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As we continue to try and manage our lives, both spiritually and practically, in the midst of a pandemic, there continues to be much activity around the parish. Our primary focus right now is preparing our school for face-to-face learning, starting in September. It is quite the challenge, both in taking the proper steps to ensure a safe environment for our teachers and students when they return, and in wrapping up construction. Continue to pray for Immaculata Catholic School, and all involved.
We said goodbye to Fr. Taylor last week, as he headed out to his new assignment at St. Leo’s in Winston-Salem, and today we have both a coming and a going! After eight weeks with us, our seminarian, Christopher Brock, will be returning to his studies as a second-year theologian. We involved Chris in as many activities we could, to help him learn about the realities of parish life for a priest. We only wish he could have gotten to know more of you but, in this very unorthodox time, his activities were necessarily limited. He absolutely enjoyed his time here at Immaculate Conception. Please continue to pray for him, and his vocation; with God’s Grace, he will be ordained to the priesthood in 2023!
This weekend, we also welcome the arrival of our new Parochial Vicar, Fr. Jonathan Torres. Again, because of these times in which we live, his arrival this weekend will be a bit muted. I realize, at least initially, it will be difficult to get to know Fr. Torres until our parish activities resume. But those of you attending weekend Masses will come to know him through the Masses he offers. It is a joy to welcome him to our parish, as I am certain he will serve you well. Please continue to include him in your daily prayers, as he begins his life as a priest of Jesus Christ here at Immaculate Conception.
Know of my prayers for all of you, as we continue in Phase II of our pandemic protocols through August and into early September. Remember, although we cannot yet engage in typical parish activities, the best “group meeting” we can have is that of coming together as one at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; the best “prayer group” we can engage in is the highest form of prayer there is, which is the Mass; and Adoration of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is yours to behold every time the priest raises Him above the altar at Mass. Cherish these things, enter fully into them, and the Lord will continue to grow the virtue of Faith in your heart.
July is typically the month in which Diocesan priests are transferred, and it is the case here at Immaculate Conception this year. Bishop Jugis has asked Father Britt Taylor to serve in a different parish, so he will be leaving Immaculate Conception.
Effective August 4, 2020, Father Taylor will be assigned as Parochial Vicar at St. Leo the Great in Winston, Salem. And while we wish he was not leaving so soon, we know that he will be a valuable asset to St. Leo’s, and their new pastor Father Christopher Gober.
One of the promises a priest makes to his bishop on the day of ordination is that of obedience. And one of the toughest moments to fulfil that promise is when a priest is asked to take on a new assignment. Change is never easy, but it is a constant in the priestly vocation and so, in humble obedience we endeavor to do as our Bishop asks.
So we thank Father Taylor for his service as a priest of Jesus Christ here at Immaculate Conception, where he preached the unchanging Truth of the Faith, where he guided school children in prayer, anointed the sick, forgave sin in the confessional, and helped those who came to know him grow in faith and holiness. A priest is charged as a shepherd of souls, and we thank Father Taylor for being just that in his time with us.
The Bishop will assign another Parochial Vicar to Immaculate Conception, and we pray for whomever that may be. But this weekend, let us focus our prayers in favor of Father Taylor, as he continues his work as a priest of Jesus Christ, for the salvation of souls. Thank you, Father Taylor; may God bless you abundantly!
In Christ, through Mary the Immaculate Conception,
I would like to share the news with you that I have seated a Pastoral Council for Immaculate Conception. Our initial Council will be made up of four parishioners, each appointed for a three-year term, with additional members appointed every year for the next two years. This staggering of initial three-year terms is of great benefit, in that it allows for the regular contribution of new Council members, blended with the stability of experienced Council members, in future years.
Through the Office of Pastor, I am charged with the responsibilities of teaching, sanctifying, and governing the parish. It is indeed the solemn responsibility of the Pastor, alone, to make final decisions in his role of governing the parish, as the Church is not a democracy. However, that does not mean the Pastor’s decisions are made in isolation; quite the contrary. As Pastor I look to advisors from the laity, seated on both the Pastoral and Finance councils, to inform my decisions on governance.
