WILLIAMSPORT – During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been looking for signs of hope. On Sunday, Aug. 16, they didn’t need to look any further than the front lawn of UPMC Susquehanna.
More than 100 people came together for a “Prayer Vigil of Light and Hope” at the hospital organized by Saint Joseph the Worker parish.
“The one thing that we wanted to do was pray for our doctors, our nurses, our firefighters, police and first responders, all those people who have been battling COVID on the front lines ever since the beginning,” Father Brian Van Fossen, pastor, said.
Attendees prayed a rosary on the hospital’s front lawn, lighting candles that ultimately spelled out the word “HOPE” in large letters.
“It was really, really nice. We even had people in the windows of the hospital looking down and being with us, even though they were in the hospital working,” Father Van Fossen said. “There was even a couple people who came out of the emergency room, who were able to stand and pray at a distance.”
The parish worked with the hospital to make the event a success. People who attended wore face masks and were easily able to maintain proper social distancing.
The event was planned for the weekend that the Church celebrates the Assumption of Mary. The rosary focused on the Glorious Mysteries: Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, Assumption and Coronation of Mary.
“All you have to do is look at the Glorious Mysteries of the Church and you see how the Cross is overcome by the triumph of faithfulness and hope and love and people proclaiming the Gospel,” Father Van Fossen added.
The Williamsport pastor says even after the prayers were over, many people wanted to stick around, caught up in the awe-inspiring moment. In the days following the event, he added that the parish has received numerous notes of appreciation from doctors and nurses who witnessed the prayer vigil.
“It really formulated a sense of community with those who are on the front lines,” he added.
The prayer vigil at UPMC Susquehanna was the final event in a weekend of activities for members of Saint Joseph the Worker parish.
On Saturday, volunteers took to the street to clean up litter as a community service project. Normally in mid-August, the parish would be immersed in festivities for the Little League World Series, but since the games were canceled this year, parishioners decided to give back in other ways.
“We knew with a few hours and a few hands we could clean it up,” Makenzie Conner, director of youth ministry, said. “It was a great morning after Mass, walking the streets and cleaning up trash, taking the young out and learning about our city.”
On Sunday, before the prayer vigil at UPMC Susquehanna, the parish held Mass and a meal at a local park right behind a baseball field that would have normally been a welcoming site for thousands during the Little League World Series.
“There is something about sharing a meal together with a parish family that we all really missed,” Conner added, emphasizing that safety measures remained in place.
The parish is already working on its next big community events.
“One of the things we’re looking at doing with the Knights of Columbus is the National Rosary Rally in October. Our Knights of Columbus have taken up the mantel and we’ve placed five strategic locations throughout the city of Williamsport and we just got approval that we can do this,” Father Van Fossen said. “We’re going to go to city hall where our police department is located, we’re going to go to the food pantry and family promise for the homeless and those who are in need, especially in light of our world today, we’re going to go over to the hospital and pray a decade of the rosary there, and then we’re going to come to the fire hall and pray a decade of the rosary there and finally finish here at the church with the decade of the rosary as well.”
Eric M. Deabill
Secretary for Communications
Editor-in-Chief, The Catholic Light
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