I have to say, it’s good to be open, and although I can’t see your smiling faces through the masks, it’s good to see so many of you taking advantage of the fact that the Church is open. I’ve been pleased to see that so many of you have stopped by the Church for a visit. It’s a wonderful thing to have all of you back in the Church. After almost two months of this, things are slowly beginning to move again.
Before I get too far, I did want to stop for just a moment to thank all of you who organized and participated in the little drive-by last Saturday. I was very surprised, and I really do appreciate all of your support. We’re all in this together, and I’m happy to be your priest. It was very good to get a chance to see so many of you who I haven’t seen in the couple months.
In last week’s message, I had all sorts of information about what the Church reopening would look like. I have to say thank you, everything has been going pretty smoothly. Folks are signing up to clean each evening, and I’m seeing a calm, but steady flow of people through the Church. It’s so good to have our Church open again and for people to be able to visit Jesus. I did want to answer one question that came up a couple of times last week. If multiple people who live in the same house come to church together, they are welcome to sit together in the same pew. However, If you live in a different household from someone else, please sit in a different pew.
Now by this time many of you have probably heard the latest news from our Bishop. He’s released dates for us to move forward into the next phases of his reopening plan. Beginning June 1st, our bishop is authorizing the distribution of Holy Communion. Then, beginning the following weekend, June 13-14, we will resume “public mass” for up to 25 people. I was talking to someone this week who said to me, “That’s confusing! What are we actually doing?”. To put it simply, we are only permitted to have 25 people in the Church building at a time, so our Bishop is envisioning a small group attending the mass in person, while everyone else is watching mass on TV or via livestream. Then, for those of you who join us virtually, there will be a scheduled time after the mass for you to come to the church to receive communion. It’s certainly not going to be what we’re used to, but it is taking some very real steps toward getting everyone back to the sacraments. I don’t want to go into a lot of detail in this week’s message, because I’m going to be discussing all of this with our neighboring pastors this coming Monday. We’d like to make sure our approach is similar among all the local parishes, so that it’s easier for us to understand and put into practice.
One change that we did receive with the bishop’s new directives is that while we are resuming the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are not to use the physical confessional due to sanitization concerns. With that in mind, for this week, our times will remain the same, but I’m going to be changing our locations for confessions so that we can meet this Bishop’s directives. We will still have confessions Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday from 9am-9:30am (or as long as needed) in the Church. However, instead of using the confessional, we will use the entryway by the front door. The doors at the back of the Church will be labeled “face-to-face” and “anonymous” and stations will be set up much like we would do for a penance service. On Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, we will have confession outside from 7:30pm-8pm (or as long as is needed). Outside confessions will now be just outside the handicap door by the small bench and garden. By moving them down to that area, they are accessible to those who cannot use the steps. If you see someone sitting for confession, please remain in your car until that person finishes. By next week, we hope to have a listing of all of the area confession times so that although we cannot do communal penance services right now, we can work to provide access to multiple confessors at multiple times in our area. As we’ve all been away from the sacrament for a while, I’d encourage all of you to take advantage of the sacrament, either here or at one of our neighboring parishes once we post the list next week.
It’s good to see progress happening. I know there are a lot of unknowns at this point. Yet, I would far rather share with you what I do know and have in mind, even if there are still some details to be figured out, than not tell you anything until the whole plan is together. Just remember, through all of this, what’s most important is continuing to build our relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer and the sacraments. That’s why we’re here.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t take a least a little bit of time to mention what it is that we celebrate this weekend. As Catholics, one of the things we do well is to honor the dead. We celebrate the feasts of Saints by the date of their death, or you might say, the date of their birth into eternal life. We pray for those who have gone before us. This Monday, we honor all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Those who died defending our nation. I was just up in our cemeteries this week checking on things as we prepare. While we’re not able to do a public gathering and memorial in our cemeteries for them this year, I hope to one day in the future. In the meantime, I am thankful to those who placed flags on the graves of our veterans. It is thanks to those who were willing to put their life on the line that we as Americans are able to enjoy the freedom that we have. So although we may not be able to have the family barbeques and picnics that we normally would, perhaps all of us can take a few moments of silent prayer to honor those who have gone before us.
Please know that all of you are always in my prayers. You’ll see me this weekend at mass, and I’ll look forward to seeing you when you stop for your time of private prayer, and hopefully when you stop by this week for the Sacrament of Reconciliation!
God Bless you now and always,
-Fr Matt Baum
Father Matthew Baum is the Parish Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA.