April 9, 2021

The gifts of parents bring joy to children during pandemic

Joan and Larry Johnson have shared a Zoom link with their children to pray a daily rosary during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted photo)

Joan and Larry Johnson have shared a Zoom link with their children to pray a daily rosary during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: As part of our coverage of the ongoing influence that the coronavirus pandemic is having on the faith lives of people, The Criterion invited our readers to share their experiences.)
 

Fourth in a series
 

By John Shaughnessy

Like most parents with grown children, Joan and Larry Johnson always look forward to the special times when everyone in their family is together.

And similar to many older parents during the COVID-19 pandemic, their hopes of getting everyone together in-person in the past year were dashed because of fears of spreading the coronavirus.

Not wanting to give up on that connection completely, the couple turned to their faith for a different kind of family reunion.

“My parents found a way to bring our family together in a very prayerful, comforting way,” says Julie Ross, their daughter and a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis, the same parish as her parents.

“Mom and Dad have prayed the rosary daily for several years. They decided in October of 2020 to share a Zoom link with their seven daughters, inviting each of us to join them in praying the rosary daily.”

The experience has brought to life the adage, “The family that prays together, stays together.”

 “What an experience this has been, lifting our prayers to Mary, hearing about all of the kids and grandkids, sharing our blessings and trials during this pandemic,” Ross says. “What a comfort it has been, knowing that every evening we can join with each other, sharing prayers of petition and thanksgiving.

“Whether it be praying for the many friends who have suffered from COVID or giving thanks for a job granted to a nervous grandchild, we know that this time of prayer together is there for us. Sometimes we get one-on-one time with Mom and Dad, when we are the only one able to ‘Zoom in’ that evening. At other times, the screen is crowded with eight squares lighting up as we all talk at once.”

The evening rosary sessions begin with a ritual that is special to the couple. Before starting the Zoom rosary, Joan Johnson often says to her husband, “Check to see if the bird is there.” When he returns with a “yes” or a “no”, the rosary starts.

Ross didn’t understand that ritual until a few weeks ago when she and her family were able to visit her recently vaccinated parents in their home for the first time since the beginning of the COVID restrictions.

“My family stayed and prayed the rosary on the Zoom call with them that evening,” Ross recalls. “Before starting the rosary, Dad said, ‘Check to see if the cardinal is there.’ Sure enough, perched under the porch roof was the most perfect cardinal, peaceful and beautifully serene.”

The couple is among the many people who believe that the appearance of a cardinal represents a loved one who has died and is making a connection from heaven.

“I finally got what Mom and Dad were saying without saying it,” Ross notes. “Their second daughter—our sister Lynn who passed away seven years ago—often joins us for our family rosary.”

On those evenings when a cardinal appears and eight squares light up on their Zoom rosary meeting, there’s the feeling that everyone in their family is together again.

“Mom and Dad have always given us gentle guidance in our faith journey,” Ross says. “We grew up with the simple wisdom that ‘God will always be there for you.’

“The faith that has been passed down to us by our parents is what allows us to recognize the gifts and graces given to us, while also knowing where to turn in troubling times.”

A saying that has shaped a life

Benedictine Sister Patricia Dede has never forgotten one of her mother’s favorite sayings, “Whenever I go by the church, I stop and make a visit. So that when I’m carried in, the Lord won’t say, ‘Who is it?’ ”

That saying has struck a chord with Sister Patricia again during the pandemic.

“I’ve had extra time to make more visits to our chapel, but I’ve really missed my two volunteer ministries,” says Sister Patricia, who is 87 and a member of the community of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove. “I volunteered at the food pantry at

St. Vincent de Paul and as an extraordinary minister of holy Communion at St. Francis Hospital. My age prevents me from continuing these ministries during the pandemic.”

In her prayers in the chapel one day, Sister Patricia told God how sorry she felt that she could no longer help in those ministries.

“Then the realization came to me that God could take care of these ministries without me. I knew that all the people who I thought needed me had a greater intercessor, namely God. So now, instead of being physically present at my former ministries, I use the time I would have given to them to be in chapel praying for them and for those who have assumed these ministries.

“And since I do spend more time in chapel, I truly believe that when I am carried in, God will say, ‘Oh, I know you! Come enjoy your heavenly home.’ ” †

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