This week, I’d like to wish all Mothers and Mother figures a very Happy Mother’s Day! In some ways, I know it’s a bit of a let-down, not being able to gather with our families to celebrate it. Yet, at the same time, I do think it’s still important that we recognize our mothers today for the love they’ve shown to their children. God Bless all of you!
Now, I was talking to a couple mothers from our parish on the phone this week, and they all had the same question for me. “How long do you think it’s going to be until we can start to open things up again?” Well, I’m very excited to say that my answer has changed from “I really don’t know” to “hopefully soon.”
This week, we had a virtual meeting with our Bishop making plans on how we might be able to open the Churches. Now, I think we all realize that it’s not going to immediately just go back to normal, and there are going to be a number of steps to get back to something that resembles normal, but it’s exciting to be making those first steps. The first step isn’t going to happen immediately, and it’s not anything quite as exciting as starting back to Sunday mass, but we have been asked to get ready to open the Church to public prayer in the next week or so. Then, if all goes well, more might follow.
There are going to be some restrictions, we are all going to be wearing masks in Church for the foreseeable future, there’s going to be limits on how many people can be in the church at a time, we’re going to have to sit far apart from each other, and we’re going to have to get used to spraying and wiping down our own pews every time we come to Church. There are probably going to be some other accommodations that may take some getting used to.
Yet, when I look at these things, I think each of us have to decide for ourselves the basic attitude we’re going to take. Will I say, “This is ridiculous, I don’t know why we have to do all this nonsense?” or will I say “Whatever it takes, if it means I get to receive Jesus in the sacraments again, I want to work together and make that happen.” I have to say, so far, I’ve heard a lot more of the second one, and for that I’m very proud of all of you, and proud to be your priest.
I appreciate how all of you have been supporting your church up until now. I’m amazed every week when I open the mailbox and see our people mailing in their envelopes, which, by the way, if you haven’t heard, we just had a new mail-slot installed in the rectory front door, so from now on when you drop off your envelopes, please use the mail-slot on the front door, it makes things a lot more secure. Still, I look at the mail each week and our online offertory and I’m constantly amazed! Thank You! Then, after mass, when I look at our numbers, and I see us getting consistent numbers of around 110 families attending virtually every single day for daily mass, you’ve all been such a blessing through this. I’m hopeful that we’re beginning to figure out the next steps. I don’t have all the answers, I know I’m going to need your help, but I promise you we’ll walk through this together.
One of the critical things I am learning as we begin to open up is that we will need a lot more volunteers to help clean and sanitize the church. The ladies that have been cleaning the church in the past have been doing a wonderful job and they’re ready to do their part, but they’re going to need some help. From what I’m gathering, as we do open, we’re going to have to wipe things down with disinfectant after each day the church is open. When our county does move to yellow and we get clearance from the Bishop, how many days we can have the church open will depend on how many volunteers can commit to helping to scrub things down. So I’m really counting on you folks to help us make that happen.
Meanwhile, I’m also working on some of the recommended procedures for confessions, and as we begin to move into yellow, those will be resuming as well. When they do, at least at first, they’re probably going to be outside. At the Bishop’s recommendation, I’ve ordered some Plexiglas like they have at the grocery store, and we’re working on a setup that will be as functional as we can be, while remaining both safe and private.
Again, there might be some logistical challenges with everything that’s coming, but we’ll work through all of it together. I’m not perfect, and I don’t pretend to be. When I started streaming mass, there were all sorts of hiccups, yet, now it’s working reasonably well. This next phase is also going to be a learning experience for all of us. What we try at first may work or it may not, but together we’ll adapt and we’ll make sure most important thing of all, encountering Jesus Christ in his Church can really happen!
In the meantime, I also want to assure everyone that for those who have serious health concerns, the Sunday Obligation is going to remain dispensed and we plan on continuing the streaming masses for the foreseeable future. So while we are trying to get the church open, please don’t take unnecessary risks.
I have to say that I’m very excited at the prospect of things beginning to open up a little bit. I know it’s not going to be back to normal, but I really do look forward to seeing all of you, hearing your confessions, and eventually the day when we can start having people physically at mass, even if only in a limited way.
We’re all in this together, please keep me in your prayers as I keep you in mine! God Bless,
- Fr Matt
Father Matthew Baum is the Parish Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA.