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My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The Lord has Risen, and for that we all rejoice! We celebrate the resurrection of the Lord on Easter not to presume that we have all arrived at the same end, but to be reminded of what awaits us if we follow the Lord with our entire heart, mind, and soul.
It has been a challenging year, and some of those challenges will continue for some uncertain time. But as we walked through the desert in lent, we were assured that God remained with his people always, even in times of pandemic.
Allow the Risen Lord to be close to you by practicing the virtue of faith in the resurrection, even during the continuing challenges of this pandemic. Continue to offer sacrifices to our Lord in the hope that you too will be raised on the last day.
Remember that Easter is not a oneday celebration, but rather a season. Let us continue to celebrate the Octave of Easter and the season of Easter with great hope, faith, and love. I wish you and your families a happy and blessed Easter season.
Our newly formed Stewardship Committee seeks to build a culture in our Parish wherein we seek to give of our time, talent and treasure in gratitude to God for all He has given us. Stewardship is a spiritual way of life, a conversion process based not on the Church’s need to receive, but rather on the individual’s need to give out of love for God and for one another.
Stewardship is based on the fact that each of us has been given unique gifts and talents from God. It is part of our calling to discern, develop and use these gifts. It is giving of the first fruits of our time, talent and treasure and should embrace all aspects of our lifeFamily, Church and Community. Our stewardship committee members are: Gayden Gauthier, Chair, Susan Boykin, John Maimone, Colin Thomas, Jay Thorndike and Jim Welter.
As we recover from Covid and open up for more Masses and increased attendance, we will eventually need more of you to give of your time and talents as ushers, Eucharistic ministers, readers, etc. As you discern how to thank God with your time, treasure and talent, ask yourself “What gifts has God given me that I can give back to God and His Church as we start to return to a more normal parish life?”
You will start to hear more from our Stewardship Committee in the coming months, as we all seek to put God first in our lives, as we come to trust in God’s will in all things, and seek to become more proactive in growing a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. If you have questions or want to learn more about stewardship, please reach out to any stewardship committee member. Thank you for your support.
Fr. Christian Cook, Pastor
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This weekend we celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent, also known as Laetare Sunday, which is traditionally a day of celebration within the typically muted days of Lent. This Sunday gets its name from the first few words of the traditional Latin entrance (Introit) for the Mass of the day, "Laetare Jerusalem" ("Rejoice, O Jerusalem").
A Sunday of rejoicing lets us step away from our Lenten sacrifices, if only for a moment, to recharge our spirit for continuing our perseverance towards the Risen Lord! And might that be analogous to our lives in general, in that we experience a toggling between sufferings and consolations over time? The moments of rejoicing console us after some of life’s challenges or prepare and strengthen us for trials to come.
During this pandemic, we have certainly experienced our share of challenges, suffering, loss and simple, but irritating, inconveniences. However, we are starting to get a sense that there is a new day ahead soon, one we have been hoping for in Faith - vaccines are being distributed, restrictions are carefully being eased, and life seems to be returning to a sense of normalcy.
And while we must continue to be very prudent and careful - continuing limited Mass attendance, wearing masks, distancing and washing our hands - we can be encouraged by the good news around us.
One of the best gifts we will realize in the coming weeks is that we will be able to enter into the liturgies of Holy Week and Easter together, something we could not do last year; also, we are looking at developing safe ways for family members to start bringing Holy Communion to those with whom they live; we are restarting a limited public daily Mass schedule that we hope will expand over time; and, at some time yet to be determined, we are hoping to have some sort of parish celebration or festival to celebrate that day when we can safely gather in large groups again.
So, on this Laetare Sunday, let us all take a break from the sacrifices of Lent - in fact, the sacrifices of our lives - and spend some time rejoicing in the Lord today! There is much to rejoice about on our journey, but most especially we rejoice always because our Lord has saved us from our sins and given us the prospect of Heaven for all eternity - a Heaven in which we will be free from death, sorrow, and suffering forever! Rejoice, O Jerusalem!
