By Richard Meek 

The Catholic Commentator 

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge closed its building because of the outbreak of the coronavirus but executive director David Aguillard said the agency’s commitment to the people being served will not be interrupted. 

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The building was shut down March 19, but Aguillard emphasized staff members are working remotely to continue to answer the call of the needy. 

“Although (the) building is closed, we are still open, not just our services but our hearts and minds as we continue to figure out creative ways to protect our staff and clients while still providing the services our community has come to depend on, especially in times of disaster,” Aguillard said. 

He told staff members to continue to stress the critical message through their words and care, whether it’s talking on the telephone or via the Internet. 

He is asking the staff to be charitable and express personal concern to their clients; be kind and be reassuring. 

Aguillard called the CCDBR staff the “hands and feet” of Christ, reminding members in times of crisis and emergency to help clients identify actions they can take, however small, to address their concerns. 

The agency has canceled its popular Good Friday Way of the Cross, Aguillard said. 

Before closing the building, several cautionary measures were already in place, including asking visitors a set of questions gauging any possible exposure to the virus before they were allowed to enter. 

Aguillard said some of their work can continue via phone, such as services to refugees and immigrants, and that for residential programs such as the Sanctuary for Life, caseworkers are taking additional safety precautions such as monitoring temperatures daily. The agency is drawing from its technology bank, and even has the ability to offer secure tele-counseling via the web. 

“This is a real-life test, not a training exercise,” he said.  

He said remote operations have been in the planning for four weeks and added that his staff is “phenomenal at changing directions on short notice.” 

Contingency operation plans with specifically assigned team members have also been developed.  

“I’m sure our leaders will learn as we go, adjust and get better, as they always do,” Aguillard said. 

CCDBR’s annual meeting that traditionally includes the presentation of awards originally scheduled for March 19 was postponed, although some critical business items, such as seating new board officers, will be completed via email. 

Aguillard is anticipating a portion of CCDBR’s clients will be in need of financial assistance because people will be out of work, creating difficulties for the poor to pay the rent, utilities and other needs. Also anticipated are requests to assist with health care costs and even funerals.  

“For us, working in a Gospel-based, mission-driven organization, let’s pray for our community and for each other, for our health and ability to maintain services at a time of great need under trying circumstances,” he said. “Some of our clients are dependent on us for their daily needs.  Let’s align our hearts and activities with Christ, to be of service to one another and our community especially when doing so is difficult.”