March 30, 2020
Dear Parishioners and Friends:
As always, I pray this communication finds you, your loved ones, friends and neighbors safe, well, and holding on as we prepare for another month of precautionary measures of social distancing. Currently the COVID-19 threat weighs heavily on our Country and we see similar experiences around the globe. At the same time, we have now entered into the “strong time” of Lent and the Church asks that we intensify our preparations for the soon approaching Holy Week festivities.
It will indeed be recognizably different this year at St. Francis de Sales Parish, our Diocese, our Country and our world! Recently the Vatican issued guidelines and directives for the celebration of the services of Holy Week 2020 which may be used in all parts of the world in the grip of the Coronavirus at this time. Easter remains the head of our Christian calendar and, as such, Holy Week remains Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum remains the Paschal Triduum. What changes this year is the way we will celebrate these festivities. Our Bishop, too, has followed the lead of Rome in indicating that the Paschal Triduum 2020 will, of course, be observed but without the active participation of our people. I realize this is heartbreaking news for all around the globe and certainly here locally but extenuating circumstances dictate the unusual character of this year’s festivities. I hope to forward to your households, the domestic expressions of the Church, some resources and helpful worship aids to be used in gathering your own family members in faith and in worship during the holiest time of the year. Palm Sunday Mass will be live-streamed from our parish at 10a. As well, I can share with you that I have spoken with Robert Phipps who will continue to work with Sharon Shatzer in securing live-stream capabilities for Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper and Good Friday’s celebration of the Lord’s Passion both at 7p in keeping with our parish schedule. Easter Sunday Mass will be live-streamed at 10a too. Our RCIA Coordinator, Andrea Soccorsi, has already communicated to our catechumens and candidates the decision made by our Bishop to postpone their reception of the Easter Sacraments to a later time to be announced by respective parish communities. I ask that they and their sponsors keep devoted to prayer and study as they make their hearts ready for full communion with us in the Church of Rome. I would, simultaneously, ask all our parishioners to remember them in prayer as their journey this year seems to be anything but ordinary! Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures and I am so pleased that you were delighted to “participate” in our first live-streamed Sunday Mass which took place yesterday. Again, innovation and creativity are in high demand as the Church continues to operate in these times of containment!
Since the head of our Christian calendar, Easter, bears the mark of being “different” this year, so goes the other sacramental celebrations that usually follow within the Easter Season. Given the current circumstances, I think it wise to address the April and early May calendar of events here at St. Francis de Sales Parish. The Diocese has already notified us about the cancellation of the Catholic Schools Mass scheduled for Saturday, 25 April 2020. The Confirmation Mass, slated for Sunday, 26 April 2020 has been postponed and we await a new date which will be issued from the Bishop’s Office. Naturally, I will share such pertinent information as soon as I receive word from Wheeling. In the meantime, I would invite our Confirmandi to continue with their personal prayer, reflection and preparation for the reception of the Sacrament. Following Easter, I will be in contact with the adults of the parish who have requested to be Confirmed with the 2020 celebration. Their preparation for the Sacrament is important and it may very well be administered personally while appreciating the government guidelines in place at this time.
Our parish celebration of First Holy Communion, which is normally scheduled on the first Sunday of May, will have to be rescheduled for a later time as well. I think it less than prudent, at this time, to propose a new date but please know I will work with our Director of Religious Education, Karen Modzik, and the second grade Religious Education Program instructors in brainstorming to accommodate our 47 youngsters and their families. Innovation and creativity this year may very well be part of the scenario in facing the extension of precautionary measures combatting community spread of the Coronavirus. I would like to remind the parents of our First Communicants that First Penance and Reconciliation (Confession) will have to be rescheduled before the First Communion Mass. Again, please know I will do my best to accommodate your very busy schedules but I do not believe I can realistically propose a planned event at this time given the circumstances of the extended period of social distancing announced by our President yesterday. In the meantime, I would strongly encourage parents of our First Communicants to continue their preparation of prayer and study for both Sacraments. We cannot permit the irregularities of this painful moment in history to overcome our Catholic responsibility to prioritize sacramental life for the spiritual growth of our children. Your collaboration with our best efforts is much appreciated.
Yes, life is changed this year and we, as a community of believers, must do our part to maintain the primacy of Easter in each of our lives. The Easter event is not something we can postpone or cancel! Although recognizably different in 2020, the Church now calls us into a deeper participation in the Paschal Mysteries of our faith! The medical professionals and government leaders continue to remind us that we are in the midst of a TEMPORARY reality; life, as we know it, will return to us! In the meantime, let’s continue to pray for our parishioners, friends and loved ones in the throes of financial hardships created by this pandemic. Expressions of Christian charity, compassion and support go a long way for all of us in this worldwide struggle for life and wellness.
May God bless us all, keep us safe in His love and enable us to be even more heroic in serving the needs of our sisters and brothers, especially the most vulnerable among us. Please know of the special place all of you have in my heart as our attention becomes all the more focused on Holy Week 2020.
Yours in Christ,