I hope Lent has gotten off to a prayerful start for you and your families. As we continue our journey in the desert of the 40 days of Lent, we recognize that sacrifice is the way to Heaven, and during Lent we seek to practice sacrifice in imitation of the sufferings of Jesus Christ. We sacrifice out of love for God and for one another in following the Greatest Commandment. It is certainly not easy to sacrifice and suffer, but when we do it out of love for God and for one another, we start to see the wisdom of Jesus’ Greatest Commandment.
Our newly formed Stewardship Committee seeks to build exactly that culture in our Parish, as we seek to give of our time, talent and treasure in gratitude to God for all He has given us. Stewardship is a spiritual way of life, a conversion process based not on the Church’s need to receive, but rather on the individual’s need to give out of love for God and for one another.
You will start to hear more from our Stewardship Committee in the coming months, as we all seek to put God first in our lives, as we come to trust in God’s will in all things, and seek to become more proactive in growing a more intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
Part of our sacrifice this past year, which continues into this Lenten season, has been doing our part to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus; again, our sacrifice out of love for others has not been easy, but it has been what God has asked of us, and we must trust in His will. As the trend of the virus seems to be stabilizing in North Carolina, the State is easing some of its restrictions.
While we must remain cautious, and continue to socially distance, wear masks, wash our hands, and sanitize our public spaces to ensure that trends continue in a positive direction, we too can carefully and gradually expand our activities. We will slowly increase the number of weekend Mass signup slots available in the coming weeks, increase capacity in our Chapel for daily prayer (Mon. - Thur.), and we will have two public weekday Masses in the main church at 9:00am on Tuesdays and Thursdays, beginning March 9, 2021 (no signup required, unless it later becomes necessary; masks and distancing of 6 feet required).
As we enter our third week of Lent, let us give our first fruits - of time, talent and treasure - to God in gratitude, building in us a deeper trust in God’s Divine Providence in all things … even a pandemic! I assure you of my prayers for you and your family.
In Christ, through Mary the Immaculate Conception,
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is substantial, and we have all been affected by it in one way or another. There are really no areas of our lives that remain untouched by its impact. We see not only impacts to the physical health of our world, but also the crushing economic impact the pandemic has had on families and businesses and organizations of all kinds. Revenue is decreasing such that some organizations have been forced to close, while others have had to lay off employees in an attempt to survive financially.
Unfortunately, the economic downturn has greatly impacted churches too; Immaculate Conception Parish is no exception. As I have shared with you before, like most organizations our revenue has decreased substantially during the pandemic. We have cut expenses tremendously, and yet our must-pay expenses still outpace our income. After cutting our nonpayroll expenses as low as they can go, we now have no choice but to cut expenses associated with staff salaries.
While we have been able to maintain our entire staff at full strength since the outbreak of the pandemic, we can no longer sustain that spending; we have to be good stewards of the financial resources you, our parishioners, have blessed us with and cannot spend our savings down to nothing. Therefore, like many organizations in the country, we too have had to eliminate some staff positions.
After much prayer, and analysis of our financial situation by our Finance Council, our parish has had to eliminate three staff positions because we simply cannot afford them any longer. The positions affected are those of the Director of Music Ministry, the position of Pastoral Associate, and a custodial/cleaning position. Similar positions have been eliminated in parishes throughout the Diocese; we are not the only parish having to make these tough decisions. Although we held out hope that the economic downturn would not impact our staff members directly, it now has.
I can assure you that this was a decision of last resort, and we have made every effort to charitably assist the staff members affected by this unfortunate reality.
We do not know when we will begin to recover financially; in the near-term, however, we will rely on volunteers to assist with music at Masses, and we will begin to reorganize the remaining staff to cover the job duties of the other eliminated positions mentioned. We will continue to stay focused on our core parish mission, which is to lead all to their Home in Heaven with our Lord.
Our parish income is derived solely through your generous contributions and donations to our parish in thanksgiving for what God has given you and your family. Giving out of thanksgiving is at the heart of stewardship in the Catholic Church.
For it is through this authentic stewardship giving of your time, treasure and talents in thanksgiving to God that our parish will most effectively recover financially. Let us continue to pray for one another, and especially for those former staff members who have now been effected most directly by this unfortunate economic situation.
In Christ, through Mary the Immaculate Conception,