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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,
We are very happy to be able to re-start public Masses, and welcome you back into the parish church. We look forward to seeing you, but obviously there are going to be some procedures in place to insure a safe environment that discourages spreading COVID-19.
Considerations for attending a public gathering for Mass
1. Dispensation still in effect! The dispensation from your obligation to attend Mass, given by Bishop Jugis, remains in effect. Therefore, you are not obliged to attend Mass; doing so is your personal decision, after considering the risks;
2. Gatherings have inherent risk of spreading COVID-19: Any decision to attend a public gathering for Mass is that of the individual, and should be made very carefully;
3. Consider staying home: Stay home, and do not attend Mass, if you answer “yes” to any of the following:
a. Do you have signs or symptoms of a new respiratory illness: cough, shortness of breath, fatigue with muscle aches, chills, headaches, sore throat, loss of taste or smell?
b. Have you had a fever within the past 24 hours or do you feel like you have a fever?
c. Have you had contact with anyone in the last 14 days with fever, shortness of breath, or who has been exposed to COVID-19?
d. Have you visited a care facility or hospital in the last 14 days?
4. Bathrooms closed! Our public bathrooms must remain closed; if you or your children cannot make it through Mass without bathroom use, please consider not attending.
LIMITED MASS SCHEDULE - PLEASE NOTE
Public Masses will be held only on:
Friday: 12:10 p.m. (no other daily Masses scheduled for now)
Saturday: 4:00 p.m. (an hour earlier than previously scheduled)
Sunday: 9:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. (7am Mass not scheduled for now)
REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED
Please click this link to sign up for one Mass per week. https://www.signupgenius.com/go/9040b4ca9a922a5ff2-weekend
Masses in the main church only;
• limited to 200 people;
• sign up for only one Mass per week (either weekday or Sunday);
BE PREPARED BEFORE COMING TO MASS - The 3 W's
Wear: A face covering
Wait: At least SIX (6) feet apart when entering the church and when going up for Holy Communition
Wash: Your hands before entering for Mass; Use hand sanitizer before receiving Holy Communion
WHAT TO EXPECT UPON ARRIVAL
ENTERING THE BUILDING FOR MASS:
• Enter through designated side-entry doors at front of building; gathering lobby will be closed.
• Collection basket will be available when you enter; please drop your contribution in the basket
• Our ushers will direct you to available pews; please be attentive and patient.
• Section 1 will be filled first, then section 2, and so on (see Diagram No. 1, below)
SEATING AND SOCIAL DISTANCING FOR MASS:
• Families, and those living in the same household, may sit together with no social distancing from one another; please tell the usher you are together as a family unit.
• Every-other-pew will be available; if not with a family, you must sit 6 feet apart, which is about three (3) persons per pew for most of our pews (shorter pews may be limited to 1-2 people, or one family).
• Please be docile to the requests of ushers/volunteers if they ask you to move; they are only doing so to protect you, and others, by maintaining social distancing.
CONDUCT OF THE MASS - Some things will be different:
• Unfortunately, best practices say that we should not sing during Mass, as it increases the dispersion of respiratory droplets in the space and, thus, increases the likelihood of the spread of any viral infection(s);
• There will be no passing-of-the-baskets for the collection of your monetary offertory; please use available baskets as you enter/exit;
• Gifts of bread and wine will not be brought up the aisle to the priest;
• The sign of peace will not be offered or given, to reduce contact with others;
• You should not hold hands at any time, including during the Our Father.
• Homilies will be brief. Mass must be shortened so that we may sanitize before the next mass
RECEIVING HOLY COMMUNION
No one is under an obligation to receive Holy Communion; if you feel it is a risk to receive, you are free not to do so.
If you choose not to receive, do not come up for a blessing: remain in your seat, and engage in a Spiritual Communion (this will help shorten Communion)
Communion stations will be greatly reduced: the priest and deacon/server will start distribution at the center aisle;
• Center seating sections one (1) and two (2) will be served first (See, Diagram No. 1, above);
• Priest and deacon/server will then move to the wings to serve sections three (3) and four (4).
Should you elect to receive Holy Communion, take note of the following:
i. Please continue to wear a face covering of some type in line, until you present yourself to the minister or priest for the reception of Holy Communion;
ii. Maintain 6-foot spacing for social distancing while in line;
iii. You may receive Our Lord in the hand, or on the tongue;
iv. Those distributing Holy Communion will sanitize their fingers between communicants.
CONCLUSION OF THE MASS AND EXITING
There will be no gathering after mass; the priest, and any deacon/server(s) will process from the altar directly to the sacristy.
The ushers will assist in your exit from the building (see, Diagram No. 2, below): keeping in mind that volunteers will need to sanitize the space in time to start the next Mass, please depart expeditiously.
Feel free to visit with others outdoors, in parking lots, away from the front entrance, once you exit after Mass.
These guidelines are out of love and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and the added consideration of the love, safety, and health of all those who choose to attend Mass in person during this pandemic, and those who are serving at such Masses.
If everyone abides by these guidelines, perhaps opportunities to attend Mass in person will be expanded, and we will help the region and state move out of restrictive Phases, and back to a more normal and typical life in our parish and community.
God bless you all!
Father Christian Cook – Pastor, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church
At the close of Pentecost Sunday, the Easter season came to a close and we entered Ordinary Time in the Church calendar. And perhaps with the coming of Ordinary Time in the life of the Church, we seem to be re-entering into some “ordinary” time in our secular lives, too. As we start to slowly engage in life outside the confines of our homes and return to some normalcy, we continue to pray for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And, as a part of the careful easing of restrictions in our state and county we also pray that the Holy Spirit guide us in returning to the public gathering for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in a safe, prudent manner. We are beginning some communications about signing up to attend limited-attendance indoor Masses, and I ask everyone to be patient and prayerful as we start to engage in gathering for prayer and sacraments together.
Our primary goal is to honor the solemnity of the Mass while, at the same time, protecting all who chose to attend Mass. So I ask that you be especially attentive to our guidance for attending Mass, receiving Holy Communion, and interacting with one another while on campus at Immaculate Conception.
In other news, we have been honored by Bishop Jugis with his assignment of a seminarian to our parish for the summer. Christopher Brock, a seminarian studying for the priesthood for our Diocese, will be with us for about eight weeks this summer. He has completed his first year of theology and, God willing, will be ordained to the Holy Priesthood in 2023. Seminarians are assigned to parishes that the Bishop feels will be helpful in the formation of the seminarian, in his preparation for the priesthood. Immaculate Conception is certainly honored to be entrusted with a seminarian; please introduce yourself to Christopher when you see him!
And finally, our school year –a year that was most unorthodox, indeed, due to COVID-19 –has come to a close with graduation of our 8thgraders on Wednesday, June 3rd. We pray for our graduates, and for their success as they move on to 9thgrade at other schools. And with the close of our school year, many changes and upgrades are coming to Immaculata over the summer. Your capital campaign funds are going to work on upgrading our school building, and its technology, to support the great theological and academic education our students receive. Look for additional updates!
May our Lord Jesus Christ bless you and keep you!