LETTER FROM FR. O'CONNOR
Dear Friends in Christ,
It is with great joy that I write this letter to all of our parishioners at St. John XXIII. As you may have already heard, I am pleased to announce that, with the permission of Bishop Brennan, we will return to having public Mass. Daily Mass will begin on May 25th, Memorial Day, and weekend Masses will return on May 30th and 31st, on which we as a Church will celebrate Pentecost, the great Solemnity of the Holy Spirit. Mass times will remain the same as before, weekdays at 8:30 a.m., Saturday vigil at 5:00 p.m., and Sunday at 9:00 a.m. & 11:00 a.m. In the coming weeks, we will shift to our normal confession times and our Wednesday evening Holy Hour as well. This is welcome news, and a sign of our fulfilled hope in Jesus Christ, who sees us through even the most difficult of times. Coming together to worship at Mass is the best and most important way for us to experience our closeness with Jesus Christ, and His great love for us.
While this is certainly cause to rejoice, we must also be reminded that this is still a time in which we must act very prudently. In addition to allowing us to return to the public Sacramental life, Bishop Brennan has dispensed the obligation to attend Sunday Mass until at least September 13th. This is so that no one who feels they should not leave the safety of their homes at this time will feel any pressure to come to Mass on Sunday. I cannot stress enough this aspect of Bishop Brennan’s announcement. If you fall under any sort of “at risk” category, I encourage you to stay at home, and to not return to Mass until it is safe for you to do so. This is for anyone who may be over a certain age, has any sort of compromised immune system, for anyone who has underlying health risks, or anyone acting as a caregiver to another at risk family member. If you are unsure, please speak with your physician. While I certainly want to see everyone back at the parish, it is much more important that we keep safety as a primary focus, and for some of us that may mean a delay in coming back to Church.
In keeping with this theme of prudently reopening, I want to let you know that there will be a number of slight changes in how we go about our normal Mass procedures. For a time, there will be limited seating, as we will be trying to keep our capacity at about 33% of normal, so that means we will try to limit attendance at each Mass to around 160 people. For this reason, I would like to encourage anyone who could attend Mass during the week to consider doing so. Since the obligation to attend Sunday Mass has been lifted, it would be perfectly fine to attend Mass and make a weekly communion on another day.
While at Mass, we will be practicing social distancing in every possible way. This means that seating will look differently than before, and that when your family arrives we will have an usher seat you. There will be less music at Mass, and the liturgy will have an overall simpler atmosphere. During Communion, there will be only one line (for social distancing purposes) and ushers will dismiss you by pew. Everyone who attends is strongly encouraged to wear a face covering and to bring hand sanitizer for their own use. Initially, only the church and the gathering space will be open during Mass times. I won’t list every small change in this letter; I simply ask for your patience and understanding. Also know that things may change week-to-week, as we will be trying to do our best, but have obviously never experienced anything quite like this before.
For those who will not be returning to Mass right away, I wanted to let you know that I am dedicating Tuesday and Thursday afternoon to doing Communion calls to parishioners’ homes. I want to make sure that, even though it may not currently be safe or prudent to attend Mass, you still have access to the Sacraments. Scheduling these will be similar to how we currently schedule confession appointments. Also, as there will likely not be an insignificant number, these may be less social than normal Communion calls typically are, to not only provide efficiency through brevity, but to keep the focus of the visit primarily on the experience of Christ through his Sacraments. Starting on May 26th, if you would like to schedule Communion Calls, please call the parish office at 614-920-1563.
Our parish offices will reopen for normal business on Tuesday, May 26th. However, to make sure that we are being as safe as possible, we will have only limited hours open to the public, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. After that, other staff will have the opportunity to work while being socially distant, as well as the ability to schedule appointments, so that we are keeping the total number of people in the offices under 10. I ask all who come into the office, to check your temperature before coming in and please wear a mask. Again, please be patient as we put in practices designed to keep everyone safe.
Lastly, I want to again reaffirm my joy at being able to return to the public Sacramental life. I encourage you all to read Bishop Brennan’s letter, which is available on the Diocesan website, www.ColumbusCatholic.org. Furthermore, I would ask that we all begin to use our own parish website, www.sjxxiii.org, as the primary place to go for up to date information as we continue to reopen and get closer to a normal operating procedure. Above all, I ask that we all stay safe, and the best way to do so is to exercise the virtue of prudence. Consider if it is safe for you to go to church (or anywhere) before doing so. Make sure you don’t have symptoms, and if you may have encountered someone with symptoms, consider staying at home. I will continue, as I have been, to pray for you daily. We have all experienced in some way Christ’s love, and His willingness to suffer with us, during this time, and this will become more pronounced in the weeks to come. Let us entrust ourselves, in this month of May, to the loving protection of His mother. Our Lady, the Health of Christians, continue to pray for us.
I remain faithfully yours,
Fr. Brian J. O’Connor
Pope Francis’ Prayer to Our Lady
O Mary, you always shine on our path as a sign of salvation and of hope. We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick, who at the cross took part in Jesus’ pain, keeping your faith firm. You, Salvation of the Roman People, know what we need, and we are sure you will provide so that, as in Cana of Galilee, we may return to joy and to feasting after this time of trial. Help us, Mother of Divine Love, to conform to the will of the Father and to do as we are told by Jesus, who has taken upon Himself our sufferings and carried our sorrows to lead us, through the cross, to the joy of the Resurrection. Amen. Under your protection, we seek refuge, Holy Mother of God. Do not disdain the entreaties of we who are in trial, but deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin.