I think it’s official, fall is in full swing. I have a couple of major announcements this week! Let me start with the most exciting change. As our religious education schedule is starting up again, we’ve had to make some major changes in light of COVID restrictions. Sister has shared most of those changes with everyone in her section of the bulletin and with the parents this week at their parent meeting, so I won’t steal her thunder.
However, there is one change that will affect everyone. We’re going to be making a slight change to the mass schedule in light of our religious education changes. Our fall in-person religious education will be running every Sunday for 8 weeks from Sunday, September 13th through Sunday November 1st. We will have a similar schedule in the spring. During that time, our 7th-11th grade students will be meeting from 6pm-8pm Sunday evenings. Meanwhile, you may have noticed that with our every-other-pew seating, our Saturday night 4pm mass has been getting a little crowded.
For that reason, we’ve decided that for the weeks that the religious education program is running, we will be adding a Sunday evening 5pm mass. All of our other masses will continue as they normally do. Please understand that this mass will ONLY be held during the 8 weeks of Religious Education in the fall and if all goes well similarly in the spring. As we add this mass, we’re asking any existing readers or altar servers who would be interested in serving at the Sunday 5pm, to please let us know.
As a parish last fall, when we did our survey, it was very clear that you wanted to see us put a larger focus on what we’re doing for our young people. I know this year isn’t what anyone had anticipated, but I want to see us go above and beyond to encourage those young people we have in our parish. I hope you’ll support us in these efforts.
This week I’m also going to be making a major policy change on how we handle mass intentions.
We’re blessed to have many people in our parish who take seriously the idea of having masses offered for their loved ones. It’s a long tradition of our Church and a very good one. The struggle though, is that with only so many dates available on the calendar, we want to be as fair as we can to everyone requesting that a mass be said. Now that I’ve been here a year and seen some of the concerns, our old system was a little bit confusing. I want to lay out some new rules to help us keep the process as clear as we can, and to not completely overwhelm Sue.
I have posted our new policy on page 7 in the August 30th bulletin. This will go into effect beginning with the new liturgical year on the first Sunday of Advent, November 29th, 2020. I’m hoping it will eliminate a lot of the confusion from the past.
Please read the policy in detail, but to make it simple:
1. We’ll accept masses from whoever wants to send them to us.
2. Registered parishioners can reserve up to two dates as space allows, and only registered parishioners can request specific dates.
3. We’ll do our best to fit masses without specific dates into our calendar, but any that we can’t fit will be sent to retired priests of our diocese, other parishes in need of intentions, or to the missionary priests in Mandeville, Jamaica. I’m hoping that this simplifies and clarifies a lot of the process making it fair and understandable for everyone.
In light of those new changes, we’re going to open our mass book for 2021 this Tuesday, September 1st. Please be patient with us as I know there’s a bit of a rush whenever the new book is opened. Overall, I’m hoping that most of you will look at this and ask, “isn’t this basically what we’ve always been doing?” It basically is, just with some minor changes and clarifications.
Finally, I was originally scheduled to be away this Tuesday-Thursday for our State Prison Chaplain’s Conference. However, this year it’s being held via webinar, and somehow I ended up running the webinar. As our program runs all day Tuesday-Thursday of this week, I’ll be unavailable this Tuesday-Thursday.
Also, as the program starts early, rather than cancel them, I had to move our daily masses back a little for this week only. So, for Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday of this week only, Daily Mass will be held at 7:00am. Thank you for your understanding.
Please know that you are all in my prayers, and please keep us in yours as we walk through this world that seems to change every day.
God Bless You,
I ran across an article this week that really hit me, and I’d like to share some things I gathered from it. It was on a site called “www.realclearscience.com” that’s devoted to what’s going on in the world of science. They had devoted a number of articles to COVID-19, and one of them was on the Catholic Church. This science magazine was praising the Catholic Church for it’s swift and organized stance to address the pandemic. When I saw that, I had to stop and take a second look. This wasn’t a Catholic group, this was a secular science group saying how well we had responded. They estimated that with more than 17,000 parishes in the United States, each typically holding 3 or more masses a weekend, that without counting daily mass, there have been nearly a million masses celebrated with congregations in the United States since public Mass started up again in June. Of those cases, in parishes that followed the Church’s guidelines for distance, masking, and hand-sanitizing, and only had brief mask-less contact for communion or anointing, out of nearly a million masses there have been zero cases traced to those parishes.
In Seattle, one of the hotspots, here are some of the scenarios they listed:
· During a July 3rd funeral mass (45 attendees, capacity 885), two members of one household notified the parish that they had tested positive for COVID-19 and were infected and pre-symptomatic during the mass.
