Pastor's Message

Dear brothers and sister in Christ,

Despite some of the limitations caused by the pandemic, I trust that you had a beautiful Christmas season. We know that God’s Grace was given to us in abundance this Christmas, and we thank our Lord for that! Unfortunately the community is now feeling the affects of COVID’s rapid spread from those Thanksgiving and Christmas family gatherings. Eighty-four of North Carolina’s one-hundred counties are now in the “red alert” category, which is the critical category for the spread of COVID19; Henderson County is one of those red counties. Because of that fact, and in an abundance of caution to do our part to stop the spread of the virus, we must return to certain limitations that we had in place earlier in the pandemic.

While Sunday Masses will continue with our current precautions in place, no groups however small may meet in campus buildings. The State of North Carolina highlights that the critical spread is due to gatherings of those from different households so, in the Secretarial Directive issued on January 6, 2021, the State asks that we limit our travel and public interactions for the purposes of work, school, healthcare purposes, or caring for family members or to buy food. Additionally, the State asks that there be no gatherings of those who do not live in the same household; if groups must gather, says the Directive, those gatherings should be outdoors. While our gathering for Mass is Constitutionally protected, we are going to do our part to follow these recommendations in non-Mass settings. Therefore, all group gatherings on campus are canceled with immediate effect, and indefinitely.

Additionally, we must redouble our efforts when we gather for Mass: continue to wear masks and social distance at Mass, including keeping your mask over your entire mouth and nose; wash your hands often, and use hand sanitizer prior to entering the church for Mass.

Also remember that gathering at Mass can be one of the most risky things you can do; even with our precautions, gathering for Mass with those from various households can be an opportunity for a rapid spread of COVID19. The risk exists, so please stay home if you have tested positive, are sick, or have even minor symptoms; if anyone in your household has symptoms or has tested positive; or if you are over 65 and/or are in a highrisk category. The dispensation from your Sunday Mass obligation is still in place.

Some have asked questions regarding the COVID19 vaccine, as it relates to Catholic moral teachings. As we know, some vaccines and medicines are made using cell lines gathered decades ago from the bodies and organs of aborted babies. All currently available COVID19 vaccines have some connection to those cell lines. However, the Church teaches that receiving any of the COVID19 vaccines is morally acceptable for Catholics because we have the certain knowledge that this is not formal cooperation in the abortions which occurred decades ago.

Thus, the Catholic who receives these vaccines does not formally cooperate with moral evil, nor is it a moral endorsement of the use of such cell lines in the development of the COVID19 vaccines. However, the Church tells us that we must not become complacent in encouraging vaccine developers to find alternative methods for vaccine development other than the use of cells from aborted babies.

Be assured of my prayers for all of you!

Fr. Cook

During the winter months, confession will be held indoors from 9:30am to 10:30am on Saturdays, with both priests available. No signups will be required; however, you must wear a mask at all times while indoors (unless you qualify for an exemption per State guidelines). This means masks must be worn while standing in line, and while in the confessional. Also, you must maintain social distancing of six (6) feet from nonhousehold members while waiting. As long as these guidelines are met, we will continue to have confessions without signups.

May God bless you all,
Fr. Cook

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

What a joy it is to celebrate the Christ Child coming into the world for the salvation of mankind. This Christmas is certainly one in which we find ourselves in hopeful expectation of emerging from a long darkness caused by the pandemic, but that is what the event of God joining the human condition in the man of Jesus Christ is all about.

Our Savior coming to earth affirms our hope that God always cares for us and loves us, and never leaves us to fend for ourselves. Christmas reminds us that God loves us so much that He joined us in the struggles and challenges of our humanity in becoming Man.

On this Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us especially be reminded that we continue to be cared for by our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, even during times of struggle, and He has not left us alone. As we celebrate Christmas, and the Feast of the Holy Family backtoback this year, let our families join the Holy Family in resting in the great joy and hope that came to earth on the first Christmas, in the Person of Jesus Christ.

