A priest from Michigan is garnering widespread attention online this week for a unique way he incorporated social distancing guidelines into his services at his parish during Holy Week last month.
In the photos, which were first shared by the St. Ambrose Parish in Grosse Pointe Park last month and have gone viral on Twitter in recent days, the priest, Father Tim Pelc, could be seen donning gloves, a mask and a squirt gun containing holy water.
The church wrote in the April 12 post: “Adapting to the need for social distancing, St. Ambrose continued it's tradition of Blessing of Easter Food Baskets, drive-thru style. Yes, that's Fr. Tim using a squirt gun full of Holy Water!”
In an interview with Today published on Sunday, Pelc said he came up with the idea and decided to go through with it after checking first with a doctor to make sure it was in line with social guidelines advised by health experts and government officials to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“You can't double dip into the holy water container,” he told the outlet. “I thought, what could I do that would keep the quarantine restrictions going and give kids the experience of Easter?”
“We didn't have a lot of notice on it. At noon, the Saturday before Easter, I went out there and there was a line of cars waiting,” Pelc added.
The church’s initial post detailing the effort by Pelc has racked up several hundred shares and likes over the past few weeks. However, a tweet talking about Pelc’s “social distance blessings” has garnered over half a million likes and more than 125,000 retweets in just two days. The photos also picked up traction in a viral photoshop battle on Reddit not long after.
Larry A. Peplin, the photographer who captured the photos, said on Sunday that he has been working as commercial photographer in the Detroit-area for decades and said he has "never seen anything like this happen to any of my photos."
"Having covered many thousands of imaging assignments including six presidents and now nearing retirement, this is stunning," he continued. "I'm quite aware that these things happen, and memes get created then passed around the world, but why did it take five weeks for it to take off?"
"I understand now why it's called 'going viral,' and yes, I'm taking that verbal cue from COVID-19," he added.