Pastor's Message

ACTUALIZACIONES URGENTES SOBRE CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) - 14 de marzo de 2020


Mis hermanos y hermanas en Cristo:


Ciertamente, todos estamos preocupados por el Coronavirus (COVID-19), especialmente porque tenemos muchos feligreses que se encuentran en poblaciones consideradas en categorías de alto riesgo. Primero y ante todo, debemos recomendar este asunto a la oración; debemos pedirle a Dios Todopoderoso que evite esta pandemia de nosotros y que bendiga y proteja a todos los profesionales de la salud en la primera línea de lucha contra este virus. En segundo lugar, el obispo Jugis nos ha pedido que hagamos mayores esfuerzos para reducir el contacto de persona a persona y las grandes reuniones, en un esfuerzo por reducir la exposición al coronavirus (COVID-19).


Con ese fin, estoy tomando las siguientes acciones; tenga en cuenta que esperamos que estas acciones sean necesarias por un tiempo relativamente corto, así que no permita que lo abrumen:


• El obispo de Charlotte ha renunciado a la obligación de los fieles de asistir a la misa dominical (que naturalmente incluye la misa anticipada del sábado, conocida como la vigilia del sábado); por lo tanto, no está obligado a venir a misa, esté enfermo o no; tome la decisión prudente para usted y su familia, teniendo en cuenta que el Gobernador Cooper (NC) nos ha pedido que evitemos las reuniones, especialmente aquellas de más de 100 personas.

Todas las funciones y actividades, excepto la Santa Misa y las Confesiones, se cancelan hasta el 5 de abril de 2020. En ese momento, volveremos a evaluar la situación y es posible que necesitemos extender este período.


• Notará que todos los libros (missalettes, himnarios y similares) se han eliminado de la iglesia, al igual que las fuentes de Agua bendita.


• No se debe dar la mano, sostener la mano y cosas similares durante la misa; No se ofrecerá el Signo de la Paz.
• Los fieles pueden recibir la Sagrada Comunión durante la Misa de la siguiente manera: en la mano, en la lengua, o pueden abstenerse de participar en la comunión espiritual. La decisión sobre cómo recibir la Sagrada Comunión es la del comulgante, utilizando la razón y la piedad personal.


• Los Ministros Extraordinarios Laicos no llevarán la Comunión a los confines de su hogar, hogares de retiro / descanso u hospitales, hasta nuevo aviso. Por lo tanto, no llene un pyx con una hostia antes de la misa, como lo ha hecho normalmente. En el caso del peligro de muerte, donde existe la necesidad de comunión / viático y / o unción, la familia debe notificar a un sacerdote.


• Hasta el 5 de abril de 2020, y sujeto a extensión, todas las funciones no litúrgicas en la Iglesia, el Centro San José y la escuela se cancelan, incluyendo, por ejemplo, formación en la fe, grupos juveniles, grupos de oración, ministerios, actividades sociales, grupos de apoyo, retiros, grupos de estudio, reuniones grupales, RICA y prácticas de coro. Considere el aprendizaje a distancia y las llamadas en conferencia para funciones como RICA y varias reuniones de la junta / consejo (por ejemplo, la Junta de St Gerard, el Consejo de Finanzas, etc., que se reúnen en las salas de reunión de San José)

Todas los Via Crucis los viernes están cancelados (siéntase libre de rezar esta devoción por su cuenta); también se cancela adoración y las charlas del Padre Cook los martes por la noche; Ningún grupo puede reunirse para Adoración hasta nuevo aviso.
 
• Cualquier reserva de habitación para grupos, reuniones, etc., se cancela por la presente; no debe reunirse en el Centro de San José o en la iglesia o la escuela, y tendrá que hacer otros arreglos durante este período. Considere reunirse en hogares o lugares alternativos, si así lo desea; Las comunidades de base deben tomar sus propias decisiones sobre si continuarán reuniéndose durante esta pandemia.


• El edificio de la Iglesia se cerrará a las 3:00 pm todos los días (excepto los sábados y domingos, cuando la Iglesia se cerrará tan pronto como sea posible después de la Misa final del día), para que nuestro personal de mantenimiento pueda realizar actividades de desinfección y limpieza, de acuerdo con las pautas de los CDC, para preparar el espacio para el día siguiente.


• La oficina de la parroquia estará abierta, aunque puede ser necesario cerrar al público (aún podría interactuar con nuestra oficina por teléfono / correo electrónico / correo. En caso de que necesitemos cerrar nuestra oficina a los visitantes; a partir de ahora , nuestro personal planea estar trabajando).


