Here’s a struggling industry that hasn’t gotten much attention during the pandemic, but attention must be paid.
With the global pandemic practically shutting everything down for months, the sacramental wine and altar bread business has suffered like other businesses in the country, with COVID-19 preventing most indoor public celebrations of the Mass.
Catholics are for the most part unable to attend Mass in person and receive the Communion host and consecrated wine. And in cases where Mass can be attended by a small congregation that must adhere to health and safety protocols, like social distancing, mask wearing and hand sanitizing, Catholics still might not want to receive Communion.
“Nothing has kept this winery from fulfilling its mission the last century and a half, until now,” said Will Ouweleen, who is the vintner at the O-Neh-Da and Eagle Crest vineyards in Conesus, New York, in the state’s Finger Lakes region. Hemlock Lake is home to the vineyards, which also produce table wines.
“Things are not well. Easter this year was effectively canceled. You were encouraged to stay home and have a spiritual Communion,” he told Catholic News Service. “What that means for O-Neh-Da Vineyard and other vineyards is there is no demand for sacramental wine. We have made very few sales since mid-February.”
Ouweleen said that he, his wife, Lisa, and a neighbor were doing “the work of 1,000 monks.”
Although business has taken a hit, he explained, the vineyard has not laid off a single employee and it continued to pay part-time employees even though they haven’t been required to go to work. The future looks unpredictable for the vineyard because what is unknown is how people will respond to drinking wine out of the Communion cup once public celebrations of Mass resume regularly.
The winery, which is in the Diocese of Rochester, New York, was founded to make sacramental wine by the first bishop of Rochester, Bishop Bernard McQuaid, in 1872. It is one of the few remaining wineries in the world to make sacramental wine from locally grown grapes. More about its history can be found at http://www.purewineonline.com.
“We are facing an existential threat here like nothing the winery has seen,” Ouweleen said, adding that he doesn’t know what the future holds.
Check out the video below, which shows how one religious order, the Poor Clares of the Franciscan Monastery of St. Clare in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, makes their altar bread.