April 30, 2020
Dear Parishioners and Friends:
Easter greetings to you and your loved ones!
This week’s communication will highlight several in-parish housekeeping details I haven’t directly addressed to date. I hope you will find the following information helpful. In the meantime, it seems our State is moving forward with re-opening the economy and a return to relative normalcy over the next few weeks. Please know the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is working in tandem with that same goal for our parish Churches. Our Bishop will lead the endeavors in collaboration with health officials and government guidelines and directives. I will share all information and specifics with our parish family once I receive word from diocesan administration.
The first in-house detail I would like to present is our goal for continued live streaming of Sunday Mass even after we get the green light to proceed with congregational gatherings. I am already in communication with tech savvy parishioners who are researching what such a goal would entail by using our main Church venue. As well, I have spoken with some parishioners who are interested in helping us with the additional cost of set-up, equipment, and maintenance as part of our St. Francis de Sales Parish plan in moving forward after the pandemic outbreak. Anyone wishing to assist us with the financial side of this goal please know I welcome the opportunity to speak with you! At this point in time I am not aware of the total cost. The ongoing live streaming of Sunday Mass will enhance a sense of community participation for our homebound parishioners as well as the vulnerable individuals due to age or illness concerns during the first two phases of our national re-opening. (The initial stage of re-opening has been earmarked for those who are healthy and strong.) The live-streaming capabilities would be a touchstone for our own parishioners who will not be able to gather with us at the beginning of our return to normalcy. I also see live streaming as a benefit for those traveling away from home for business, pleasure, or familial obligations. Technology can provide an opportunity for them to view what is going on here while they are absent. I want to be clear, however, for all who are physically able to congregate for active participation, live streaming is not an “alternative” for our Sunday obligation in appreciation of the Third Commandment. The possibility of live streaming the Mass must be accompanied by a healthy sense of catechesis and our own awareness of our faith commitment. As I often share with our parishioners at the beginning of wintertime weather each year, there is no replacement for active and full participation at the Lord’s Altar. Every healthy and able-bodied Catholic should desire to gather at the Altar each Sunday (or Saturday evening) and Holy Days of Obligation in offering the Church’s Sacrifice of Praise we call the Mass. Extenuating circumstances, such as inclement weather, hazardous road conditions, illness, essential employees’ work schedules, persecution or, obviously, pandemic outbreaks like we are currently experiencing, may all necessitate refraining from gathering physically at the Altar. However, the Eucharist is still offered as an act of the whole Church and all Church members, including our deceased loved ones, reap the spiritual benefits of the Eucharistic celebration. I have tried to convey this aspect of our Catholic faith especially during this unprecedented time of an “imposed Eucharistic fast” due to precautionary measures in fighting community spread of COVID-19. The Lord Jesus continues to make us His Church in the Eucharist we believe He left us as a perpetual memorial of His Dying and Rising until He returns again in glory. Thus, the very fabric of the Church’s constitution is “Eucharistic”, and no global threat negates that component of our Easter faith. Simply stated, no Altar (or no Mass) means no life for us! No parish community or any other demographic expression of the Catholic Church’s presence in the world can exist without the Mass. This is one of the reasons why I have never failed to highlight throughout this entire nightmare that the Eucharist continues to be offered each day at St. Francis de Sales, even when it is deemed “unsafe” for us to congregate as a parish family. My sincere hope has been constant that you take consolation in this fact and rejoice in the grace that flows from our parish Altar to all of our homes! Naturally, there is no substitute for our fullest participation at the Altar, but as evidenced over the past six weeks, certain factors can frustrate our desire to participate in Mass and sometimes even stifle the possibility of our physical attendance. Live-streaming capabilities will accommodate those who cannot or should not gather with us physically at the Altar.
The second housekeeping detail is the Fish Fry 2020. It seems like a lifetime ago, but I wanted to thank again all those who participated in this annual parish event. Our dedicated parishioners and friends in the community made it a success even though it was cut in half by mandate of our leaders. I am so proud of the spirit of collaboration of our parishioners demonstrated in cooking, counting, cleaning, baking, serving and those who supported us by eating at our 2020 Fish Fry gatherings! You may recall I had asked the attorneys of our parish to sponsor the event by absorbing the parish costs associated with this year’s Fish Fry. I am happy to share with you that contributions made by eight of our attorneys covered our expenses. On behalf of our grateful parish family, I wrote them personal Thank You notes for their generosity and sense of stewardship in making their donations to St. Francis de Sales Parish.
The third detail I would like to bring to your attention is the upcoming Blood Drive at St. Francis de Sales Parish scheduled for 21 May 2020 from 12:30p until 6p. The gift of life (the donation of blood) is considered essential business and Dr. Bob Castellan, our parish Blood Drive Leader, has been instrumental in securing the event on our parish calendar. New safety protocols have been instituted for Red Cross Blood Drives and they will be in full operation here so as to mitigate risk relating to COVID-19. To date, Bob has 14 donors signed up and 31 spots still open. For more information or assistance, please feel free to contact him directly at 304/291.0745.
The final housekeeping detail I would like to share with you is our parish support for the food insecure in our community. Given the fact we have not been able to provide the local food pantries with Food Sunday donations since the National Shutdown, I want you to know our parish made a generous monetary donation to Christian Help in April and will do the same in May for Catholic Charities West Virginia. Even in the midst of our ongoing need for your continued financial support, St. Francis de Sales Parish, too, must be ever mindful of our Gospel-mandated responsibility in caring for those in need, especially our neighbors and friends.
Please know of my continued prayerful support for all of you and your families at the Altar. I look forward to seeing you soon as a responsible plan for re-opening our doors is well underway! Until then, know that I look forward to “virtually” celebrating with you each Sunday at 10a. Stay well, stay safe and stay firm in the Easter faith poured into our hearts by the light of the Holy Spirit.
Yours in Christ,