The pandemic became very real to me on Monday, November 9, when my sister-in-law, Wendi Clay, died from complications of the COVID-19 virus. She was 61. She was spending some extended time in the NC mountains where my recently deceased brother and she would go for several weeks each fall to enjoy the fall foliage. A niece of hers was visiting for a few days and tells me they went to a crafts fair and that there were times when my sister-in-law was not wearing a mask. It was soon after returning from this event that she fell ill. While we don’t know for sure if that was ground zero for her contracting the virus, all signs point to this as the most likely place where it happened.

COVID-19 requires us to be vigilant. All evidence tells us that being scrupulous about wearing a clean mask and maintaining social distancing outside our bubble is the most effective way to keep this virus from visiting us. We are endeavoring to follow this policy at St. Francis to keep you healthy and prevent the spread of this virus. Thanks for your cooperation both on our campus and everywhere else. Thanks too for your prayers for my sister-in-law, her family, and mine.

As we continue our slog through this pandemic, one of the initiatives begun while Fr. Steve was pastor and endorsed by me is the Pastor’s Parishioner Outreach Project. Its goal is to contact every registered SFA household with a personal phone call. I’m told that nearly 3000 households have been contacted so far. Our goal is to reach everyone on our rolls. One of the most critical elements of a parish’s life is building community and relationships, a challenge for a parish our size. It is our hope that this initiative will help us grow as a faith community, with other parishioners, and with the Lord. Thanks to those who have welcomed our calls and to those who will be invited into a conversation in the coming months. Our goal is to contact every registered household by Ash Wednesday (February 17).

Growing up in NC when the Catholic population of the state was less than 1% and in a family where marriages were almost always between a Catholic and someone who was not, ecumenism has always been a part of my life. Some of my closest friends growing up were Protestants and I maintain friendships with several of them to this day. Last week, I received a letter from Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity at the Vatican, inviting me to accept a five-year appointment on an international dialogue team between the Catholic Church and the Disciples of Christ Church. Bishop Zarama has endorsed this so I have accepted this appointment. I was a member of the seven-person international Catholic team for the previous phase of dialogue and look forward to the next set of meetings as we work toward the ultimate goal of unity between our two churches.

Msgr. Clay



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