UPDATED! WE GOT NEW DIRECTIVES AS OF 5/29/2020 - Please note the Changes Below
We had taken a lot of time planning a whole process for public communion and for getting people back to mass. However, late Friday afternoon we got an update that in all parishes as of June 13th we are now permitted to observe the "6 foot rule" for occupancy. That means that we can basically resume our normal weekend schedule that weekend!
I had recorded a whole video explaining our process for public communion, for mass with 25 people, but as of this morning, all of that has just gone out the window since we'll be able to return to our normal mass schedule.
Step 2: Public Communion (for the weekend of June 6-7)
Everyone is invited to watch mass on Stream/TV then come to the Church for communion.
Step 3: Public Mass With Social Distancing (beginning June 13-14)
For Weekend Masses:
New Mass Schedule beginning June 13th:
Seating at Mass:
Let us celebrate that we are returning to the sacraments!
God Bless, -Fr Matt
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
In this Sundays’ first reading we hear that Philip went down to Samaria and proclaimed Christ….and there was great joy in the city! Well, today! I’m pleased to announce what we had hoped for last week has become a reality. Our Church is opening up again! Beginning this Monday, May 18th, Prince of Peace Catholic Church will again be open for private prayer. Although we’re not yet open for mass and liturgies, this is the first step that direction, and it’s a big one.
Now everything isn’t going to go immediately back to normal, but we are moving in steps toward normal, making sure that we’re both working to help everyone return to the sacraments and keep people safe in the process. As I go through these, I do want to reassure everyone that through all of these steps, our bishop has continued to dispense everyone from the Sunday Mass obligation, and we at Prince of Peace, will continue to stream all masses online. If you have serious health concerns, please feel free to stay home.
Starting Monday May 18th, we’ll be beginning Bishop’s “Yellow Phase-Step 1.” Our Church will be open for private prayer and confessions will be resuming. Now there will be some safety protocols that we’ll have to follow through this process, so I’d like to go through those with you today.
Yellow Phase - Step One - Monday May 18th
During the yellow phase step one, we are limited to no more than 25 people in the Church at a time, everyone is required to wear masks while they are in the Church, we all have to maintain a social distance of about 6 feet, and all of the contact areas have to be sanitized regularly. At the Bishop’s direction, we’ve removed all hymnals, prayer cards, and shared resources. You are welcome to bring those things with you to Church, but we ask that you do not leave them in the Church.
The Church will be open for private prayer Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9am until 7pm. We ask that everyone both enter and exit via the handicap entrance. When you enter church, there will be blue tape marking off each of the pews to make for 25 seats. You are welcome to sit in any of the marked off pews or to kneel in front of the votive candles, provided no one else is there. By marking these off, it’s both easier to see how many people are in church and easier for us to sanitize as we only have to sanitize where people have been sitting. People who live in the same household are welcome to sit next to each other in the pew, but those not living in the same house are each asked to take a separate space.
If you would happen to see all of the seats occupied, please wait outside of church until you see someone leave. If you are in church and all 25 seats are filled, please limit your visit to around 30 minutes out of respect for those waiting. When you arrive, there will be a number of sanitizing stations with a spray bottle, paper towel, hand sanitizer and a small trashcan on the windowsill. Before and after you sit, please spray and wipe off the pew where you will be sitting.
We are looking for volunteers to help us sanitize the church each evening that we are open. It’s not hard, and will only take a few minutes. If you would be willing to commit to spending about half an hour in Church each week and wiping things down as we close at 7pm, please call Sue at the office. We have the first week covered, and I’d like to continue to have the Church open at least 4 days a week, but continuing, or expanding that depends on how many people are willing to commit to helping us sanitize at the end of each day. We’re asking those of you who are willing to consider committing to one night each week. As I said, if you're willing, please call Sue at the office to sign up for a day.
Beginning Monday May 18th, we will also be resuming confessions. After some thought, we’ll be having confessions both in the morning and in the evening. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings, we will have confession in the regular confessional from 9am until 9:30am, or as long as is needed. I would ask that people line up next to the already marked pew spaces, so that we’re providing enough space between people. For those who would prefer not to be in the enclosed space, on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, we will have confession outside on the rectory back porch at 7:30pm. In either case, we have a large plexiglass sneeze-guard, just like at the grocery store for the safety of both of us. Bishop has also asked us to develop a plan so that you can have a time with access to multiple priests, as we would have for our Lenten Penance Service. As those plans get worked out, I’ll share them with you.
Should you have a loved one pass away at this time, now that we have moved to yellow, we will close the Church for private prayer for the duration of the funeral. We will be able to have a normal funeral in Church, but attendance will be limited to 20 people, to leave room for the liturgical ministers and the funeral director’s staff.
Communion Calls and Anointing of the Sick
At this time, our bishop has authorized us to begin our communion call and shut-in visits. I am willing to begin some limited rounds, in light of the reality right now, I would simply ask that those who are homebound call and let us know if they would like visited. Many have expressed to me that while they would typically like to receive communion, they would rather we hold off for a while yet. I’ll be happy to honor those family’s wishes either way.
