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With party postponed, congregation gets creative

With party postponed, congregation gets creative With party postponed, congregation gets creative

COVID-19 cancels party plans, congregation gets police help to celebrate

The COVID-19 social distancing guidelines may prevent people from gathering together, but it doesn’t mean there needs to be a loss in community.

The congregation of Good Shepherd Church in Rib Lake proved this recently. When plans to celebrate their pastor’s jubilee had to be put on hold, they came up with a different way to make the day special for him.

“We recognize the many ways the COVID- 19 pandemic has affected us when it comes to churches: no church services, limited attendance for baptisms, weddings, funerals, and even anniversary celebrations in our communities, but that does not stop the people of Good Shepherd parish in Rib Lake,” said Mary Kauer, parish secretary at Good Shepherd.

Father Hrudaya Raju Sunkara arrived last October from India, and was assigned as parochial administrator of Good Shepherd, after having no priest assigned for the previous two months.

Father Raj was accepted with open arms, and he and the parish looked forward to celebrating his silver jubilee on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 19 marking his 25 years of being a priest. His anniversary date was April 20.

Invitations had already been mailed or handed out, only to discover the public celebration needed to be cancelled for that day. But that did not stop the people from letting Father Raj know how much he was appreciated.

The week following his anniversary was proclaimed “Make a Joyful Noise Week.” The parishioners received an email asking them to participate any way they could, in wishing Father Raj special anniversary wishes.

There was “Honk for a Happy Anniversary,” whereby parishioners passed by the rectory honking and waving from their car windows to him. Other wishes included phone calls, cards, and a song of blessing by the parish secretary. The church entrance bulletin board was emptied for people to post a card with their spiritual prayer wishes for Father Raj. Banners were hung in the rectory window and in the doorway of the office with congratulatory wishes. But the parish decided to have a bit of fun with Father Raj too.

Rib Lake police chief Derek Beckstrand came by during the week to see Father Raj. He was told by the officer that he was required to “ticket” him. The picture of Rather Raj expresses his surprised and bewildered look. His mouth dropped open, wondering what he had done. But then the ticket said it all.

It was from the people of Good Shepherd, saying, “The issuance of this ticket is for being a devoted and faithful servant of Good Shepherd, in recognition of your 25th anniversary as a priest.” He received a fake citation stapled with tickets for Mann Made Pizza in Rib Lake.

COVID-19 has impacted people in every walk of life and from small town Wisconsin to the largest metropolises of the world.

People all over are facing disrupted plans, missed milestones and the burden of isolation. As with any adversity, those who are able to face it while still keeping their humor and humanity, are a good example for all of us to follow.

Rather than get grumpy and complain, the congregation members of Good Shepherd Catholic Church made Father Raj’s jubilee memorable and special, even if they will have to delay the party they had planned. A party is being planned for a future date.

“COVID-19 will not stop our ability to bring Easter joy into our lives,” Kauer said.