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2020 year in review — Loss, illness and solitude mark a year like none other in era of coronavirus pandemic

Bishop Malooly celebrates Mass during the St. Martin de Porres Mass at St. Joseph's Church, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020. Dialog photo/Don Blake

One word — coronavirus — was the common theme among most stories in 2020.

Cancellations, postponements and a general rethinking of how we do everything dominated our lives in the Diocese of Wilmington and throughout the world.

Some elements of normalcy happened in the first two months of the year, and a careful semblance of our typical life began to return in the last several months, but the biggest chunk of the year was commandeered by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. It was a global pandemic most people could never have imagined and it was dominant throughout the year.


The Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name Province, who staffed two parishes in the city of Wilmington, said they will be leaving the diocese as part of a restructuring. The parishes that affected are both in Wilmington: St. Joseph’s on French Street and St. Paul’s.

The results of the 2019 Annual Catholic Appeal in the Diocese of Wilmington show 14,305 donors pledged $5,125,809, surpassing the campaign’s $4,775,000 goal by 7.34 percent. Tallies were announced by the diocesan Office of Development, which noted collections total $5,009,463, representing $233,963 over the appeal goal, 104.9 percent of it.

Teacher Karen Banta challenged her 11 third-graders at Cathedral of St. Peter School to commit to a reading program that would put them up against 80,000 students in dozens of schools in the tri-state area. The kids agreed to 20 minutes a day of reading. In return, she told them there would be no written homework if everyone stayed with the reading. Their winning effort earned the school a visit from Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins and team mascot, the Phillie Phanatic.

Numerous organization in the Diocese of Wilmington planned bus trips Jan. 24 to the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.


A Mass to observe the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life was Feb. 1 at Holy Family Church in Newark. Bishop Malooly joined religious women and men of the Diocese of Wilmington at the service sponsored by the diocesan Office for Religious.

Bishop Malooly has announced the Diocese of Wilmington’s goal for the 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal will be $4,871,000. “The theme of this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal, Seeing Christ in the Faces of Others, emphasizes our Christian mission to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves,” Bishop Malooly said.

After 22 years, and with student enrollment dropping below 50 this year, St. Thomas More Academy in Magnolia will close its doors for the last time at the end of the academic year, according to the Holy Cross Parish pastor.


Bishop Malooly and other bishops endorsed guidelines recommending preventative measures to guard against coronavirus.

Bishop Malooly issued Sunday Mass dispensation until further notice; Catholic schools in diocese closed until March 30.

The bishop decided no public Masses would be held in Delaware or Maryland’s Eastern Shore while the nation confronts the threat of coronavirus.

Diocese of Wilmington temporarily halted print publication of The Dialog, choosing to focus on the real-time news website thedialog.org
Jeanne Jugan residence in Newark.
(Dialog photo/Don Blake)

Following government restrictions, officials at the Diocese of Wilmington decided to keep its elementary and secondary schools closed until May 18 in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Distraught, determined Little Sisters of the Poor dealt with coronavirus death and illness at Jeanne Jugan home in Delaware
In light of restrictions in Maryland and Delaware, the distribution of palm is not to take place in any form, the bishop said.


Parish outreach programs in the Diocese of Wilmington say they are holding up during the novel coronavirus pandemic, but donations are needed to assist the increase in requests that are arriving.

Father Hilary Rodgers, 75, a retired Diocese of Wilmington priest who lived at Jeanne Jugan Residence in Newark, died April 1 as a result of coronavirus and an underlying illness, according to diocese officials.

St. Anthony’s Italian Festival was canceled this year as organizers in Wilmington aimed to limit spread of coronavirus.
Father Michael Darcy, pastor of Corpus Christi and St. Matthew churches, joins a car parade at All Saints Catholic School marking the closing of the school year and the closing of the school June 12.
Dialog photo/Don Blake

The diocese announced that Holy Week services will be livestreamed from the Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington with Bishop Malooly presiding.

St. Francis Hospital workers in Wilmington and first responders offered a brief Good Friday show of solidarity in battling coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus contributed to 11 deaths at Jeanne Jugan Residence in Delaware, but Little Sisters report signs of improvement.

Catholic Charities received $25,000 grant to help with case management during coronavirus pandemic.

All Saints Catholic School in Elsmere will cease operations at the end of this school year in June, citing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic among the factors contributing to the school’s closing.


Msgr. Steven P. Hurley, vicar general and moderator of the curia for the Diocese of Wilmington, and other administrators have been leading the charge in helping Bishop Malooly assist pastors and their parishioners through these unprecedented circumstances.

This restroom is closed at Church of the Holy Child on Naamans Road in Wilmington at the first Delaware Mass on June 1 held at the Diocese of Wilmington parish. Churches had been closed due to coronavirus since March 15.
Dialog photo/Don Blake

Bishop Malooly praised the students and others involved in Catholic education during a Mass for schools that was streamed live on the morning of May 13. The number of viewers during the livestream surpassed 2,100. In-person classes would not return in diocesan schools in 2020.

Diocese of Wilmington set reopening of public Masses in Maryland for May 25; public Masses in Delaware were set to resume beginning June 1.

“We are happy that we are able to open our churches to the faithful who hunger to once again to receive the Sacraments,” Bishop Malooly said.

Coronavirus has scuttled traditional graduation ceremonies, and the nine Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Wilmington have adjusted accordingly.


The COVID-19 pandemic forced couples to rearrange or postpone weddings all over the Diocese of Wilmington, but for men and women earlier on in their engagement, marriage preparation had to continue. So, with a bit of adjustment, the diocesan Office for Marriage and Family Life has moved its pre-Cana classes online, at least for June.

The Class of 2020 at Saint Mark’s High School enjoyed a mostly normal graduation on June 6, complete with speakers, tassel flipping and cap tossing afterward. One hundred twenty-two seniors received diplomas under a bright early afternoon sun.

Bishop Malooly said weddings, funerals, baptisms could resume at pastor’s discretion in adherence with safety precautions.

Among the casualties of the coronavirus pandemic has been the parish carnival, with festivals around the diocese being canceled. That has resulted in lost revenue for these parishes, and for many the carnival is the most lucrative source of income.

The biggest festival in the diocese takes place each June at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Wilmington, but the 2020 Italian Festival was canceled early in the pandemic.


Despite reports of heavy crowds in Delaware’s resort towns and Ocean City, Md., priests in the Ocean Deanery say there’s still room in their pews for Catholics who want to attend Mass.

Schools in the Diocese of Wilmington will reopen as scheduled for the 2020-21 academic year with in-person instruction, the Office for Catholic Schools announced in a letter to parents and school personnel.

Dozens of priests from the Diocese of Wilmington gathered for a delayed and scaled-down Chrism Mass on July 16 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington. It was an opportunity for the men also to receive the oils they will use for the sacraments at their parishes over the next year.


The Rev. Mr. Michael Preston was introduced for the first time as Bishop Malooly celebrated the first transitional diaconate ordination in four years at the Cathedral of St. Peter. The ordination was postponed from May to help limit the spread of coronavirus and event attendees were limited to invitation-only as part of the effort to curb the pandemic.

Michael Preston places his hands on the Book of the Gospels with Bishop Malooly during his Ordination to the Diaconate at the Cathedral of St. Peter Church, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. Dialog photo/Don Blake

Diocese of Wilmington candidates for permanent diaconate were installed in the ministry of acolyte by Bishop Malooly on Aug. 8. The service included 14 candidates and was at St. Margaret of Scotland, Glasgow.

Students have begun returning to schools in the Diocese of Wilmington, but the 2020-21 academic year is not like any other that has preceded it. There is tape on floors, desks placed six feet apart, and hand sanitizer galore, all part of the battle to keep students, faculty and staff safe against coronavirus.


Immaculate Conception in Elkton, Md., hosted a prayer service for aborted children on the National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children. The service commemorated the 10th anniversary of the burial of the remains of 34 aborted fetuses that were discovered in August 2010 in a freezer in an Elkton clinic.

A series of Zoom forums on “Anti-Racism — A Catholic Response” were sponsored by St. Catherine of Siena and Resurrection Parishes.

Bishop Malooly celebrated “Mass of Remembrance” for those who died during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mass was in the Chapel of the Risen Christ at All Saints Cemetery on Kirkwood Highway in Wilmington. It was livestreamed on the diocesan YouTube channel and is available there for replay.

40 Days for Life, the pro-life vigil held twice yearly, returned in two locations in Delaware. One outside Planned Parenthood at Seventh and Shipley streets in Wilmington, and the other outside Planned Parenthood in Dover at 805 S. Governors Ave.

Confirmation in the Diocese of Wilmington has a new look this year, courtesy of the coronavirus. Bishop Malooly said he will still confirm some young people in 2020-21, but the sacrament will be administered mainly by priests of the diocese.

The Saint Thomas More Society of the Diocese of Wilmington hosted the annual Red Mass at St. Mary Magdalen Church. Bishop Malooly was the celebrant.


The annual Blue Mass to honor those who serve our community in the public safety sector (police, fire, EMS, and military) was held at St. Elizabeth Church in Wilmington.

The Diocese of Wilmington annual Marian Pilgrimage this year was online only due to the coronavirus pandemic. The theme for this year’s event that brings Catholics from all over Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore together to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, was “Mary, Mother of All Nations.”

Brenda Burns, a member of St. Joseph’s Parish on French Street in Wilmington, was appointed the director of the Ministry for Black Catholics, Bishop Malooly announced. Burns succeeded Franciscan Father Paul Williams, who was transferred out of the Diocese of Wilmington.

Schools in the Diocese of Wilmington fared well during the initial six weeks of the academic year while implementing protocols designed to protect students, faculty and staff from the coronavirus, said Lou De Angelo, superintendent of schools.


With Joe Biden elected as the nation’s 46th president, it is “time for our leaders to come together in a spirit of national unity,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Biden, the second Catholic in U.S. history to be elected to the nation’s highest office, lives in the Diocese of Wilmington.

Salesianum School and Smyrna High School christened Abessinio Stadium in Wilmington with its first event, a 42-30 football win for Smyrna.

Veterans Day was a special occasion at Archmere Academy, where former student Frank Carpenter Burr was honored for his service and for sacrificing his life during World War II before his classmates graduated.

Two hundred runners at Saint Mark’s High School, joined by another 95 virtual entrants, participated in the Bishop’s 5K, the annual benefit for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Wilmington. Catholic Charities expects to raise between $18,000 and $19,000 from the event, the agency said.


Bishop Malooly marked 20 years as a bishop. He became auxiliary bishop in Baltimore on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 12, 2000.

The Diocese of Wilmington parish and diocesan schools experienced success with in-school learning with limited impact from COVID-19 this school year, but they will proceed with caution for a week coming back from the Christmas vacation and launching 2021. De Angelo told parents that school officials want to avoid a surge of cases among students and staff as they return from Christmas holiday and all parish and diocesan school will have virtual instruction the week of Jan. 4-8.

Saint Mark’s High School received an early Christmas gift, garnering the Readers’ Choice award for best private school in Delaware as presented by Delaware Online.

It is vitally important that the most vulnerable among us and those who are from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID receive the vaccine swiftly, the bishops of the Maryland Catholic Conference said in a joint statement.