May 8, 2020
Dear Parishioners and Friends:
Paschal greetings and prayerful best wishes to you and your loved ones!
This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day. All our mothers will be remembered at Sunday Mass in a special way. The flowers placed at the Altar are in honor of our mothers who are living and in memory of our deceased mothers. Enjoy the day and know of our appreciation, respect, and love.
It is with great joy that I can share with you that Bishop Brennan has earmarked 24 May 2020 (including the regularly scheduled anticipatory Mass of Saturday evening) as our diocesan “soft opening” of all Churches around our State for the public celebration of liturgical life. It’s been seven long weeks and I pray this good news will bring all our households comfort, peace, and blessed anticipation. I know the last couple of months have been irregular, difficult, and frustrating for all of us. A return to the familiar, especially in practicing our faith in a public way, will strengthen us in moving forward as we safely start the engines of ordinary life, economics, business, and leisure. Of course, should the Governor register a spike in our State cases of COVID-19, the target date for our Church reopening may be changed. In that event, you will be notified immediately regarding the necessary postponement of our scheduled reopening.
Our diocesan guidelines were issued yesterday and please know all matters presented are in keeping with government and medical directives, safety for all and best practices in the initial phases of our return to celebrating the Sacraments with a congregation. In fact, each parish of the diocese must submit to central administration its own “customized” plan of putting into practice the directives expressed by the targeted reopening date of 24 May 2020. As well, pastors of souls are asked to communicate to their parishioners that the planned date of reopening may not be suitable for all our members. Our date of 24 May 2020 is for those who are strong, in good health, and not afflicted with recognized symptoms of respiratory distress. If one is in a vulnerable category due to advanced years, comorbidities, weakened immune system, not feeling up to par or even afraid to reenter the “new normal” at this time, the Bishop makes provisions for those persons. They are not obliged to actively participate in Mass. Fear and a sense of insecurity in a person’s mind and heart cannot be ignored at this particular time. Therefore, such individuals are most welcome to remain at home until they are comfortable to congregate again with us and resume normal, day-to-day activities in the community. The continued live streaming of Sunday Mass will serve them as a point of connection with their parish family at 1 Guthrie Lane.
As I read the diocesan guidelines to be embraced by all of us, they seem to be logical, practical, in keeping with personal safety and the safety of those of our community and oriented towards an abundance of caution. That said, things will be recognizably different and marked by profound simplicity in the public celebration of the Mass, the other Sacraments and in many aspects of ordinary parish life and ministry. The recommended exercise of social distancing will limit our seating capacity at all Masses, facial coverings or masks are to be utilized by everyone, singing will be at a minimum, and no gatherings, socials or receptions, before or after scheduled Masses, are to take place until restrictions are lifted. Common practices in Mass like tactile greetings, offertory processions, the passing of offertory baskets, the assistance of Altar Servers and Holy Communion distributed by the sharing of the Sacred Cup will all be temporarily suspended. The sacred space will have to be sanitized after each liturgical celebration. I will expound upon these and other such topics in my weekly communications until the reopening weekend of 23/24 May 2020 in order to prepare our parish family for congregating anew in the midst of precautionary measures in combatting the Coronavirus pandemic.
At this time, however, I would like to highlight the good news of our return to “relative” normalcy in a few weeks. While the temporary changes will take some getting used to, I believe it’s now more important for us to focus on the joy of again celebrating the Eucharist in a public setting, with loved ones, friends and fellow parishioners. The imposed “Eucharistic fast” placed upon much of the global Church as an attempt to slow community spread of the virus will be lifted! Once again, you will be free to actively and fully participate in the great celebration of the Eucharist. Once again, like the disciples of the Risen Christ on the road to Emmaus, you will recognize Him in the Breaking of the Bread and in the sharing of Sacred Scripture. Our devout encounter of Jesus in the Mystery of the Altar will, once again, be personal and intimate. May all of us grow in our awareness of and gratitude for the abiding presence of the Lord Jesus in His Church through Word and Sacrament that we affectionately call the Mass. I look forward to seeing you soon!
Yours in Christ,