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My brothers and sisters in Christ:
Certainly we are all concerned about the Coronavirus (COVID-19), especially in that we have many parishioners who are in populations that are considered to be in high-risk categories. First, and foremost, we must commend this matter to prayer; we must ask Almighty God to avert this pandemic from us, and to bless and protect all healthcare professionals on the front lines of fighting this virus. Second, Bishop Jugis has asked us to make greater efforts to reduce person-to-person contact and large gatherings, in an effort to reduce exposure to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
To that end, I am taking the following actions; keep in mind, we hope these actions will be necessary for a relatively short time, so do not let them overwhelm you:
* The Bishop of Charlotte has waived the obligation of the faithful to attend Sunday Mass (which naturally includes the Anticipated Mass of Saturday, known as the Saturday Vigil); therefore, you are not obligated to come to Mass, whether you are ill or not; make the prudent choice for you and your family, keeping in mind that Gov. Cooper (NC) has asked us to avoid gatherings, especially those over 100 people.
* All functions and activities, except Holy Mass and Confessions, are cancelled through April 5, 2020. At that time, we will reevaluate the situation, and may need to extend this period.
* You will notice that all books (missalettes, hymnals, and the like) have been removed from the church, as have the Holy Water fonts.
* There shall be no hand shaking, hand holding, and the like during Mass; the Sign of Peace will not be offered.
* The faithful may receive Holy Communion during Mass in the following manner: in the hand, on the tongue, or may refrain from either, and engage in spiritual communion. The decision on how to receive Holy Communion is that of the communicant, using reason and personal piety.
* Lay Extraordinary Ministers shall not be taking Communion to the homebound, retirement/rest homes, or hospitals, until further notice. Therefore, do not fill a pyx with a host prior to Mass, as you have typically done. In the case of the danger of death, where there is a need for Communion/viaticum, and/or anointing, a priest should be notified by the family.
* Through April 5, 2020, and subject to extension, all non-liturgical functions at the Church, St. Joseph Center, and school are cancelled, including, for example, faith formation, youth groups, prayer groups, ministries, social activities, support groups, retreats, study groups, group meetings, RCIA, Donut Sunday, and choir practices. Please consider distance learning and conference calls for functions like RCIA, and various board/council meetings (e.g., St Gerard Board, Finance Council, etc., who meet in the SJC/meeting rooms).
* All Public Stations of the Cross on Friday’s are cancelled (feel free to pray this devotion on your own); also cancelled is Adoration and Fr. Cook’s conference on Tuesday evenings; no groups may gather for Adoration until further notice.
* Any room reservations for groups, meetings, etc., are hereby cancelled; you are not to meet at the SJC or in the church or school, and will have to make other arrangements during this period. Consider meeting in homes, or alternative places, if you so choose; Base Communities must make their own decisions as to whether to continue to meet during this pandemic.
* The Church building will be locked at 3:00pm every day (except Saturday and Sunday, when the Church shall be locked as soon as possible after the final Mass of the day), so that our maintenance staff can conduct sanitizing and cleaning activities, according to CDC guidelines, to prepare the space for the next day.
* The Parish office will be open, although it may become necessary to close to the public (you would still be able to interact with our office via telephone/email/U.S. Mail, should we need to close our office to visitors; as of now, our staff plans to be working).
* Finally, I would ask the faithful of our Parish to continue your stewardship of treasure by continuing your financial support of our parish during these trying times. We encourage parishioners who may not be able to attend Mass to continue their weekly offertory gifts to the parish through the mail or electronic giving. We want to continue to pay our employees and pay our bills, but we also anticipate charitable needs to increase during this pandemic.
Please know of my prayers, and the prayers of Fr. Taylor, and Deacon’s Mark and Sig, for you all. Please join us in prayer, as we entrust all things to God. We will make it through this, with the help of God, and by making well-informed decisions about our public interactions.
Rev. W. Christian Cook
Pastor, Immaculate Conception
Most Rev. Peter Jugis, Bishop of Charlotte, has waived the obligation of the faithful to attend Sunday Mass, effective immediately, and until further notice. Therefore, you are not obligated to attend Mass on Sundays, whether suffering from illness or not. The Sign of Peace will not be extended during Mass, nor are those in attendance to hold, or shake, hands at any time. Options for the reception of Holy Communion are to receive on the tongue, on the hand, or to refrain, and elect to enter into a spiritual Communion. It is the responsibility of the faithful to decide, with reason and piety, which option is best. Holy Water fonts will be empty, and hymnals/missalettes will be removed from public availability. These are the most urgent details that needed to be released immediately.
