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Hospital chaplains offers mass to empty chapels during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 8:38 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 23:11:26-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — We’ve seen the heroic actions of doctors and nurses inside America’s hospitals. But, some are praying out loud to know one, only God listening.

At St. Anthony’s Hospital, the Good Friday service inside their chapel looked and sounded a lot different. The chapel was silent except for one voice echoing through the vacant pews.

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“It’s been very different celebrating mass here to an empty chapel,” Fr. John Mullet told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska. “We do televise all our services to the patient rooms so they can watch as well. But it’s a different experience. We don’t allow anyone in the chapel.”

Mullet is the Director of Pastoral Care at St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Pete. He says there are six chaplains at the hospital.

Mullet, 65, says some are worried about their safety.

“(They are) Having fear as well but certainly taking care of patients and giving passionate care throughout the hospital,” Mullet said. “We use the proper personal protection equipment, we gown up, and masks and everything that is necessary to protect us and patients. Realizing that their family members can’t be here, we are sometimes the connection to the outside world for them.”

Mullet says now more than ever, people have to pray and keep the faith. During Holy Week, religions from Christianity to Judaism and Islam are all getting tested.

“I think this week reminds us that faith is important that God is present,” Mullet said. “While the Christian church celebrates Holy Week, Judaism is in the Passover, celebrating God being present to the people and bringing them into freedom. Throughout history, there has been suffering, and God has been present, and so we rely on that knowing that God is here.”

Hospitals are not allowing any visitors to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If a patient is terminally ill, only one family member is allowed in the room to say their goodbyes.

“That’s difficult for the families where normally a whole family would gather,” Mullet said. So, we are present with just one family member sometimes families haven’t been able to get in. It is much different than it normally would be, but we do the best we can try to give our patients and family that hope.”

On Easter Sunday at noon, Fr. Mullet will hold mass inside another empty chapel, but patients can watch in their rooms.