St Joseph Carrollton Manor

The top of the chapel at St. Joseph-on-Carrollton Manor Catholic Church near Buckeystown has been illuminated with bright blue lights to recognize the first responders and health care workers that are making sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two churches in Frederick are illuminated with blue light each night to honor essential workers and first responders.

“Through this crisis we’re all finding ourselves with a new set of essential workers,” said Father Kevin Farmer, pastor at both St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Frederick and St. Joseph-on-Carrollton Manor Catholic Church. “Forever, it’s been police and fire, EMT and military, you know, we talk about our first responders. We’ve been honoring them for a long time ... but now it’s nurses and lab technicians and teachers and grocery store workers and restaurant workers.”

Bells at both parishes are also ringing five times a day to signal prayer for a specific group of people, including people who have COVID-19 and “all those who suffer illness,” “people of every nation and their leaders” and people who have died.

For those who can’t hear the bells, Farmer said they’ve encouraged people to set alarms so they can still participate in the prayer time.

Farmer said the idea to illuminate the churches came from the “Light it Blue” movement that started in Europe and then gained traction in the United States. He also saw a series of photos in USA TODAY that showed buildings illuminated in honor of frontline workers a few weeks ago.

“So we took an idea that was growing and we just decided to broaden,” he said.

Farmer’s hope is that when people, essential workers and first responders or not, see the blue lights each evening that they’ll see it as a sign of hope and joy.

“I think there’s a lot of good that’s happening and it’s bringing out the good in people, for lack of a better phrase, throughout the day,” he said. “Here’s something at night, while things are quiet, to kind of continue that sense of hope and that sense of … thankfulness, if you will.”

He said he’s already seen a positive response from people, including neighbors, first responders and people via email or Facebook.

“It’s kind of neat that people are seeing that as an extension of hope and some sense of hope in the midst of some pretty challenging times,” Farmer said. “It really is literally a sign of light at the end of the tunnel.”

The lights are also a constant that Farmer said is great to see every night.

The idea to ring the bells at certain times came from the Archdiocese of Chicago and Cardinal Blase Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, who asked that parishes ring their bells five times a day as a call to prayer.

Farmer noted that Catholics already have the tradition of the Angelus, “the prayer in honor of the blessed mother,” and that, for centuries, churches that have bells have rung them two to three times a day for it.

“So we were already ringing our bells at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. for the Angelus,” he said. “This is kind of built upon that pre-existing, long tradition of calling people to prayer at certain times throughout the day.”

Farmer said he also likes that the prayers are for many different groups.

“It’s not just praying for people of the world and their leaders, it’s praying for people of the world, their leaders and unity, that we might see ourselves as one worldwide community,” he said.

Follow Hannah on Twitter: @hannah_himes.

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