It is my prayerful intention that you have a blessed, holy, joyful Christmas and rest in the peace of the coming of the

Lord! In Christ our Savior,
Fr. Cook

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I hope you and your families had a blessed Thanksgiving, in whatever manner you chose to share that holiday. Know that you were all in my prayers as I am thankful for you all, and your prayerful support.

As I noted last week, Christmas Eve is on a Thursday, Christmas Day is Friday, and then the Saturday and Sunday Masses will be held on our typical COVID-era schedule.

And I also remind everyone that your obligation to attend Mass for Holy Days (e.g., Christmas) and Sundays has been suspended by our Bishop, who reminds us to “… exercise prudential judgment in deciding whether to attend Mass.”

In an effort to keep COVID-19 from spreading through our community, please continue to make prudent decisions on whether to attend Christmas Mass with your family; if you have out-of-town visitors, or a large number of family visiting for Christmas, consider not bringing everyone to Mass.

You can also consider signing up for only one Mass during that four-day weekend, since seating capacity will be very limited at all Masses. Given that there is no obligation this year, there is no need to observe both Christmas Day and Sunday Mass during this four-day stretch. Become comfortable with the idea that attending just one of the Masses offered through the four-day period may be a prudent choice for your family.

All the Masses – those of Christmas and the Sunday immediately following – are in the Christmas Octave, so attending only one Mass within that four-day period (Dec. 24th through Dec. 27th) will still be a great celebration of the Nativity. Look for our Christmas Mass schedule to be published soon.

I know the traditions of Christmas are very important to all of us which, for most, include attending Christmas Mass with extended family and visiting friends. Things must necessarily be different this year, so let us all be prudent in preparing for that reality. However, let us also continue to pray for an end to this pandemic, and a return to normalcy.

Please be assured of my prayers for a blessed Advent for you and your families!

In Christ, through Mary the Immaculate Conception,
Fr. Cook

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As the temperatures cool, and the fall colors slowly disappear we all begin to turn our attention to our seasonal plans for Thanksgiving, and the Advent and Christmas season. Unfortunately, we also still have the realities of the pandemic hanging over those plans. With vaccines on the horizon we know that things will improve in due time. The current reality, however, is that our entire State is experiencing increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations; clearly, we are not out of the woods yet.

Our goal is to help our community by doing our part to slow the spread of this virus. We know that large gatherings increase the risk of spreading the virus. Therefore, our current Mass practices (masks, distancing, sign-ups, and a reduced capacity) will continue for the foreseeable future, including the Masses of Christmas.

Christmas Eve is on a Thursday, Christmas Day is Friday, and then the Saturday and Sunday Masses will also be held as normal; that is four straight days of Masses. Typically, we would remind you of your Mass obligations for both Christmas and the Sunday immediately following.

However, recall that your obligation to attend Mass for Holy Days and Sundays has been suspended by our Bishop, who reminds us to “… exercise prudential judgment in deciding whether to attend Mass.” Make prudent decisions in whether to attend Christmas Mass with your family; if you have out-of-town visitors, or a large family, consider not bringing everyone to Mass.

Also, consider signing up for only one Mass during that four-day weekend, since seating capacity will be very limited at all Masses. Given that there is no obligation this year, there is no need to observe both your Christmas Mass and Sunday Mass obligations during this four-day stretch. Become comfortable with the idea that attending just one of the Masses offered through the four-day period may be a prudent choice for your family. Look for our limited Christmas Mass schedule to be published soon.

I know the traditions of Christmas are very important to all of us which, for most, include attending Christmas Mass with extended family and visiting friends. Things will definitely be different this year, and I write this to help us all prepare for that reality. However, continue to pray for an end to this pandemic, and a return to normalcy. For we know, in Christian Hope, that it will be soon.

In Christ, through Mary the Immaculate Conception,

Fr. Cook