My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In light of the decreasing numbers of hospitalizations and following a recent period of suspension of in-person Masses, Bishop Weisenburger is, as of today, February 15, 2021, allowing a limited return to in-person Masses.
We have periodically experienced, in the past, a downward turn in transmission of the disease and hospitalizations. But, with that encouraging trend of decreasing numbers of infections and hospitalizations, we might have rushed to a “return to normal” too quickly. Sadly, in some cases, this may have resulted in a new spike of infections and pandemic growth. While our Bishop is authorizing this limited return to in-person, indoor worship, it would be incorrect to let our guard down or to conclude that we can “return to normal.” We should continue, as our Bishop has written, to “… presume small crowds at indoor liturgies until vaccinations can move our population to greater state of herd immunity.”
What will this mean for St. Frances Cabrini Parish? It means that starting on the weekend of February 20/21, we will return to the same protocols that we were observing before public Masses were suspended. Before going over those protocols, I must remind you of the following: At this time, the Sunday Mass dispensation remains in effect indefinitely. Simply stated, the obligation to attend a Sunday Mass in person is dispensed and suspended until further notice from Bishop Weisenburger.
We will continue to offer the Saturday afternoon drive-through reception of Holy Communion at 5:00 p.m. each Saturday, which follows a private Mass that I will offer. We will continue to follow the identical procedure that we’ve been using for these last number of weeks. We will enter the parish campus using the driveway between the parish offices and the parish hall. You will then proceed to the north-side parking lot and line up with the other cars, proceeding to the west parking lot, where I will be standing by the northwest entry to the patio to communicate the Body of Christ to those who choose to attend the Saturday drive-through. So, you can see, there will be no change to what we do on Saturdays.
I want to insert here that reception of ashes on Ash Wednesday, February 17, as 5:00 p.m., will also be a drive-through experience. I want to remind you that, while the reception of ashes on Ash Wednesday is a long-held and cherished tradition in the Church marking the beginning of Lent, it is not a holy day of obligation. We will follow the same lining-up procedure as we do for our Saturday reception of Holy Communion. I will be assisted by lay volunteers to distribute ashes. Ashes will be imposed upon your foreheads by the use of cotton swabs which will be used once per person. The formulary, “Turn away from your sin and be faithful to the Gospel,” or the traditional, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” will be recited over each person. Holy Communion is not distributed at this service.
Sunday Mass, which is at the heart of our worship of God, will be celebrated indoors as we were doing before we had to suspend such celebrations. The times for the Masses will be: 8:30 a.m. for our Family Mass and 10:30 a.m. for those over 65 who, without any underlying health conditions, can safely attend an indoor Mass. Please remember that the maximum number of people who can attend either Mass is 70. The continued and constant use of a face mask throughout the Mass is mandatory, and social distancing will be strictly observed. Clear, plastic face shields are not a substitute for face masks. If, for any reason, a person cannot wear a face mask, such persons are to continue to receive Holy Communion on Saturday afternoons at our drive-through reception. There will be no exceptions to this directive. Please continue to use the westside doors of the church only. Caution tape and orange cones will be in place at the other doors, which will be open to ensure proper ventilation. In the case of cold or stormy weather, the eastside doors will be kept closed, and I’ll do everything possible to make the worship space comfortable.
Communion will be of the Body of Christ only, and it will continue to be received on the hand only. Communion will be distributed outside at the end of Mass on the westside patio and at both doors. Please observe social distancing as you proceed to receive the Body of Christ. Also, may I, as gently as possible, remind you that this is a highly sacred time, even though it comes after the final prayer and blessing of the Mass? It’s no more of a time to chat with those around you than if you were receiving the Eucharist at its traditional time during the Mass. So, please, maintain sacred silence until you are well-away from the patio area.
I know you are as anxious as I am to be able to visit together. However, in the protocols which we’ve received from the Bishop, you are encouraged to go straight to your cars after receiving the Eucharist rather than trying to get together to visit. That’s hard, I know, but for the sake of your health and safety, as well as your loving care for your brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s observe this ongoing separation for a little while longer. I’m confident that the time is coming when we’ll once again share personal fellowship together. We’ve come this far; let’s continue to joyfully hope that, by being faithful to the CDC guidelines as well as living in deep care for others, we’ll emerge from this awful experience with a renewed faith in the One Who has preserved us all.
One final word; I have once again called upon Fr. Marty Barnum to help our parish by presiding at the Sunday Masses, and he has agreed. I’m still considered one of those “at risk” people, so for me to celebrate the Mass indoors with you is highly ill-advised. I will be receiving my second vaccination on the 19th of February, and then, hopefully, in a few weeks, it could possibly be safe for me to celebrate with our community again. I’ll certainly be taking that under medical advisement.
As always, I know there may be some details that I’ve overlooked in this communication with you today. If you have any questions, please, do not hesitate to call the office (520) 326-7670. Connie Bracamonte, Eileen Godollei and I (yes, I answer the phones too!) are here to help you in any way we can.
Praying for God’s continued blessings upon you all, I remain
Your brother in Christ,