· A volunteer at a July 5th mass (94 attendees, capacity 499) became ill 24 hours later and then tested positive for COVID-19.
· During a July 11th wedding (200 attendees, capacity 908), fresh air circulated from multiple open windows with the aid of fans. The following day, an attendee developed symptoms of COVID and on July 13th tested positive. The attendee was almost certainly contagious with pre-symptomatic infection during the wedding.
· On July 12th, an attendee at a parish board meeting (six attendees, room capacity 30), tested positive shortly thereafter and was determined to have been infected and contagious during the meeting.
· Finally, three priests anointed sick individuals in non-ventilated rooms during five- to fifteen-minute visits. The sick persons were not thought to have COVID-19 at the time but within two days each tested positive for COVID-19.
In every one of those cases, everyone followed the guidelines, and there was no spread. The same hasn’t been true of other faith groups or of Catholic Churches that haven’t been using the masks. When I look at all of that, and I hear the stories of all the issues at the various colleges around the country that started back to school this week, it really makes me think. It means something that science groups are listening to the Church, that when we listen to science in times like these, we are not only protecting ourselves and each other, but we’ve got their attention, when we as Catholics need to stand on moral issues that don’t always line up with popular opinion.
As we keep walking through this, I keep thinking. The more I reflect, the more I come to the same answer when I reflect on all this stuff in our world. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. We come to mass to do what we can’t do anywhere else, receive the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. If we realize what that really means, it changes everything. It’s something that we’re ready to really sacrifice for. If we really know who is present at the mass, who it is that we receive, it changes everything. That’s why I’ve been pushing for Eucharistic Ministers to bring Jesus to those who can’t go out. That’s why it’s so important to encourage those who have been away from the Church to come back. That’s why it’s worth every bit of our time doing whatever we can as individuals and as a parish to help anyone who’s been estranged from the Church and the Eucharist to find healing and work to help heal those wounds wherever we can. Whatever it takes to help people receive Jesus Christ. It’s worth the sacrifice!
As far as our parish, just a couple of quick updates:
We had our first meeting of the Deanery Pastoral Council, a group of clergy and laypeople representing the different parishes in our region looking to find better ways our parishes can collaborate to build up the faith and meet the needs of our various communities.
If you know of anyone who has school aged children who has not yet registered for this fall’s religious education, please fill out the form we’ve included in this week’s bulletin. Please use one form per child. There will be both an option for in-person religious education as we have in the past, as well as an at-home family based program that I’m very excited about. We’ll be trying to explain those options in a parent meeting soon, but we need all the forms so we can contact the parents and make that meeting happen.
If you see some big trucks around the church in the next week or two, they’re repairing one of our three heat pumps. They will be replacing the heat pump on the tabernacle side. I want to thank everyone who has been contributing to our monthly collection, a/k/a the maintenance fund. You’ve all been caring for our parish and thankfully, we’re able to treat these repairs as what they should be, routine maintenance that comes up every few years, rather than just in a crisis situation. That’s a wonderful thing. Thank you!
I can also announce now that I have some news. As you know I’ve been serving for the last 4 years as the Chaplain at the State Correctional Institute at Huntingdon. I’ve just received word from our Bishop that I’m being transferred. Don’t worry, I’m still staying at Prince of Peace, but I will be leaving St. Dismas Parish behind the walls of SCI-Huntingdon, and beginning at St. Peter in Chains Parish, behind the walls of SCI–Somerset. My day at the prison will remain on Mondays, so it shouldn’t really affect anything here at the parish. Still though, please keep the men at both St. Dismas Parish and St. Peter in Chains Parish in your prayers during this transition.
God Bless you, Now and Always
Happy Feast of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother! This weekend we celebrate both the Feast of the Assumption as well as the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time. In a real way both feasts talk about a person entering a new place, a new state. In the Assumption, we celebrate the reality that our blessed mother was assumed body and soul into heaven, that she’s taken her place as queen of heaven where she intercedes for us below. That’s a pretty amazing position. In Jewish tradition, the queen was the King’s mother, who heard the pleas of the common folk, and interceded for them with her son. In the assumption, Mary takes on that role, and so she intercedes for us with her son. That’s why when we have a litany of the saints, we pray “Mary Mother of God, Pray for us” or on the Miraculous Medal it says, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”
Meanwhile, on Sunday, we about a Canaanite woman, a foreigner, who gets turned away three times by Jesus. Yet, she persists, because she’s trying to intercede on behalf of her sick child. Because of her persistence, she succeeds, even to the point that Jesus says about her, “O woman, great is your faith.” It’s jarring to hear Jesus go from insulting this woman to praising her. Yet, like usual, when something in the scriptures doesn’t seem like it belongs, we need to ask ourselves: Are the scriptures wrong? Is Jesus Wrong? Am I wrong? Or is my understanding of the situation wrong? I’ve never seen the first two happen, but I’ve seen the second two happen all the time. What we’re seeing is Jesus using the formula, based on the book of Ruth, for the conversion of a Gentile to the Jewish faith. Ruth was turned away 3 times before she was accepted. That was the pattern for converts to Judaism before Jesus’s time. So Jesus turns this woman away three times in that same pattern, only to accept her.
I think of that in our world. How would we do with that, if we had to be turned away three times before we could come in. How many situations in our world would we stay, how often would we simply give up?
As we continue through this pandemic, none of us have all the answers, and none of us are perfect. Yet, we have the perfect one right here with us, Jesus Christ. How would I fare, really, if I had to be turned away three times before I could come to Jesus? Would I still run after him with all of my heart? Or would my pride get in the way?
I’m happy to say that Sister has hit the ground running, she’s got a meeting set up with our Catechists already, and we’re hoping to be able to communicate details to our families very soon.
I do have some good news. After a long time, and a lot of research, I believe we’re going to be able to fix the heat pump on the tabernacle side of the Church. It’s been out for quite a while, but we needed to determine the cause of the failure. Thank you to those who helped with that project. We just received bids, and I’m hoping to confirm one in the very near future. Thank you to everyone who has given to the monthly improvement collection over the last year. We should have enough from those collections to cover the cost of the new heat pump without a major hit to our budget.
I also want to thank everyone who’s started to bring baskets in already for the fall Turkey Dinner. Although the dinner will be a little different this year due to the our situation, I’m so thankful that we’re still going to be able to have it.
I also want to thank those who have offered to help walking the cemeteries as we get our new system up to speed. I’m meeting with a few people from the cemetery committee to develop a plan so that we can collect the information in an organized way. I have to say, before I was a pastor, I had no idea just how much work cemeteries could be. I think we’re starting to get that plan together, and I’m hoping that soon we’ll be at a point that we have something real to hand to volunteers to be able to help with. I thank everyone for their patience as we learn the meaning of the old saying “3 steps forward, 2 steps back.”
Please know that you are all always in my prayers,
Thank you all for your prayers as we did interviews this week! In good news, we have a new DRE! Our new DRE may be familiar to some of you, as she served here many years ago. Sister Karen Grusek, C.C.W. will be starting officially on Monday. We welcome Sister to our parish staff.
I’ve known Sister Karen for many years and have worked with her and many other members of the Carmelite community of the word for many years. I’m very excited at the prospect of having a religious sister on staff here at our parish. Sister brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in religious education. She has worked as a DRE, College Campus Minister, High school religion teacher, and many other jobs in her time in ministry within our diocese. Having met with Sister, I know she’s very excited to begin here and to work with our catechists and families to help our children grow to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ.
I also want to thank our outgoing DRE, Dee Zernick, for her many years of faithful service to the parish. God Bless you Dee, and enjoy retirement!
I did receive the results of the survey that we sent out to parents. Thank you to everyone who responded. We had a bit of a mixed result, but the comments were all very helpful and supportive. I’ll be turning those results over to Sister to help us finalize our plans for the fall.
On the maintenance front, our interviews went well, and offers are currently pending. Once a candidate completes the process, I’ll be able to announce that as well. That process may take a few weeks. I’m very excited that we’ll soon be beginning to work on a lot of routine maintenance that’s been deferred and begin to fix a lot of little things that have needed fixing for a while. I do ask that you please be patient, Rome wasn’t built in a day and there’s a lot to be caught up on. If you’ve pointed something specific out to us, It may take quite a while until the specific item gets addressed.
Meanwhile, we have a few other things going on. Next weekend we have a Holy Day! August 15th is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven. Typically, the Assumption is a holy day of obligation. However, this year, due to Covid-19, it will be treated just like a Sunday. Schedule-wise, August 15th falls on a Saturday. That makes things especially interesting. We’re going to try something that I’ve had good experiences with at other places. We will have a Vigil Mass Friday evening, August 14th at 6:30pm at the Church, Saturday Morning, August 15th at 8am at Holy Cross Chapel, and Saturday afternoon, we’ll be having a double-header at the Church with the Holy Day mass at 3pm, a 10 minute break, and the normal Weekend Vigil mass at 4pm. For those who would like, you’re welcome to simply come at 3pm and stay for both the Holy Day and the Vigil mass. If you choose to come only to one or the other, you’re welcome to do so, just please just be respectful of those who have chosen to stay for both. When I occasionally had this happen at other parishes, I was pleasantly surprised how many people appreciated having this option.
I know I’ve been pushing it a lot lately, but I really want to thank those who have volunteered as Eucharistic Ministers. Of our 49 shut-ins, we now currently have 32 of them with a Eucharistic minister visiting them, with only 17 left, we’re more than half-way there. It’s a real blessing to be able to bring Jesus Christ to someone who is unable to receive him.
It’s hard to believe, but our fall Turkey Dinner is also coming up soon, the dinner will be served in take-out containers only, but you have an option to eat in or take out. We’ve also begun accepting baskets for the dinner. The first few have already arrived. Let me just thank you all in advance for how you’ve cluttered up my dining room with baskets, please do it again!
I really want to thank everyone for all the positive comments on the new bulletin last weekend. It was so good to hear everyone responding at mass again. Please keep responding, as we work together to live our faith in Christ and share it with our town.
Shortly after I came to Prince of Peace, I looked at our Church bulletin and realized how little information we had in it. One of the things I knew I wanted to make happen was to improve our bulletin. It took almost a year to get budgets in order and to get a handle on things to be able to make it happen, but I’m very excited, our copier arrived last Friday, and now, this weekend, after much work, I’m excited to show you this new bulletin. After running the numbers and working with some local businesses who already advertised in our previous bulletin, what you see here today is actually a little bit less expensive than the bulletin we had previously. I’m excited to have the space now to be able to put the music and readings here in the bulletin each week, to have space for all the local church events going on in our area, and to have space to share information about our faith with you every week. You’ll also notice the photo of Brooke and Corbin Corrente on the back cover. It’s my hope that each week, as we have special events, weddings, baptisms, funerals, first communions, confirmations, as well as our dinners, and other events, etc., we’ll be able to put photos on our back cover sharing the good news of our parish. If you have photos that you’d like to share for our back cover, please email them to Sue at the email address on the front cover!
Now that I have the space, I’d really like to remind everyone about an amazing resource that we were able to pay for through a grant from the Independent Catholic Foundation. FORMED is an amazing resource, and I will let you in on a secret. Most of the stories I tell in my homilies came from some of the various books, talks, and movies available on FORMED. I’d really encourage you to take advantage of these. I put a small suggestion of some of my favorites towards the back of the bulletin. For those with little ones, I cannot recommend enough checking out the kids section, especially Brother Francis, the Jesus Stories, and Catholic Heroes of the Faith. They’re all wonderful well made videos that talk to our kids about our faith. I’d encourage you, no matter the age, dig in. I love to listen to the audiobooks and the Catholic talks on either my 1.5 hour drive to the prison each week or a portion while working out. As we move along, now that we have our new copier, if there are classes you’d like to see in our parish under programs, we can very easily make the packets. A few months ago when we did an online class it was very well received. I hope we can do a few more this fall and return to in-person ones once we’re allowed to gather again.
I’d also like to update everyone on our hiring process. We had a few applicants for both positions. God-willing, we should be moving into interviews soon and will hopefully have both positions filled very soon. Thank you to everyone who applied or encouraged someone to apply.
There is also some good news on our Cemetery Management front! We just completed our final reviews, and our staff was trained on the new Cemetery Management system this Friday. I’m hoping that after we do a few tests with some small sections, we’ll be ready for volunteers to help us walk the cemeteries with printed maps to help us gather names and dates from existing plots as we begin the long process of entering data into the system. Thank you to those of you who have already offered to help, I hope to have a plan of attack very soon.
For Religious Education, although we’re still in the hiring process, we are looking at potential options for the fall. If you haven’t turned one in already, we’ll be putting out our Religious Ed Registrations this week. We’re in the process of evaluating some different programming for the fall, as we realize that we may be under restrictions beyond our control, and it’s likely that our normal classroom schedule may be interrupted. No matter which option we decide, we will be purchasing new textbooks this year, as we'll need something that can work a little more smoothly if and when things are interrupted again. For that reason, it’s very important that we get families registered as soon as possible. Registration will be $30.00 per child in grades 2 and 9-11 and $25 for all others, which will basically cover the cost of the new books. Please grab a form in Church or on our website and drop it off at the parish office. I can’t stress enough that with ordering new books, we need to know how many students we’ll have in each grade so that we aren’t over or under ordering. Similarly, we also need to verify your contact information so that we can survey your opinions on some of the potential directions we could go in the upcoming year.
Overall, It’s hard for me to believe that as of last weekend, July 24th, I’ve been here one full year. It’s been an amazing year with all of you! It’s included things that none of us ever could have imagined, and yet, I’m so thankful to be here with you in this community. I hope that together we can continue to work together to build up the kingdom of God here on earth.
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.