It is through the Pastoral Council and its Commissions that the Christian faithful also give their help in fostering my pastoral activities of teaching and sanctifying the faithful. Members of the Pastoral Council are representative of the faithful of our parish and, therefore, should reflect – to the degree possible – the demographic realities of our parish. In appointing the following parishioners to our initial Pastoral Council, I hope you agree that I will have a good diversity of thought among my advisors.
Suzanne Sherrill and her husband Jon have been parishioners since 1974, and all five of their daughters are graduates of Immaculata Catholic School. Suzanne has previously served on the Liturgy Council and the Altar Flower committee, has been an Extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and was involved in many different school activities through the years. She is also trained as a Tribunal Advocate for the Diocese of Charlotte, assisting Catholics with the annulment process.
Please join me in welcoming this diverse and capable group of Pastoral Council members in their advisory role to their Pastor. I look forward to working with them to develop a Pastoral Plan for the parish of the Immaculate Conception that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, will direct our faith life as Pilgrims on this earth. Please pray for them and their families, as they give of their time and talents for the Greater Glory of God.
In Christ, through Mary the Immaculate Conception,
I want to thank our volunteers, and all those who have ventured out for public indoor Mass, for your attentiveness to our processes that have been put in place for our safety.
Thanks to all who have helped us have limited public Mass again. With that said, cases of COVID-19 continue to grow in Henderson County; and what is concerning to we who gather in a larger group for Mass, is that cases are growing among the population who are non-hospital, non-assisted living cases. Where cases in our County were previously largely confined to those institutions, the virus is now spreading amongst the general population.
Therefore, we must redouble our efforts at safety. I ask that you continue to wear masks at Mass, and keep your social distance of six feet or more. Do not lose focus on these important steps, and especially when exiting Mass. We tend to let our guard down when Mass is over, as our natural tendency is to gather and visit, even as we line up to exit.
As a reminder, the wing sections of the church will exit first, row by row, through the door by which you entered. Once the wings are emptied, the four main center sections will exit. All sections will exit starting with the back row (nearest the exit). Thank you so much for your continued vigilance.
As we liturgically celebrated the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary this past week, let us entrust ourselves to their most Sacred and Immaculate Hearts.
In Christ, through Mary,
I want to thank all the volunteers who helped us resume public Mass last weekend; we should all be thankful to them for their time in preparing, and then implementing, a plan that was both safe and solemn for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
For the foreseeable future, Masses will continue to be size-controlled and via sign-up only. It is crucial that we maintain social distancing, wear our masks, and wash our hands, to try and limit the spread of any viruses, but especially COVID-19.
Relative to wearing your mask/face covering at Mass, I want to encourage those receiving Communion in the hand to remove their mask and consume the Sacrament just to the side of the priest or minister. I know we are getting used to this new way of operating, with our face coverings, but we had far too many returning to their seats with the Blessed Sacrament in their hand, and consuming at their seat. That should not be happening, as that practice lends itself to possible profanation of the Sacrament; the longer you hold our Eucharistic Lord in your hand, the more chance for dropping the Blessed Sacrament. Please try to remove your mask with one hand, and consume the Host right after reception; I ask that parents please discuss this with your children (who receive), prior to Mass.
Two Masses this weekend (the 9:00am and 1:30pm) will conclude with the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, as it is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. As faithful Catholics, we are bound to render homage to God, and we typically do so by kneeling, bowing, folding our hands, and striking our breast. A Procession with the Eucharistic Lord is another way to render homage to the Mystic Body of Christ, and is especially appropriate on this Feast of Corpus Christi.
As Catholics, we believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ being fully present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the Sacred Host. And so, on this Solemnity, we will render homage to Him in a short procession in the spirit of earnest prayer, deep reverence and faith, characterized by penitence, gratitude, and Christian joy. Let our Corpus Christi Procession counter those worldly processions and parades, as we walk with our Lord in a clam and confident procession for peace.
Be assured of my prayers for you all,