With lockdowns and all kinds of restrictions all across the state of California, Catholics in the El Centro and Brawley area are finding ways to creatively bring family together and keep the faith for Thanksgiving.


Some Catholics shared their plans that provide for a good Catholic Thanksgiving while also curtailing the spread of the virus. Many of the plans are not just going along with California’s restrictions and guidelines. Catholics are also making the personal choice to stay safe. 


“Our plans have changed by not being able to have our daughter over for Thanksgiving. We’re also not able to visit her,” said Bill Sassie of Sacred Heart Parish in Brawley. “She is of the younger generation and thinks we should not socially visit for Thanksgiving and we understand that.”


They will see each other on Thanksgiving via ZOOM. Sassie also shared that several of his close friends told him they will have their adult children and grandchildren visit but will socially distance and wear masks.


“I think the most important thing we can do as faithful Catholics is to pray together to our Lord Jesus and our Mother Mary,” Sassie said. “We must ask for guidance and have faith that our prayers will be answered and receive the Eucharist as much as possible.”


Larry Eyer of St. Mary’s in El Centro explained that there are some things that are more important than a happy crowded table around a feast. 


“Our thoughts about Thanksgiving were the health and safety of our family first, above all,” he said. “Early November, we sent a broadcast email to all of our family, letting them know that we would not be gathering together as a group this Thanksgiving.”


In their email to family, they included dozens of photos from their Thanksgiving dinner last year, as memories of their treasured time together, along with a prayer and a wish for a blessed Thanksgiving. 


“Everyone was very understanding, as it seemed the right thing to do” Eyer said. 


Fr. Edward Horning, pastor of Brawley Catholic, said it seems like people are hopefully going to play it safe.


Many of the charitable organizations have been stopped from holding events, he added.


Every year they give out lunches from their parish on Thanksgiving and the Friday after, and they will still do that this year.


And of course, he said definitively that the parish will still have a Thanksgiving Mass.


“Our hospitals are full and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet,” Fr. Horning said. “The hospitals are preparing basketball gyms to be ICU units for Covid patients.”


According to Los Angeles County Health Services, there were 1,230 hospital beds available in the county as of November 23. In San Diego County, hospitals were at less than 80 percent capacity with 4,505 of 6,019 beds occupied as of Nov. 18, stated the San Diego County government. Some hospitals have been overwhelmed, but much of that is due to hospitals turning patients away for financial reasons, thereby causing a strain on other hospitals, Wall Street Journal reported over a month ago.


But COVID-19 still looms, and pastors still have to find creative ways to ensure the faithful can access the sacraments and faith formation. When Advent begins, Fr. Horning said the parish will make sure more Confession times are available.


While it’s all dependent on the availability of time and resources, Fr. Horning said he might provide some online material, such as a class on St. Teresa of Calcutta’s letters “Come be my Light”.


Parish communities thus continue to struggle, but they are doing the best they can to keep their Catholic faith strong in these troubling times. Please pray for the continued well-being of your local communities, Catholic parishes, and all communities around the world. Prayer is the most important weapon in these times. Let’s all pray for God’s mercy to help us return to some sense of normalcy. 


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