En Espanol Search

COVID Blog.pngEvery Sunday, the list grows. At my multi-cultural, income-diverse parish, it now takes the lector several minutes during the Prayer of the Faithful to read the names of individuals and families from our parish sickened by Covid-19. This past Sunday, we prayed for 68 parishioners—"and family” for at least ten.

While some of us have the luxury to stay in our homes, many others cannot—and these are the members of our communities whose names we hear each Sunday.  The pandemic is exacerbating and shining a light on the many disparities present in our national and global society.

What disparities am I referring to?

  1. The ability to work from home varies greatly by race. Only 16.2% of Hispanic workers and 19.7% of black workers can telework, and higher-wage workers are six times more likely to work from home as lower-wage workers.
  2. Workers in the agricultural, food service, and manufacturing sectors ensure that all of us have the food and goods we need while we shelter at home, but they have little recourse to ensure their own health and safety. Recent reporting about (lack of) worker rights in the meatpacking sector is just one example.
  3. If you are black, you are more likely to contract the virus but less likely to be tested or treated. Because of historical disadvantages still reflected in the present-day, such as food deserts and lack of access to healthcare in many communities of color, African Americans are more likely to develop health conditions conducive to contracting the virus. At the same time, bias may be leading to less testing and treatment for African Americans.
  4. Unemployment is growing, but many families were already vulnerable. As unemployment grows, families nation-wide are struggling to pay rent. This is unsurprising since 18.2 million households pay over 50% of their income on housing and there is a severe shortage of affordable housing in our country. Wages have not kept up with cost of living increases and families feel the burden.
  5. Educational disparities are likely widening. Kids in communities without reliable internet and in low-income districts are at a serious disadvantage in the new virtual learning reality.  Kids in low-income communities are also more likely to be in households where caretakers cannot telework and cannot assist with schoolwork.
  6. Some communities have been largely forgotten.  Only recently has national attention been drawn to the plight of Native American communities. And out of public sight, those who are incarcerated and detained are housed in conditions where social distancing is impossible and infection spreads rapidly.

In addition, we cannot forget that the situation in many poorer nations is dire. Health infrastructure and basic medical equipment are woefully inadequate in many developing countries. The sixty percent of the world’s workers who are part of the informal economy are suffering severe losses of income, with women, children, migrant workers and indigenous populations hit hardest.  Remittances, which help decrease poverty and contribute significantly to lower- and middle-income economies, are severely reduced. And children in many developing countries, where internet access is far from universal, have simply stopped receiving an education.  

So, what can we do?

These realities are stark, and it is easy to feel powerless in the face of the structural injustices that create the disparities we are now seeing. Especially as we look toward Pentecost, we must reflect on the call to discipleship—a call that requires a commitment to accompaniment and work for justice.  Here are three ways we can act in solidarity and begin to address the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic:  

  1. Accompany. In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis reminds us that we are all called to “make present the fragrance of Christ’s closeness” through the work of accompaniment (no. 169). How can we accompany those who are especially vulnerable right now? If we have the financial means, we can donate. If we are young, healthy, and able to take all necessary safety precautions, we can volunteer. In whatever ways are possible and appropriate for each of us, we can seek to know our neighbors’ needs and respond.
  2. Get involved locally. Around the nation, there are organizations supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic bishops. Groups funded by CCHD are led by low-income people who know what their communities need and are responding. For example, building on recent success implementing a parish-id program to benefit immigrants without status, Dallas Area Interfaith (DAI) worked with the county health department to accept these parish ids for access to COVID-19 testing. They also worked with a county judge to achieve a moratorium on evictions and electric shut-offs; and helped create a fund to help those affected by COVID-19 to pay their bills. These actions came about after DAI members called 3,000 families in two weeks to ask about needs and invite their participation in responding. If you live, work or worship in a low-income community--or you want to accompany those who do--visit povertyusa.org/cchd-groups to find groups like DAI in your own community, and then get involved.
  3. Advocate. Currently, Congress is considering the next COVID-19 relief package, and the well-being of the most vulnerable in the U.S. and around the world is on the line. Your legislators need to hear from you now. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is working hard to advocate for those most impacted and is inviting all Catholics to raise their voices.  In particular, there are three poverty-related issues you can call attention to with your elected leaders:
  • SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, can help families keep food on the table, especially as many are currently experiencing unemployment. It’s also a proven tool to boost the economy.  Tell Congress to prioritize SNAP in the next COVID-19 relief bill. 
  • Immigrants and refugees provide essential economic and recovery assistance to our country but are being left out in important ways. Advocate for immigrants here.
  • Funding for international programs that reduce poverty is essential in order to keep communities safe and help families survive and thrive around the world. Help lead the way here.

Far from being powerless, there is much we can and must do.  We may be physically distanced, but we can still work to overcome both isolation and disparity. Doing so is essential to living out the call to discipleship as followers of Christ.



Jill Rauh serves as Director of Education & Outreach for the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development and is a member of St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, MD.

Blog Archive

Blog Home