May 15, 2020
Dear Parishioners and Friends:
Paschal greetings and prayerful best wishes to you and yours.
As we move closer to our reopening at St. Francis de Sales Parish on the weekend of 23-24 May 2020, I want to reiterate a few guiding principles for our prayerful consideration: safety for all in our community must be a priority for us and patience is respectfully asked of everyone as we carefully move forward in implementing the Diocesan guidelines. I would like to highlight a few matters of protocol in this communication as we prepare for the return of publicly celebrated Masses and other Sacraments. Additionally, I want to share with you that our Parish Offices will operate normal business hours on campus next week. However, initially, our doors will open to the public on a limited basis only. For the week beginning on 18 May 2020, the Parish Office doors will be open on Tuesday, 19 May from 10a-12p, Wednesday, 20 May from 10a-12p, and Thursday, 21 May from 3p-5p. We plan to review each week’s pedestrian traffic and will modify the scheduled hours of open doors as needed.
For the safety of all, the diocese cautiously reminds us that the initial segment of the planned reopening is intended for those who are healthy; anyone not well or not comfortable with returning at this time should not feel pressured to do so. Pastoral provisions have been expressed by the Bishop for all who are vulnerable due to advanced years, fragile health and wellness conditions, and for those not yet ready to open themselves to routine activities again at this particular time. The Bishop assures the people of our diocese that our faith commitment does not oblige us to physically gather for the Eucharist if we do not feel it is safe for us to do so. Thankfully, our live-streamed Sunday Masses will continue to be a valuable tool in uniting us with fellow parishioners amid COVID-19 concerns. At the same time, the Church believes our doors can now be opened safely for those who are ready to congregate for public worship. In either case, the Church provides! Provisions are made for those who are not yet ready, and directives are provided for those who wish to join us at this time. An abundance of caution is understood and common sense is implied in all our efforts. Personal responsibility and Gospel-oriented love and respect for our neighbors will serve us well in the reopening phase and I ask your kindness in appreciating the directives made by the Diocese at this time. I do not have a crystal ball at my disposal, but I do believe the highly precautionary measures embraced at this time are temporary and they will be relaxed in the future. Until we can return to a more normal way of gathering at St. Francis de Sales, I would encourage all of us to make the best of what we have, even as it may seem a bit awkward for us. We will move forward slowly, deliberately and with chief motives of attentive care and safety for all. It was recommended that I make a video of some of the differences parishioners will encounter when returning to Church in order to familiarize them with before our first weekend of reopening. I plan to do so next week.
As I shared last week, our weekend and weekday Mass schedule will remain unchanged. However, if we note that some other arrangement may better accommodate the parish in this interim period of social distancing, I am most willing to consider alternatives and our Parish Pastoral Council membership will be happy to assist. The location of certain Masses will change to accommodate proper social distancing and mandatory sanitizing between the Masses. Therefore all weekday Masses will be celebrated in the main Church instead of the daily Mass Chapel. Parishioners and visitors attending daily Mass will be asked to enter and exit through the choir side single door. There will be different designated sections of the main Church for seating for daily Mass on each specific day. Our 5:15p Saturday anticipatory Mass and Sunday 10a Mass will take place in the Main Church but the Sunday 8a Mass will be celebrated in the Barn (Seton Hall). The 8a Mass is designated as “senior friendly” with seating on both levels at the tables. Of course, seniors are welcome to attend any Mass of the weekend they prefer and those who are not seniors may certainly join us at 8a. There will be no music at the 8a Mass. Because of spacing restrictions and only one available microphone, a reader will not be engaged at the Barn Mass. The 5:15p Mass and 10a Mass will have only one reader who will proclaim the First Reading, Responsorial Psalm, Second Reading and Universal Prayer from the Ambo. The Gospel and homily will be proclaimed from a smaller podium at the Presider’s Chair. This arrangement will allow the cantor, reader, and celebrant to use three different microphones during the Mass. Hospitality Ministers will assist parishioners and visitors to appropriate seating areas, and they will facilitate an orderly dismissal from particular sections at the end of each Mass in order to secure safe distancing. Parishioners are kindly asked to wear masks or facial coverings when congregated for Mass until we are informed otherwise.
Until we get used to the reduced seating capacity plan because of social distancing, parishioners are kindly requested to inform us of which Mass they plan to attend by email or phone call. More information will follow next week regarding registration for attendance at the Mass of your choice.
While all these directives are paramount for our health and wellbeing, I want to remind you they will not be permanent ways of gathering for Mass. I realize, too, they may seem a bit clunky, but I pray our desire to celebrate the Eucharist together will override any sentiment of uneasiness or inconvenience we might feel in the face of temporary guidelines. A good thing to remember is that it will be a new and different experience for all of us! Together, then, let’s do our best and thank the Lord we can return to active and regular participation at Mass after two long months of being at a physical distance from the Mystery of the Lord’s presence with us at the Altar.
I look forward to welcoming you back soon! Our prayerful support remains constant for the vulnerable among us and we will look forward to the day when they, too, can rejoin us at the Altar.
Yours in Christ,