Father John Reflects on the Church in the Pandemic

Rev. John Yonkovig is the parish priest at Saint Agnes Church in Lake Placid. Staff writer Olivia Paul spoke to Yonkovig to learn how he is staying connected to God and his parishioners during the pandemic and what the Church’s food pantry is doing for people during this tough time.

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The Rev. John Yonkovig of St. Agnes Church on Easter Sunday 2019 (photo: Peter Crowley/Adirondack Daily Enterprise)

Yonkovig is concerned about the volunteers and clients of the church’s food pantry. “As always the Interfaith Food Pantry is supplying food to anyone who is in need,” said Father John. “The Interfaith Food Pantry is supported by faith communities in Lake Placid. Hannaford’s Grocery is a very vital part of this outreach. What is different today,” he added, “is our concern for the well-being of all patrons and volunteers in this Coronavirus time.  In the past, people would freely gather in the basement of St. Agnes and socialize while getting their needed supplies. No longer is this possible.” Father John described how the food pantry is practicing social distancing and keeping everyone safe while also meeting the community’s needs. “Now, pre-packaged parcels of food for families of 2 or 4 or more are prepared. Volunteers distribute the packages at the curbside.

How the parishioners practice their faith has also changed because of the pandemic. “The Governor has prohibited all large gatherings; therefore, we can no longer celebrate public Mass,” said Yonkovig.  “For Catholics, this is a very difficult time because we are a community-based church, a family of faith, the Body of Christ.” Father John has given his parishioners guidance for continuing their faith practice when going to church isn’t possible. “I have encouraged people to pray at home using the sacred scriptures,” said Father John. “The technological world we live in allows for people to participate in Mass on TV or on the web.”

In fact, St. Agnes Church is modifying its practices and using technology to bring its community together during the Holy Week that includes Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter. “On Holy Thursday, April 9, the day we celebrate the Last Supper with Jesus and his disciples,” said Father John, “St. Agnes will have its first ‘drive-in’ Eucharistic Adoration. People are invited to sit in their cars in the [St. Agnes Elementary] school parking lot and a small altar will hold the Eucharist for all to see. The parish radio station, WCLP 98.3 will have sacred music and scripture readings so that we can pray together at a safe distance in our cars,” he added.

On the St. Agnes Church website for Holy Week, Rev. John Yonkovig shares a reflection on Psalm 23, followed by a sung rendition of Psalm 23 by the Parish Music Ministry Team:

Father John emphasized the importance of community and faith connections during this difficult time. “Staying connected to God may well be easier during this time of solitude and quiet.  Without all of the normal activities of life, this quiet time allows one to open their hearts to God who is always with us. ‘Be still and know that I am God’ is a line from the Bible that has great importance today,” said Yonkovig.

Father John observed that there might be a silver lining in this pandemic. “In our fear and anxiety, God tells us, ‘Do not be afraid.’ In the quiet of our hearts, we hear that message.  I believe the world will become closer to God through this crisis.”

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