Further restrictions for our Parish are forthcoming, and will be released soon.
As COVID-19 continues to evolve, we must be especially careful to limit human contact, out of an abundance of caution. In addition to the precautionary steps we have already taken, for Masses this weekend and for an indefinite period, we are eliminating the use of holy water fonts, and will no longer extend the Sign of Peace. I remind you to wash your hands regularly, and stay home if you are sick. Remember, it is not sinful to miss Mass when you are sick. You remain in my prayers during this Lenten season.
It is my prayerful hope that your Lent has gotten off to a good start, and that you are entering more fully into a life of prayer, penance, and almsgiving. You were all made aware of some of the changes we had to make last weekend, after priests received a letter from Bishop Jugis on 28 February 2020, regarding the Covid19 Coronavirus situation.
I wanted to take a moment to address that situation more fully. Bishop Jugis has asked all priests “... to exercise special precautions during the celebration of the Mass and implement protocols ... to minimize the potential for coronavirus and flu [to] spread.”
In following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), the Bishop reminded us to remind you to cover all coughs and sneezes, to clean all “hightouch” surfaces regularly, to avoid shaking/holding hands, and to refrain from sharing personal items (dishes, cups, utensils, etc.).
To that end, the Bishop has requested that we not extend the Sign of Peace, distribute the Precious Blood at Holy Communion, and generally reduce occasions for infection. Therefore, Holy Communion will be distributed in only one form (consecrated Hosts) indefinitely; I ask you not to hold hands at the Our Father nor shake hands at the Sign of Peace, and to remain home if you are sick in any way.
In his letter, Bishop Jugis reminds us that you are “... legitimately excused from Mass if symptoms are present or [you] have any reason to suspect that [you] have been exposed to the virus,” be it the flu, coronavirus, or anything else.
Let us all act responsibly in our group interactions (at Mass, parish and school functions, etc.) to minimize the likelihood of infection and the disruption it would cause.
God bless you all, and be assured of my prayers.
We enter into the Lenten season of the Church calendar on Ash Wednesday, which is this Wednesday, February 26th. Masses on Ash Wednesday will be at 8:30am and 12:10pm in the main church, in which ashes will be distributed. Evening services led by our Deacons (to include the Liturgy of the Word and distribution of ashes) will be at 6:00pm (English) and 8:00pm (Spanish). While not a Holy Day of Obligation, Ash Wednesday is one of the more popular and wellattended days in Catholic parishes, thus the additional evening services for the distribution of ashes.
Ash Wednesday is also a day of obligatory fasting and abstinence in the Latin Catholic Church. For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.
As the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops reminds us, “No Catholic Christian will lightly excuse himself from so hallowed an obligation on the Wednesday which solemnly opens the Lenten season ....” And our Bishop’s Conference also reminds us that every Friday of Lent is a day of abstinence from meat: “In keeping with the letter and spirit of Pope Paul's Constitution Poenitemini, we preserved for our dioceses the tradition of abstinence from meat on each of the Fridays of Lent, confident that no Catholic Christian will lightly hold himself excused from this penitential practice.”
Let us take care, here at Immaculate Conception, to enter into these disciplines, not in a spirit of merely following Church rules for their own sake but, rather, as a way to more fully prepare for a deeper understanding and enjoyment of the Easter mysteries for which Lent is the ancient penitential preparation.
Also during Lent, in keeping with the solemnity of the season, and in harmony with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, “... steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 54). So, we all look forward to our choir offering certain parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, as we learn together those beautiful chants.
As we seek to enter more deeply into this penitential season, I also invite you to take part in our parishwide study, a retreattype program in small groups, about which further details will soon be shared.
Let us continue to pray for one another, especially during this season of Lent, that we are given the Grace to enter into prayer, the service of almsgiving, and the selfdenial of fasting and abstinence, as fruitful observances in which we come to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We are called to the true conversion of our hearts and minds as followers of Christ. We recall those waters in which we were baptized into Christ's death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ.