FROM THE PASTOR’S CORNER:
A word from St. Pope John Paul II ~ “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”
Last weekend was supposed to be a holiday weekend – Memorial Day weekend – launching the summer season. Even though I tried to take a mental health break with the three “Lord of the Ring” movies, I spent most of Saturday, Sunday and Monday responding to a flood of emails that I received from many well meaning parishioners asking why our church had not re-opened for Sunday Mass. What triggered this flood was the President’s announcement on the preceding Friday that churches throughout the country would be open last weekend. With each email I tried to patiently explain how we needed to put safety first and follow the lead of the medical experts in stemming the spread of this deadly virus. The Bishops of Illinois, in consultation with the Center for Disease Control and major health departments throughout the state have given us a very detailed plan in their “Phased Re-opening of Our Churches In the Decline and Aftermath of COVID-19 Pandemic.”
The Bishop’s plan contains very detailed step-by-step instructions listing the security precautions and conditions for us to re-open – even in a very limited sense with 10 people or less being present for Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals. I appreciate their primary concern for safety, especially since I myself am considered “high risk” due to my age and the acute saddle pulmonary embolism that landed me in Central DuPage Hospital for over a week last November.
Many of the details of the Bishops’ plan need to be worked out. Some steps have been taken already, like ordering sanitizing supplies, face masks that will be required for all and temperature devises to check each person entering the church. We’ve begun work on completing our “Parish Re-Opening Plan” to be submitted and approved by the Diocese of Joliet before we can take the next steps.
Our parish Plan must give details about the roles and conditions that are required to meet the safety considerations, especially the before, during and after sanitation procedures we must do for each Mass and service in the church. Recruiting and training volunteers to act as greeters asking the appropriate questions of each person entering the church, ushers to seat them in pre-designated seats and sanitation crews to prepare the church for the next event are under way. Social distancing, hand sanitizers and face masks will be the norm for some time. The first phase will allow services with ten or fewer people for Baptism, Weddings and Funerals. We are looking for creative ways to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation without having to sanitize the Reconciliation Room after each use. We’ve already found a way to resume Adoration of the Eucharist with the drive-up in the west parking lot.
As far as the public celebration of Mass is concerned, we were instructed that “those parishes live-streaming or producing videos of Masses are encouraged to continue doing so for the indefinite future.” As this includes our parish, we will continue to make our live-streamed Masses available. This is the most hopeful news. The rest is very discouraging. I often feel like I am in a no-win situation. Today’s celebration of the Feast of Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit bestowed among us and the positive things that we are doing now give me hope. We will certainly continue taking those steps. But we have a very long road ahead of us. Communication continues to be a priority for us. I have no idea of what our “new normal” will look like – but God knows and God will see us through this. Let us continue to pray for each other.
A few other things. On this final Sunday of May, we celebrate the feast of Pentecost – the 50th day of Easter. It began as a Jewish celebration of the wheat harvest in the late spring, taking place when the harvest was ready. Gradually it became customary to celebrate the feast 50 days after the Passover (the word “pentecost” is Greek for 50th day). For the Christian community, Pentecost is really a double celebration. It is both a remembering and a celebration. We remember how Jesus fulfilled his promise to send another Advocate – the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. The details are given us in today’s first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles. But we also celebrate Jesus’ constant sending of the Holy Spirit to his disciples, beginning actually on Easter night (our Gospel reading) and continuing into our own day. Whenever we are frightened, feel lost or overwhelmed, Jesus quietly seeks us out, calms our fears, and assures us that he is still with us.
Pentecost is really an ongoing event and not just past history. The Spirit of God is truly alive and at work in our lives today as we seek to grow as disciples of the Lord Jesus. St. Paul tells us that the gifts of the Spirit are “love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness and chastity” (Galatians 5:22-23). The presence of these gifts is a sure sign of the presence of the Spirit. We need the gift of the Spirit now more than ever.
With today’s feast of Pentecost we mark the end of the Easter Season. We have been blessed throughout our celebration of this season of God’s life within us. We may have had to look harder for those blessings, but they are there. God has been with us as we reached this point in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and God will continue to see us through it. We are not alone. May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy