Hello again today. I thought you might like to see the direct information we get from the Archdiocese. It gives me hope that soon we will not so much get back to normal but begin to get back! Here is the latest communication from Msgr La Morte the Vicar General. I don't have any plans yet put into place but I am open to your suggestions and good advice. Again, I thought you my care to read my mail today!
O FFICE OF THE VICAR GENERAL ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW YORK
To: Brother Priests and Permanent Deacons
From: Father LaMorte
Date: May 11, 2020
Subject: Bollittino XXXI
WHEN TO REOPEN OUR CHURCHES It has been difficult over these last several weeks to be physically separated from our parishes and the sacraments and to be together for Mass. We limited these things to offerings without the physical presence of the faithful as a way of preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Many have done a wonderful job providing for livestream Masses and devotions. We know how deeply our people yearn to come to Mass and receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament or find forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation.
We have begun the work of developing a protocol for the careful and gradual reopening of our churches as soon as it is safe to do so. Over the last several weeks, a group of six pastors and other senior staff members from the Catholic Center have been meeting via teleconferences so that we can make our recommendations to the cardinal. I can report to you now that the plan will place the safety of everyone in our community at the forefront of everything we do. We will also work in concert with Brooklyn, Rockville Centre, Bridgeport, Albany and Newark to provide a coordinated and consistent approach.
Our first step was to reopen convents and other religious houses on May 1 for weekday Mass, without the public, and with physical distancing requirements in place. Next, we opened the five allied cemeteries for Mother’s Day visits, and many parish cemeteries within the archdiocese did the same. In time, baptisms, confessions, weddings, anointing, and funerals might resume – all with limits on the number of people present and with physical distancing and sanitizing practices in place.
Weekday Masses will likely resume, again with distancing and restrictions on attendance. To assist you in your planning, the three images that are attached (floor plans and caution tapes for pews) may be used as a guide. Even when these Masses begin again, not every parish will be able to make them available. Some of our larger parishes may find it difficult to limit attendance at Mass and may choose to delay. Pastors will need to work with area deans and episcopal vicars to collaborate with other nearby parishes to make Masses available regionally.
Once Masses resume, the obligation to attend will initially remain suspended, understanding that people may not immediately feel comfortable gathering in large groups. Anyone who is ill or is vulnerable due to an existing health condition will be asked not to attend Masses. Anyone who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 will be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days before coming to Mass.
Our Masses will look different from our liturgies prior to the pandemic because of distancing and the use of personal protective equipment. The sign of peace will be omitted and we will be offering communion on the extended hand and will suspend the option of the Precious Blood during the distribution of the Eucharist. Our priests and deacons might not be able to greet you before or after Mass and there may be some changes in how we line up to receive the Blessed Sacrament. There will also be mandatory spacing of families and individuals in pews and a recommendation for the masking of faces.
Once plans are finalized, we will share detailed guidance for our parish leaders and our entire faith community. There is a lot we still don’t know about the restart. We will move forward when it is safe, relying on the informed guidance of health and state officials.
We understand that regional reopening within New York State may begin as early as this month and will occur in four phases. The first will include construction and manufacturing and some retail stores to reopen for curbside pickup. Phase two is the broadest part of the reopening, and includes professional services, more retailers and real estate firms, finance, insurance, and administrative support, among others. Phase three includes restaurants, bars, food services and hotels. The last pieces of regular life to reopen will be the places many of us go to unwind or to enrich ourselves: arts, entertainment, recreation and education. Houses of worship are absent as a category on the list which might be good, since, while we carefully heed protective guidelines, we are an essential service, and can make our own prudent and safe decisions about gradual reopening.
We have all been asked to be patient as we navigate what will be a complex and challenging process for all of us.
PASTORAL CARE FOR THOSE SUFFERING FROM COVID-19 A team of priests has been organized to provide the sacraments to those suffering from COVID-19. They have been trained, equipped, and can quarantine without affecting other priests in the rectory. Pastors may contact their regional bishop if any parishioner at home or in a nursing home is in need of the sacraments. He will arrange for a priest.
SUMMER MONTHS ARE FAST APPROACHING As of now, it does not appear likely that international priests will be able to come to America from other countries to provide summer assistance. Should this become possible, we must also remember that anyone entering the country would need to quarantine for two weeks, so you would be supporting a priest for this period without any possibility of him providing service to your parish. The Capuchin Franciscans Friars of the Renewal have volunteered to help with Masses. Next month, we will send further information on how to avail yourself of this service.
Since areas of the archdiocese will be opening up at different times, depending upon their locality within the state, priests currently assigned to metropolitan area parishes which might probably remain closed till the end of the quarantine will be available to assist in the northern counties. Bishop Ed Whalen will be eager to speak with you if you need help or can assist.
CONSOLIDATED BILLS As we are all aware, payments of the consolidated invoices are required to maintain solvency in the archdiocesan insurance, medical, and pension programs. Under ordinary circumstances, but especially in these days of quarantine, it is vital that these bills be kept current on a monthly basis so that the various programs can meet their current and future obligations. Thanks to all for assisting with this.
on Thursday, May 14 at 4:32PM