From the Pastor: March 19, 2020

March 19, 2020

Dear Parishioners,

I write to give you something of an update on the parish and my desire to communicate with you in an ongoing and personal fashion. The pain of being separated from one another and the sacraments, especially at daily and Sunday Mass, has been expressed by many of you. Being physically separated from parish life has also been a significant challenge, especially for those who have been meeting regularly for prayer or spiritual direction. Many miss the chance to stop by the Parish House, if only to say hello to Rebecca, Nichelle, Agnes, or Maria at the receptionist’s desk. You are not alone with these feelings. They are shared by all of us, including Fathers Bergen, Grodecki, Hilbert, O’Connell and myself. By our nature we are social beings, and when we are apart we feel out of sorts and desolate.

We are a skeleton crew at the parish. Bob Cisternino, Director of Facilities, Jim Daly, Director of Security at the Grammar School, and the maintenance crew have been doing an extraordinary job sanitizing and maintaining the church, the school, and the Parish House. It is because of their efforts that we are able to keep the church open from 8:00 AM through 6:00 PM for private prayer. All other members of the parish staff are working from home.

I recognize the most critical task that we are facing is how to keep in touch with you. We are blessed with many resources at the parish. These past couple of weeks, however, revealed that our ability to communicate with parishioners is limited. I will give you two examples. There are approximately 3500 registered households, but we have fewer than 600 email addresses. You can help to remedy that by emailing your email address to Elizabeth O’Sullivan, Director of Communications, at [email protected]  Also, we lack the equipment to live stream. We are working on the issue and hope to be able to post on our website videos of Masses from the church.

In the absence of a live Mass from the church, Elizabeth has posted on the parish website At-Home Prayer Resources that will allow you to access live-stream Masses. One in particular is “Catholic Faith Network” that you can access online or through the various cable services.

Yesterday afternoon I participated in a video conference with Cardinal Dolan and his staff. I bring to your attention several things that were discussed. 

● The Archdiocesan Day of Reconciliation is cancelled. Private confession, by appointment, will take place with a distance of 6’ to 8’ between the penitent and the priest. Confessions can be heard outside, in the fresh air.

● As for funerals, it is strongly recommended that there be a burial in a timely fashion and the celebration of a Memorial Mass in the future. Since no more than 10 people can congregate at any given event, the safest thing to do is to postpone all Funeral Masses. 

● Weddings are to be limited to 4 people – the bride, the groom, and two witnesses. Here as well, the recommendation is to postpone all weddings to future dates.

● If the Sacrament of the Sick is requested, the priest will wear a face mask and gloves throughout the anointing. 

These directives from the Cardinal and his staff are being implemented to safeguard the health of everyone and slow the spread of infection.

Given the current reports of the likely length of this crisis, I have decided to postpone the First Holy Communion and Confirmation of our children and teenagers. Also postponed are the acceptance into the Church, Baptisms and Confirmations of our RCIA candidates who otherwise would have received these sacraments at the Easter Vigil. The realistic expectation is that all Holy Week services will be canceled since there will not be adecision to resume all Masses until the end of April.

If you would like to stretch your legs and get out, there is no better destination than the church where you can pray before the Blessed Sacrament. As I have already noted, the church will be open from 8:00 AM through 6:00 PM seven days a week.

I wrote in an earlier letter to you that we are not alone in this moment of pain and suffering. God is ever faithful and is with us. Jesus accompanies us. And we have one another. I am reminded of Job who suffered countless misfortunes and in the midst of the whirlwind that was confounding his life and testing his faith, God spoke to him and brought comfort to his anguish and suffering. God is speaking to you now; do you hear him?

I will write to you again with more updates and hope to inform you that we have been successful in finding a way to bring you the celebration of the Mass from the sanctuary of our beautiful church.

Let us continue to pray for one another and for those directly affected by the virus, their caregivers, and families. God bless you!

Sincerely in the Lord,
Fr. Yesalonia

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