Leaders urge caution, service and prayer as holidays draw near

November 24, 2020

Volunteers work to gather gifts during a past Share Your Blessings drive hosted by Catholic Charities. (File photo by James Ramos/Herald)

HOUSTON — As COVID-19 cases continued to surge across the nation and in Texas, community leaders urged Texans to remain vigilant during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the mid-November trends in Harris County and Texas were “headed in a very troubling direction” at a Nov. 17 press conference. Texas was the first state to record 1 million cases of COVID-19.

“As a community, we’ve been beat up and bruised. We’ve grown tired, and we’re hungry to get back to normal. It’s human nature to get complacent, to want to give in, to be tired. That’s normal. But we can’t do that right now,” she said.

Judge Hidalgo said the region had a narrow window to change the trends and avoid the numbers Texas saw in the summer.

In early November, El Paso began to see surging numbers that pushed overflowing hospitals to move to expanded bed capacities in civic facilities and send some patients to other cities in Texas. The city morgue struggled to handle the increase in deaths and brought in at least 10 mobile morgues to assist with capacity.

By Nov. 18, El Paso County, with its population of 840,000, had more confirmed active cases (34,487) than neighboring Mexico (23,284), a country of 129 million, reports said.

All hands on deck

Judge Hidalgo urged families to delay large family gatherings, even with the upcoming holidays.

“We need all hands on deck,” Judge Hidalgo said. “This is in your hands, and all of us need to do more.”

She also encouraged testing to create a greater awareness of the virus’s spread.

Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, several more parishes, like Prince of Peace and Holy Ghost Catholic Churches in Houston, had partnered with Harris County Public Health and Houston Health to host free COVID-19 testing in Harris County. Parishes included.

While the world waited for a vaccine, another victim of the pandemic was Houston’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade, which Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner canceled for the first time in 71 years. Instead, the city was set to host a Thanksgiving food drive on Nov. 21.

County health leaders urge caution, vigilance

The Harris County Public Health Department shared several tips on how to celebrate the holidays safely.

Lower risk activities included: having a small dinner with only people from the same household or social group; preparing traditional dishes for families and neighbors who are at higher risk and delivering the food in a contactless manner; celebrating with a virtual dinner while cooking and sharing recipes; shopping online from home rather than in-person for Black Friday or gift shopping for Christmas; and watching sports and holiday events, religious services and movies from home.

Moderate risk events with an emphasis on maintaining social and physical distance included: hosting a small outdoor dinner with family and friends from the nearby community; visiting outdoor activities and locations where hand sanitation and mask usage is encouraged or enforced; and attending small outdoor events with safety precautions in place.

County health leaders urged the public to help prevent the spread of the virus by avoiding: shopping in crowded stores or visiting crowded events like parades or gatherings; heavy use of mood-altering substances that can cloud judgment and increase risky behaviors; and attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside the household or social group.

Catholic Charities calls for gifts in ‘Share Your Blessings’ drive

HOUSTON — Thousands of children and seniors across the Archdiocese who live in poverty will have a gift to unwrap this holiday season, thanks to generous parishioners who gave to the “Share Your Blessings” Christmas gift campaign sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

The annual drive provides gifts to families served through Catholic Charities programs, in addition to families from throughout the community. Up to 2,800 children and seniors will be helped this Christmas.

“We’re grateful to the many parishes who hold toy drives each year to help people in need. We can’t do this campaign without them,” said Catholic Charities President Cynthia N. Colbert. “Their contributions are even more appreciated this year when so many families face financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Toys and gifts can be purchased from a wishlist found online or dropped off in-person at the Catholic Charities’ main office at 2900 Louisiana in Houston. Parishes contributing include the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart; Holy Rosary in Houston; Sacred Heart in Richmond; St. Anthony of Padua in The Woodlands; St. Bartholomew in Katy; St. Faustina in Fulshear; St. Maximilian Kolbe; St. Theresa in Houston; and St. Vincent de Paul. 

Take Gospel to troubled people during pandemic

CLEVELAND (CNS) — Admitting that people’s faith in God “has been shaken” by the pandemic and related economic turmoil, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez called on his fellow bishops to take the news of the resurrection and the triumph of life over death directly to people to help them navigate the crisis.

“At the heart of their fears are fundamental questions about divine providence and the goodness of God,” Archbishop Gomez, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Nov. 16 during the bishops’ annual fall general assembly.

“This is far more than a public health emergency,” he said. “Everywhere we see spreading the fear of illness and death.”

The archbishop said the pandemic illustrates that the core message of the Gospel — Christ’s love for every person, the power of the cross and the promise of the resurrection — “is fading from our neighbors’ hearts.”

“Brothers, in this time of death, we hold the Word of Life. We come in the name of the God whose love is stronger than death,” he said.

The times with their social unrest and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, “call for heroic Christianity,” he explained. He noted how the newly beatified Blessed Michael McGivney died during the 1890 flu pandemic in which over 1 million people lost their lives worldwide. He said the likely future saint can be “a model and intercessor for our own ministries.”