The 70-year-old's creative solution has made him an internet sensation and the subject of many a meme in recent weeks.
Although Father Tim Pelc wanted his parish members to be able to take part in the usual Easter ceremonies, he absolutely did not want them to do so at the risk of contracting the coronavirus. This was the conundrum that led to the 70-year-old coming up with a creative solution that has now made him an internet sensation and the subject of many a meme. The elderly priest recently went viral on social media after photos of him blessing drive-through churchgoers with a holy water-filled squirt gun hit the meme sweet spot of the internet, which was quite amused by his unconventional service.
Father Pelc, however, was quite surprised to learn of his growing popularity online. Speaking to Buzzfeed News, he revealed that he's been with the St. Ambrose Parish—which is closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak—for 30 years.
The parish has been a good fit for Pelc who prides himself on having a "pretty wacky mind and pretty accepting congregation." Speaking of his viral Easter blessing moment, he said, "The original idea was to do something for the kids of the parish. They were about ready to have an Easter unlike any of their past, so I thought, 'what can we still do that would observe all the protocols of social distancing?'"
"You can't double-dip into the holy water container," he told TODAY. "I thought, what could I do that would keep the quarantine restrictions going and give kids the experience of Easter?" That's when Pelc came up with the idea of using a water gun to bless his parishioners' Easter baskets from a safe distance.
When he consulted with a doctor friend to ensure his idea was safe and followed social distancing guidelines, he was immediately given the go-ahead. "He said, 'not only is this safe, this is fun,' and he came with his kids," said Pelc.
He put on extra gear—including a face mask, shield, and gloves—to ensure social distancing guidelines weren't compromised and waited in the parking lot for churchgoers to drive by for a spritz of holy water the day before Easter.
"He [the doctor] provided me with all the personal protection stuff that I needed. The sun was out, we had a nice turnout. It was a way of continuing an ancient custom, and people seemed to enjoy it," Pelc revealed. Photos snapped by a parishioner named Larry Peplin received quite a bit of attention when they were posted by St. Ambrose Parish on Facebook and have since gone viral on other social media platforms.
Pelc said he's been amazed at how viral the photos have become and how much they've resonated with people all over the world. "It was a good news story and people were in the mood for something like that," he said.
wtf my parish priest is a meme ?? pic.twitter.com/t4CWhrhATQ— Bea Arthur death cult (@pomobobomofo) May 16, 2020
"It was big in Ukraine, and the Germans are funny, that led to a whole sub discussion about the types of water pistols. It even had two hits in the Vatican, which sort of concerned me but I haven’t heard anything yet." Pelc believes the photos have become such a hit online because they've provided a bit of optimism for those feeling a sense of hopelessness during the coronavirus pandemic.
A Priest giving social distance blessings with a squirt pistol and what, I'm assuming, is Holy water. 2020 folks. pic.twitter.com/iDnYs33hs9— Jeff Barnaby (@tripgore) May 15, 2020
"I’m not objecting to it, this whole idea of combating evil is a good one," Pelc said. "When Jesus dies he doesn’t just lay around doing nothing, he goes down to hell and kicks the doors in, he really wrestles with evil. We all want to believe that the devil is not the most powerful force on the earth and neither is COVID-19."
Although the Holy Saturday service was a bit unconventional, he said he's happy to see his parishioners and his city taking the pandemic seriously. "Detroiters are taking lockdown very seriously," he said.