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The unsung helpers that helped us keep the faith in 2020


Philippe Lissac / Godong

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 12/31/20

These 5 groups of people made it possible for us to stay connected to our parishes and to our faith communities.

The past year has been a tough one, but there are reasons for hope as we look ahead to next year. And there is much to be grateful for from the past year, especially the many generous and courageous people who deserve our thanks for their service in 2020.

As I look back on 2020, I think of some wise words from Fred Rogers, the Presbyterian minister best known for his popular children’s television program, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” He once said,

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Countless people have helped others this past year, in ways large and small. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge 5 of these helpers and thank them for all that they have done.

1Mass volunteers

Even before the pandemic, Mass usually included a number of volunteers: lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and so on. But volunteering at Mass is a much bigger endeavor in 2020. Now volunteers have additional tasks such as checking registration, taking temperatures, distributing hand sanitizer, and sanitizing pews between services.

It’s a lot more work, but we are deeply grateful for the volunteers who have given generously of their time and energy so that others can attend Mass.

On Christmas Eve, my family went to a “drive-in” parking-lot Mass at a church of the Dominican Order near our home. I sat in our car, my two youngest children squeezed onto my lap, and watched in awe as a small army of parishioners and priests checked us in, directed us where to park and what radio station to tune into, set up the projector screen, and distributed hand sanitizer and then Holy Communion—all outdoors in the bitter 17° Chicago winter.

I was filled with gratitude at their sacrifice of warmth, comfort, and time, all to make it possible for people like my family to attend Mass. When it comes to self-sacrificing exemplars of 2020, Mass volunteers are at the top of my list. Deepest thanks to all who have volunteered at Mass in 2020!


During the pandemic crisis, priests have responded and adjusted rapidly to share Christ’s message through new channels. Chicago’s University of Saint Mary of the Lake, also known as Mundelein Seminary, honored them by awarding its annual “In Service of One Another” Catholic Humanitarian Award to “hero priests of the pandemic.”


Priests in Boston and Chicago have formed teams of “spiritual first responders” to give Anointing of the Sick to hospital patients. Priests have livestreamed countless Masses, often learning new technology on the fly.

They’ve walked with parishioners in so many ways: visiting the dying, comforting the bereaved, and finding ingenious ways to give the Sacraments. Thank you to priests for your flexibility and compassion in 2020!

3Catholic school teachers and administrators

Whether teaching in person or through virtual means, teachers and administrators have gone above and beyond the call of duty for their students.

Shutterstock | Halfpoint

They’ve speedily adapted lessons for online learning, adjusted to new regulations in the classroom, and done everything possible to help their students thrive in difficult times. Thank you, teachers, for all that you’ve done this year!

4Tech workers and volunteers

It seems like everything has moved online this year—not only Mass and religious services, but also conferences and retreats. Volunteers at many parishes and ministries have given generously of their time and talent to make this content available.

A big thank you to everyone who has helped record, livestream, upload, or coordinate online faith-based events this year!

5Janitors and cleaning staff

Their work often goes unseen, but cleaning staff have kept so many institutions running this year — hospitals, churches, schools, libraries, and many other places rely on their work. Thank you, custodial staff everywhere, especially those serving our religious institutions, for making it possible for people to attend events, services, and classes this year!


Read more:
6 Everyday heroes who helped us through the challenges of 2020

Acts of KindnessCoronavirusInspiring stories
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