steadfast in faith, and continue our outreach to the vulnerable.
In the depths of despair and highs of hope, the Church is there. We are so grateful to all who are supporting the journey.
Support Catholics in remote and isolated areas of the United States hit hard by COVID-19