Many are in deep distress and experiencing sorrow and anxiety as Covid-19 continues to take lives and loved ones. And as much as Catholic priests would like to reach out to people infected with Covid, they are not encouraged to visit hospitals, isolation facilities, and private homes. Everyone has to follow health and safety protocols.
Father Luciano Felloni, an Argentinean priest, has received one too many calls over the past year, from people asking for prayers, or asking for anointment. A few days ago, a parishioner sent him a text message requesting for anointment for his ailing mother. Father Luciano happened to be on quarantine himself and can’t go out.
The following morning, the priest got another message confirming the same patient is positive with Covid. “Naghihingalo na ang nanay nya,” says Father Luciano in fluent Tagalog. “Sabi ko, put your phone on loud speaker and we’ll pray together. So ginawa namin yun, at malaking tulong sa kanila, malaking ginhawa, malaking pasasalamat nila.”
And that’s when he thought of exploring the idea of starting an online prayer initiative. He posted on Facebook an announcement that he’d like to start a project where priests can call people that need to be prayed over.
“On the first day, 35 priests right away expressed their intention to help,” he tells ANCX. With the help of the Social Communications committee of the Diocese of Novaliches, they were able to form a group of volunteers to answer incoming calls and messages, prepare posters, and open a Facebook page where people can message them.
“Before your call, we’re already doing the case No. 145,” he tells ANCX. “People are super grateful kasi for many of them, first time na merong paring tumawag sa kanila, and they feel so blessed. Many of them are isolated. In many of the cases, the whole family are infected.”
Yesterday, Father Luciano, who is well-known for his daily Bible reflections thru the AlmuSalita Facebook page, prayed over a family of six, residing in different points of Metro Manila. “We were able to meet together online and I prayed over the whole family,” he says.
It’s amazing, says Father Luciano, how E-Pray is connecting people from all over the Philippines and the world. “One is a Filipino from Dubai asking for a pray-over and a Filipino priest from New York video-called her. This morning, we had prayer requests coming from Baguio, Sarangani, Tacloban and the priests who responded came from Bicol, Parañaque, and Novaliches.”
He says the reason he also thought of organizing the project was because there are many people who don’t know anyone from the parishes—they don’t know how to get in touch with a priest. This is one way to easily reach them.
Currently, 50 priests and one bishop have signed up as part of the E-Pray. He’s positive that should there be a need for more priests, more will also respond to the call. “I don’t feel na mauubusan ng pari to answer. Ang mahalaga ngayon is to propagate the information, to make people know, so that walang maysakit na hindi makaranas ng presensya ng simbahan. Gusto naming maramdaman nila na talagang andyan kami sa tabi nila,” says the parish priest and rector of the Kristong Hari Parish – Shrine of the Youth.
Father Luciano is happy to note that this afternoon, he and the volunteer priests will have a Zoom meeting to discuss what else the group can do. “Probably we will also offer counseling,” he says.
Those who wish to be connected to a priest for a prayover may message AlmuSalita by Fr. Luciano Felloni or E-Pray DioNova on Facebook Messenger or send a text to 0995-0417199.