Letter From The Pastor
June 1, 2020
Where Are We Going?
Our way forward is going to be slow and methodical, as best as we can find our way in this changing world. Too much is a stake, too many people are at risk, and so we need to plan and anticipate well. We must educate ourselves, pray over the circumstances we find ourselves in, and be cautious. Too many people and too much is in harm’s way otherwise. We never could have prepared for this crisis, this pandemic, with the information we lacked and the communication that was non-existent in the earliest and crucial stages.
The Cardinal has asked that every parish and collaborative draft an individual plan to be able to slowly and safely re-open the parish for public worship and prayer. The Archdiocese has put forth precise and strict guidelines and allows for parishes to impose even more safeguards as it sees fit. These guidelines include limits for attendance capacity, absolute strict social distancing, and rigorous cleaning and other safety practices. Before opening, our regional bishop must review and approve our plan for public worship here at St. Richard Parish.
I have formed a committee of caring and qualified people, knowledgeable in areas such as healthcare and communication and administration, to name a few, to help make safe and pastoral decisions. In our meetings of the last three weeks, we have agreed that:
*Safety and health of the Parishioners is most important
*Safety and health of the broader community is most important
*We need to communicate openly and honestly about the risk of
Worship Space capacity for our church, in meeting Archdiocesan and State regulations, will severely limit the number of people we can accommodate in the church building for public worship, and impossible to accommodate all who may wish to attend. This is a difficult reality to accept, as we want to welcome all, but now cannot do so. Therefore, the real number of parishioners to be seated will not exceed 80-100, depending on family clusters and single people attending.
In addition, our church and surrounding areas must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after every Mass and each public worship experience, like funerals, baptisms, weddings, etc. Signage has been ordered and will be visibly in place to direct and guide our parish family. Everything touchable must be disinfected, from benches to bathrooms to doorknobs, etc. Calculate in your own mind the cost, and the seemingly Herculean task of carrying out these tasks, let alone the new scheduling and planning required, and finding the proper supplies.
New ways of approaching our public worship must be instituted. Access to the building will be limited, one way in and one way out. Where you are seated will not be where you have always chosen to sit.
Rather you will have ushers to seat you in the next proper seat, according to plan. Everyone, everyone will be required to wear a facemask, sanitize their hands, and socially distance, as marked off in each seating bench. Everyone will receive communion dropped in their hand, at the end of Mass, on the way out the door. Absolutely no communion will be given on the tongue. No one can participate in singing (for obvious reasons) any parts of the Mass. So, everyone can just listen and appreciate the beautiful music offered for their spiritual enrichment, and all will be healthy.
We are opening on Sunday, June 7, for the 9:00am Mass, pending approval by the regional bishop. Through the hard work and preparation of our Pandemic Planning Team, we are making all reasonable safety and pastoral decisions and activating them. It is no easy task, and I’m sure you grasp this.
It is our hope that we will open without much difficulty, and with great safety for our parishioners who choose to come and worship publicly. I know that some parishes have been open for several weeks already, and I know that a good number have chosen not to reopen for many weeks into the future. I know that there will be some who will be disappointed with our parish plan. I am not here to please everyone and their views or wishes. I am here to keep everyone safe and to minister as best we can in the world in which we live. If at any time it is not safe to continue with this plan, we will have no option but to close again until safety can prevail.
Thank you for your patience, kindness, prayer, financial support, and hope for your parish. Together we will get through this challenge, and together we will succeed in carrying out our mission to follow Jesus.