US priest squirts holy water from water pistol to bless churchgoers

Father Tim Pelc squirts holy water at churchgoers during an Easter service.
Father Tim Pelc squirts holy water at churchgoers during an Easter service. Photo credit: Twitter/tripgore

A priest in the US has garnered internet fame after photos of him blessing parishioners during a socially-distanced service went viral.

Father Tim Pelc from Detroit, Michigan, used a small water pistol to squirt holy water at churchgoers in their cars as part of an Easter service.

Although the photos were posted to the St Ambrose Parish Facebook page in April, they recently went viral on Twitter and people started making memes with them.

Pelc, 70, has been with the parish in Detroit for 30 years and says he prides himself on having a "pretty wacky mind" and a "pretty accepting congregation".

"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," he told Buzzfeed News.

Pelc came up with the idea himself to bless his parishioners' Easter baskets with a water gun from a safe distance, and he consulted his friend, who is a doctor, to find out if it was safe enough to do. He was told it was both fun and safe, and his friend gave him enough personal protective equipment that he'd need to stay protected.

"It was a good news story and people were in the mood for something like that," Pelc says.

He believes the photos have become popular online because they're fun and they help provide some optimism for anyone feeling a sense of hopelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although his parish could reopen for mass with reduced capacity as soon as next Sunday, "People are saying they don't want to come out just yet. There's still a lot of fear out there and I don't blame them."

Michigan currently has the fourth-highest COVID-19 death toll in the US, with nearly 4900 deaths and over 51,000 cases, according to official state health data.

To honour people who have died from the virus, Pelc and the parish tie blue ribbons on trees around the church's property for each victim. He says it "brings tears to your eyes" to see the number of ribbons there.