New Hope Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Jacarra Williams says the best time to reach people is Sunday morning. With that in mind, Franciscan Health officials recently brought information on the COVID-19 vaccines to two Michigan City church congregations.

Franciscan Health Michigan City President and CEO Dean Mazzoni and Community Health Improvement Coordinator Nila Williams were joined by Franciscan Health physicians to speak and answer questions at New Hope and at Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist churches.

Pastor Williams said it’s a necessary conversation and he appreciates time spent by the doctors to answer his congregation’s concerns about the COVID vaccine. “My job as a shepherd is to feed them spiritually, but it’s also about the total man. So, when there’s sickness, we need to bring in the right people,” Pastor Williams said.

Pulmonologist Brian Dickover, MD, spoke at New Hope, and infectious disease physician Dafer Al-Haddadin, MD, spoke at Pleasant Hill, where Pastor James Lane said he hoped to motivate his younger congregants to be vaccinated. “The majority of our seniors did go out and get vaccinated,” he said.

“The interesting thing is trying to get the younger generation to understand how important it is for them to get vaccinated,” Pastor Lane said. “Their view is if I get it, more than likely, I’ll survive it. So, I’m not going to put that stuff in my body.”

Mazzoni said he is grateful for the partnership with the pastors and is looking forward to visiting other churches. “Like many communities around the nation, we see in our community disparities in health and wellness based on race and ethnicity. And the pandemic has served to shine a bright light on these differences,” he said.

Pastor Williams said the conversation has already had an impact, and that even some church members who didn’t attend heard about it and ended up signing up to be vaccinated. “The ones that were a little leery, they now feel confident because they were able to ask those questions and get a definite answer,” he said. “When you have

so much social media out there with misinformation, it’s so important to get the right information.”

While Pleasant Hill church continues to observe masking and distancing recommendations, Pastor Lane said he’s making a strong push to get a majority of the congregation vaccinated, focusing especially on the younger church members. Mazzoni said the next step is to return to the church partners to provide the vaccinations.

“The discussions have been robust with many questions from the church attendees being fielded by our physician experts. There is so much misinformation about the virus and vaccinations out in the social media sphere, it’s important that we make our doctors available to cut through misleading and confusing information,” Mazzoni said. “Pastor Lane and Pastor Williams have shown that they truly care about their congregations. Not only are they spiritual leaders in our community, but they care about the health and wellbeing of their church membership.”