Looking forward for the next few weeks, I know that some of this will be a new experience for all of us, but I’m hopeful that we can work together smoothly through these new processes, so that we will be prepared to move quickly into Bishop’s Yellow Phase Step Two, which will include resuming public daily masses and a public distribution of holy communion. I would invite all of you to make sure to read Bishop’s letter this week. We’ve also posted it on both our website and our Facebook page. He details some of the other steps that will be coming once we’ve got this step running smoothly. He talks about how Sunday Masses might work in the near future as well as how first communion and confirmation may work.
I know some of these things are going to be a little inconvenient, and they're going to take some getting used to. Even so, I’m excited that we’re going to be able to start having people back to church and back to confession! I hope you’ll work together with me so that we can get our Church open and moving again!
God Bless You - Fr Matt
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
This week in our Church we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. If I were to ask someone “what’s your favorite scripture verse?” most of the time, I would hear one of two verses: Either John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten son.” or the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.” There’s something about the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd that really captures our hearts. Just the image of a strong and kind shepherd, who on one hand is strong enough to protect us against the wolves and predators, but is kind enough to call us by name and encourage us to follow him.
The part we hear this year, I think, is especially appropriate for us in the middle of the crazy world we’re living in right now. Jesus reminds us that the sheep know his voice and they will not follow a stranger. If we turn on the TV today or scroll through things on the computer, it’s so easy to hear so many conflicting voices. It can be hard to figure out which one to trust. For me, I find it comforting to realize that the same issues existed in Jesus’s day. In different ways, finding the right voice to listen to has been a struggle for us since the beginning of time.
That’s why it’s so essential, especially now, to really come to know and hear the voice of Jesus. There are plenty of ways we can really come to know Jesus’s voice. The most essential of them though, is in His word. I mentioned it at a daily mass this week, and I’d challenge us to really think about it. When we’re cooped up at home, pull out your bible and start reading. If you’re not sure where to start, I always suggest starting with the Gospel of Luke and then the book of Acts. It’s an easy way to hear the whole story from Jesus’s birth, up through the early church, and ending with a church that has most of the recognizable parts of our own Catholic Church today.
We’re also blessed to have access to FORMED. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do. One of my favorites is their amazing audiobook section. They have a really nice collection of audio dramas, like those old time radio stories, including the Gospels and some of the rest of the New Testament, and it’s all free to you, paid for by a grant from the Independent Catholic Foundation. The more we dive into God’s word, and into the Saints, the more we’re able to recognize the shepherd’s voice when He calls us, the more we’re able to find his voice in the loud confusion that is the world.
In our community this week, there’s some exciting things happening. Our Bishop just announced that he’s forming a task force to figure out how and when we’ll be able to reopen our Churches. I know that he’s just as anxious as we all are to get back to normal, and I hope we can work together to find a manageable strategy to return everyone to the sacraments.
I’d also ask you to keep two men from our diocese in your prayers. It was just announced that at 10:00am on May 30th, Mark Gregor of Somerset, and Mike Pleva of Holy Rosary, Altoona will be ordained to the transitional diaconate. I know both Mike and Mark well and they’re both very solid men who will make wonderful priests when they are ordained next spring. Due to our current situation, they will both ordained in a private mass, but their ordination will be streamed online. We’ll share the links when they become available.
I hope you’ll also visit our diocesan news site,
http://proclaim.dioceseaj.org. One of our shut-ins, Catherine Shaffer, was in the news describing how grateful she was to be able to see her Church. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to see our parish in the news for positive things.
On the streaming front, I’ve been working with Ron from Music Mart in town, and we’ve gotten things sounding pretty good in the main Church. We’ve also been working on a lot of stuff behind the scenes. With that, I’m pleased to announce that this week we’ll be beginning to stream the mass both on Facebook AND on YouTube. A number of people have contacted me that they have Smart TVs and would be able to put mass on their TV if it were on YouTube. It took a little bit of technical work, but I think we’re ready. Links to the YouTube channel will be on our website. I would ask all of you to please click those links and subscribe. There are certain functions that won’t get enabled for us until we get 100 subscribers to the channel.
This week, I also started having Morning Prayer before our daily masses. Morning Prayer is a part of the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer that all priests, deacons, and religious pray daily. As the official prayer of the Church, it’s based around the Psalms. Some of you might remember in days gone by on special occasions often Churches had an evening celebration called “Vespers”. Vespers is simply the Latin name for Evening Prayer, another part of the Liturgy of the Hours. If you’ve never experienced it before, I’d invite you to take a look at the special page I put up on our website describing it. Please consider joining us. It can be a little complicated at first, but modern apps make it much easier to follow. I’d invite you to just listen the first time or two, then maybe find the app and follow along. It’s a good, and easy way to “pray without ceasing” and to continue to keep the voice of Jesus alive in all of our hearts.
Please know that all of you are always in my prayers and I look forward to the day when we can gather again here in Church.
- Fr Matt
Father Matthew Baum is the Parish Administrator at Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA.