The many ministries at Saint Elizabeth Parish have continued to thrive, albeit in remote and safe ways, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. During 2020, three brand-new ministries have been added to the long roster of organizations for stewardship opportunities. The Creation Care Team, the Crafting Hands Ministry and Nourish for Caregivers are now active and are looking for parishioners to participate!

Creation Care Team

In 2006, to address growing ecological awareness, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) helped form the Catholic Climate Covenant. They help American Catholics respond to the Church's call to care for creation and to care for the poor.

“I have been called to environmental issues for many years now,” explained Amy Laughlin, chairperson. “I conducted some research and found a model for a Creation Care Team, proposed this new ministry to the parish administrative staff and once it was accepted, I enlisted other parishioners to join this new ministry team.” Amy says that she is working with the Catholic Climate Covenant to get ideas from across the country to implement in Saint Elizabeth’s Creation Care Team.

Caring for creation and caring for the poor have been a part of the Catholic story since the beginning, but in recent years Saint John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and especially Pope Francis have added a sense of urgency to their call for Catholics to act on climate change. The USCCB has been calling for action since 1981. “After doing my research, I have found that the climate change issue is really a pro-life issue,” Amy said. “Millions of people die prematurely each year due to climate change.”

The Creation Care Team has hit the ground running with a series of actions and events, both virtual and in-person. They co-sponsored a small event with the Interfaith Action Committee celebrating Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ second encyclical calling on all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action.” They also worked with the IAC and the Youth Ministry to create and maintain a butterfly garden on church grounds. The team held a socially-distanced bird watch walk at Marsh Creek State Park in September and they sponsored a table at the Blessing of the Animals event in October.

The Creation Care Team would love to hear from people who have an interest in helping the environment. They are currently meeting virtually every second Monday of each month.

Crafting Hands Ministry

The Crafting Hands Ministry started when Deb Romich was teaching Mary Fontana how to crochet right before the pandemic hit. Both ladies are now co-chairs of the ministry.

“As we were in quarantine, Deb and I would talk about donating the afghans we made to a nursing home once COVID-19 was over. As weeks turned into months, the number of completed projects grew. Deb talked to other parishioners who said they, too, would be interested in a crafting ministry,” Mary explained.

Deb said she felt this ministry was needed: a group that was dedicated to prayer, fellowship and crafting. She also noted that as an outward sign of love and friendship with the recipients, all their crafted blankets come with a hand-written note from the crafter.

So far, the group has held two monthly meetings and some “how-to” workshops. They also had a meeting with their delivery team to wrap and tag each item to be gifted to an agency. Rosary crafters will be making rosaries for Father Kevin to bring home to Nigeria when he returns in late December and are planning a future Youth Group activity to make “camo” rosaries for the troops. In January, the sewing team will help the Youth Group make fleece throw blankets on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Mary added.

At the first collection meeting, the crafters in the group collected 111 items for donation to our own parish community, women’s and family shelters, shut-ins, nursing homes, hospitals, hospices, oncology and dialysis centers, and the VA Hospital.

Nourish for Caregivers

Nourish for Caregivers is a Christ-centered program that provides resources and support to family caregivers. After attending a Philadelphia Archdiocese workshop, Regan Sarmento was inspired to bring a chapter of Nourish for Caregivers to the Saint Elizabeth community. She now serves as a co-chair of the group together with parishioner Diane Thompson.

Regan stated that while we are blessed to have many resources at Saint Elizabeth, there are still many parishioners who are in need of assistance. For caregivers who are caring for a special-needs child, Regan noted that there are few places to speak candidly about the struggles and difficulties they face. “I envisioned the program through my own lens as a mother of a child who required a great deal of caretaking in her youth and feeling there was nowhere to turn for support. The same goes for family members who are taking care of an ailing parent who may be struggling with health or memory issues. The mission of Nourish for Caregivers is to offer a safe place to share those burdens, but to also nourish our souls through our faith.”

The first meeting for Nourish for Caregivers took place in November. Future meetings are scheduled for Saturdays, December 5, January 9 and February 6, all on Zoom.

-Sara Richardson

So much has happened since the first newsletter article at the end of the summer reporting on the Feasibility Study to assess the readiness of parishioners to support a Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Capital Campaign at Saint Elizabeth.   The study was successfully conducted back in March, and an initial report was delivered to Father Mullin in the late spring. The intervening months have surely been a time of great challenge in so many ways for us all!   Now we are returning to this project begun in the spring, and we are forging ahead together to begin the work of the campaign which will culminate in the celebration of the parish’s milestone anniversary in the spring of 2025.

As you may be aware, a presentation of the Feasibility Study results was shared with the pastoral, finance and stewardship councils at a joint meeting in mid-September. Next, everyone was invited to attend an Open Parish Meeting on Sunday, September 27, to hear the details of how the Feasibility Study was conducted and to learn the results of the interviews our consulting staff conducted with 50 households (74 individuals). This presentation was also live-streamed on the parish website and Facebook pages, and remains available on the parish website for those who missed the meeting and want to learn more about the Feasibility Study.

At the close of the presentation, all parishioners interested in considering a volunteer role in the anniversary campaign were invited to an organizational meeting on October 13 in the parish social hall. We had a wonderful turnout of people and shared information on how the capital campaign team would be formed, the work of the individual committees, leadership roles and a projected timeline, so that parishioners could discern their participation in the project. The Power Point presentation given at this meeting is also available on the parish website for your review.

Since that meeting, we are thrilled to report that many fellow parishioners have stepped forward to offer their time and talent as a volunteer for the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Capital Campaign Team.  It is a great pleasure to announce that several dedicated parishioners were invited by Father Mullin to accept roles as HONORARY CO-CHAIRS for the campaign; they are: Barry & Therese Bentley; Mike & Mary Ann Hughes; Joe and Holly Ippolito and Mary Mulherin. We thank them for their great generosity in giving their time, talent and treasure to our parish. Their leadership is inspiring and the campaign will benefit tremendously from their counsel. Cheers to all of you!

In addition to the Honorary Co-Chairs, the campaign team will be coordinated by outstanding and dedicated CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIRS, including Ray & Marilyn Boncek; Bill & Trisha Burke and Mike and Lisa Kyne.  These couples will engage in all aspects of the project and help bring the campaign to life for the entire parish community.  We are grateful for their willingness to lead; if you run into them in your travels, do offer a word of thanks for their service to Saint Elizabeth!

The active phases of the campaign will take place now through the late spring of next year. A team of parish volunteers are already working in the areas of Communications, Parishioner Outreach, Hospitality and Special Events. We anticipate having a number of modest-sized group gatherings in the parish social hall, designed to meet the applicable health and safety standards for face masks, social distancing and hand sanitizing, to be sure! Parishioners who prefer may also arrange to meet directly with a campaign volunteer to discuss their participation and commitment to the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Campaign.

There are opportunities for interested parishioners to help with the campaign in many ways as this great effort unfolds, and your active participation is most welcome! Stay tuned and do ask if you have questions! Look to the parish website for the latest information and/or call the parish ministry center (610-321-1200).  Most importantly: PRAY EACH DAY for the success of the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Capital Campaign for Saint Elizabeth!

  • Kathy Caliendo, LCDC Managing Partner

It is hard to believe that during these unprecedented locked-down, mask-wearing, social-distancing times, Saint Elizabeth Parish School has been very successful in protecting against COVID-19 infections among our 225+ children from pre-K to 8th grade and 35+ staff members.  Although several students have been exposed to the virus through outside activities or family contacts, no one has contracted the illness while at school for in-person learning.

School Principal Dr. Diane Greco credits the school community. “Our families signed a covenant before the school year started that outlined what we were responsible for as a church and a parish school, and what families were expected to do to keep the school community safe. It’s because of their unfaltering cooperation and support of each other that we have had no reported cases of COVID-19 since school began.”

Teachers credit the administration’s rigorous and considered management of the pandemic, citing clear safety measures such as daily health screenings, mask-wearing at all times, distanced desks in the classrooms, frequent hand-washing, staggered dismissals, assigned school entrances and stairwells, and other measures outlined in Saint Elizabeth Parish School’s nine-page Health and Safety Plan. The plan, said Dr. Greco, is also regularly revised by a Pandemic Team consisting of administrators, parents, teachers and the parish facilities director.

“The administration has remained consistent in implementing and enforcing the safety measures, which is critical,” said Mrs. Maria Fraser, who teaches math and science at Saint Elizabeth. “However, I must also pay tribute to our students. Kids need in-person learning, social interaction and extracurricular activities. They crave normalcy and we provide them with that anchor during this rockiest of abnormal times. I have been so impressed by our students – adapting and following protocols without resistance. They are teaching us all such resiliency.”

Possibly the most rewarding accolades of all come from parents of students in various grades who all speak so resoundingly positive of school life at Saint Elizabeth during the pandemic. For instance, Mrs. Tara Todd, mother of Killian (7th grade), Hannah (5th grade), and Ryan who graduated from Saint Elizabeth Parish School last year and is now attending Malvern Prep, monitors recess each week and is impressed.

“Saint Elizabeth couldn’t have done a better job, and we could not be happier,” said Mrs. Todd. “The health and safety protocols are not interfering with their academic experience nor the equally as important social aspect of school life. The rules are consistent and well-communicated, so we could jump right back to school in September. Saint Elizabeth has found a way to adapt in fun and unique ways such as calculating the costs of a Thanksgiving meal for four virtually instead of going to the store with paper coupons and calculators.”

Another parent offered that it is the little things that make a big difference. For instance, the kids bring their own towels to sit on for weather-permitting outdoor class. And, Mrs. Todd added, “One of the reasons we chose to send our children to Saint Elizabeth Parish School was the intimate learning environment, and this continues to demonstrate benefits. The smaller class sizes positioned them well to manage the COVID-19 safety challenges and still have face-to-face learning.”

Dr. Greco concluded, “We try to think of these times as just pauses that will pass and hope that the reflection that is naturally happening during COVID-19 seeds new hope and perspective. We can see it in ourselves, and especially in the students.”

-Lisa Barbadora

As parishioners began returning to Saint Elizabeth campus this fall, they saw some new faces. Megan Carey, Roberta Dainton, and Paula Ringenbach joined our parish staff in essential roles, and our community is fortunate to have these three talented women supporting the parish.

Megan Carey, our new Youth Ministry Coordinator, is working hard to provide opportunities for connection among our middle school and high school students during a time when many other outlets for our youth have been curbed. She is carefully starting to transition meetings from virtual to in-person and is encouraged by a slowly growing turnout and engagement. She is especially excited to see all of the ways the kids enjoy participating and connecting with parish life. Megan grew up involved in many aspects of parish ministry as a member of Our Mother of Good Council Parish in Bryn Mawr and graduated with a degree in Psychology from Immaculata University. After a year of service as a teacher with the Augustinian Friars in Lawrence, Massachusetts, she knew she wanted to keep nurturing young people’s faith. She continues to be active as a catechist and serves in many ministries in her home parish. Her faith-filled energy and enthusiasm make her a great example for the youth of our parish.

Roberta Dainton is our new Administrative Secretary for the Parish Ministry Center. Roberta comes to us from her home parish of Saint Maximilian Kolbe in West Chester, where she held positions as Director of Religious Education, Catechist, and Youth Ministry leader. After many years of a demanding schedule, Roberta began looking for a position that allowed for more family time, especially to visit her young adult children who live out of state. Through the “priest grapevine” her pastor connected her with Father Mullin, and Roberta is thrilled to be working at Saint Elizabeth among the welcoming staff and friendly parishioners. Roberta is impressed with the many ministries and active community we have in our parish. While the pandemic has led to some unusual circumstances in the ministry center, Roberta has helped everyone adjust to the new routines, managing larger meeting spaces for groups and assisting with scheduling sacramental celebrations that had been delayed this spring. In her free time, Roberta enjoys hiking, knitting and reading.

Paula Ringenbach our new Coordinator of Religious Education (CRE) has already met many of the families participating in Elementary Faith Formation this year. For the past five years, Paula was a teacher at Saint Elizabeth Parish School. After prayerful consideration, she took on the role of CRE, despite the changes facing the program during the coronavirus pandemic. While COVID-19 has presented Paula with many challenges, from recruiting catechists to transitioning much of the program to a virtual format, she has proven to be flexible and dedicated to finding the right solution for every family. Since the religious education office is located in the education center, Paula enjoys being able to see her former students learn and grow. Working with students and catechists in preparation for First Holy Communion and Confirmation is especially rewarding and she is looking forward to those celebrations this spring. Paula enjoys seeing the children grow in their faith and is grateful for the creativity of the catechists who are finding new ways to engage their students online. While at home with her husband Dan, Paula enjoys reading, hiking, and baking.

Please make sure to share a warm welcome when you meet Megan, Roberta and Paula on your next visit to Saint Elizabeth!

-Elizabeth Kazanjian

Without a doubt, the year of 2020 has been a challenging time. Stress and change have created confusion and uncertainty. Daily reminders of sickness and death have been frightening. As many things in life have been canceled or dramatically altered because of the COVID-19, a few of our parishioners remind us that faith is not one of them.

Dr. Allison Shirker, an Obstetrics and Gynecology Specialist with Valley Forge OB/GYN Associates, has worked at Phoenixville Hospital for 20 years. When the virus hit in March, her practice diligently worked on an action plan to accommodate pregnant women and those with medical issues, while having to shut down treatment to all other patients. Her workload doubled, and she continues to do 24 hour shifts at the hospital.

“It was very stressful. Many times patients had questions that we did not have answers for, such as 'Will my baby be okay?' It was also very difficult on my family.” she said. Dr. Shirker, who is in remission from cancer, was extra careful with her family, having her kids wear masks on the soccer field and having to disallow sleep-overs and many normal social activities.

Emily Todd, a Nurse Practitioner at Brandywine Valley Cardiology reflected, “COVID added a different type of stress to daily life. Working in a hospital setting, I knew I would eventually care for COVID patients and experience the stress and fear of the unknown. I was unsure of patient acuity, various treatments and changing protocols. There was added emotional stress of bringing the virus home to my family. I worried about my two young children and my parents who help care for them.”

Dr. Robert Satriale specializes in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Diseases, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at Brandywine Hospital. He serves on the Lung Cancer Multidisciplinary Group at Chester County Hospital and is the Medical Director of Life Care Hospital of Chester County.

In January of 2020, a colleague asked him whether he thought the novel coronavirus would be contained before spreading to our continent. He answered that he thought it would and now says, “How wrong I was! In March we geared up for the expected wave and as protective gear began to run low we scrambled to develop safe conservation guidelines for PPE use.” In May Dr. Satriale tested positive for COVID-19 himself and has since recovered and returned to his essential work.

Dr. Satriale continues, “As the months progressed, the isolation thrust upon us changed our lives. For me, performing telemedicine visits from home disconnected me from my patients. The honor and privilege bestowed upon us physicians by our patients was threatened, limiting our ability to create the venerable doctor-patient relationship.”

Emily Todd notes, “Being raised Catholic, I was taught from a young age to love, respect and help others. Having faith and knowing that God was always there to guide us, to lean on and protect us has helped me treat and care for others during the pandemic.”

“My faith has always been very important to me,” says Dr. Shirker. “It's a part of me. I think of it as the road I walk on all the time, keeping me grounded. All along, I have known that I was not alone with the COVID situation. God was always walking with me. I have had other challenges in life, and this is just another different challenge. My job is important, but my faith is much more important.”

“With churches closed, many of my patients would despair over the loss of weekly Mass attendance. For me, Mass at Saint Elizabeth always felt like a drink of water on a hot day! Yes, the pandemic has changed all of our lives. But, for the faithful, Jesus continues to guide us throughout the day and be our hope in the most challenging times,” Dr. Satriale concludes.

Dr. Shirker reminds us, “We need not get tired and let our guard down, but keep up what we've been doing, stay vigilant and hopeful. We know so much more now than earlier this year.” Every morning she says a prayer from Psalm 143:8:

Remind me each morning of your constant love, for I put my trust in you. My prayers go up to you; show me the way I should go.

  • Julie Krumenacker

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