• Finalmente, les pediría a los fieles de nuestra parroquia que continúen su administración del tesoro al continuar su apoyo financiero a nuestra parroquia durante estos tiempos difíciles. Alentamos a los feligreses que no puedan asistir a misa a que continúen con sus ofrendas ofensivas semanales a la parroquia por correo o donaciones electrónicas. Queremos seguir pagando a nuestros empleados y nuestras facturas, pero también anticipamos que las necesidades caritativas aumentarán durante esta pandemia.


Por favor sepa de mis oraciones, y las oraciones del p. Taylor, y diáconos Mark y Silfrido, para todos ustedes. Únase a nosotros en oración, ya que confiamos todas las cosas a Dios. Lo haremos a través de esto, con la ayuda de Dios, y tomando decisiones bien informadas sobre nuestras interacciones públicas.


En Cristo,
Rev. W. Christian Cook
Pastor, Inmaculada Concepción

URGENT UPDATES REGARDING CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) – 14 March 2020

 

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.


In Christ,
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.

Fr. Cook

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.

Fr. Cook

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.

Fr. Cook

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.

Father Cook

Our Lenten practices are renewed each year, and I know we can sometimes struggle with staying faithful to even the small sacrifices we have set for ourselves; almost as soon as we give up pizza as a penitential sacrifice, we may be halfway through a slice before we remember ... “Ooops, I gave UP pizza for Lent!”

But our Lord desires us to persevere in holiness, even if we fall. And should we fall, we do not despair; we dust ourselves off, seek His forgiveness, and continue to persevere in a life of holiness. And that is the focus for each of us during Lent.

As I mentioned last week, we are developing a Lenten Mass environment that will lend itself to quiet prayer and contemplation. And I am also putting into place more opportunities for you to avail yourself of the Sacrament of Penance during the Lenten season.

In that regard, I have a new confession schedule for Lent. On Fridays, the current confession time of 2:00pm will be replaced; confession on Fridays will follow the 8:30am Mass, and will be heard until 9:30am. So, Friday confessions will be heard from 9:00am to 9:30am.

The current Saturday confession time of 3:00pm, will be replaced; Saturday morning Mass at 9:00am will move from the chapel to the main church, and confessions will follow that Mass. Saturday confessions will now be offered from 9:30am to 10:30am on Saturdays.

Finally, we will now offer confessions on Sundays during Lent. Confessions will now be heard after the 7:00am, and 9:00am Masses. Our Sunday confession schedule will be 8:00am to 8:30am, and 10:15am to 10:45am.

These changes will be effective beginning the Friday after Ash Wednesday, February 28, 2020.

I hope you will find that these opportunities for the Sacrament of Penance lead you to practice that Sacrament more often, and to persevere in holiness this Lent. You remain in my daily prayers!

Fr. Cook

I continue to grow in my faith because of the tremendous examples of faith by the people of our Parish of the Immaculate Conception, and the students and teachers at Immaculata. As we approach Lent, just over two weeks away, I wanted to share with you some of the things we will do in our parish to assist us in entering into a more quiet, contemplative, prayerful, and penitential disposition during the upcoming Lenten season. 

Our practices before, and during, Mass will be adjusted, such that they lend themselves to a more still, prayerful environment, with less distraction; this will allow us to properly prepare our hearts and minds prior to Mass, and enter into a fuller sense of the sacred during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

To that end, the introduction to the Mass, by our Reader, will be more simple and abbreviated compared to our current practice, allowing all to more prayerfully prepare for Mass with minimal interruption. The use of the video screens during Holy Mass will be reduced, to mitigate much of the distraction many of the faithful experience from the use of video images during Mass; this should allow all of us to enter into a more deep, and fuller participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar. 

Friday’s during Lent are days on which we offer, and participate in, the Stations of the Cross devotion. Therefore, our devotions on Friday’s will shift from Adoration to Stations; there will not be Adoration/ Benediction on Friday’s, so that we can give our attention to walking with our Lord on the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross. 

As a penitential season, our parish will be offering more opportunities for the Sacrament of Penance during Lent, and I will share the details of those additional times and days with you soon, as those plans are finalized. 

Be assured of my prayers for all of you, as we approach Lent; I pray that this Lent will be fruitful to your spiritual life, and help you grow closer to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Father Cook

I hope that this Advent season has been a prayerful time of watching for the arrival of our Lord and Messiah in your life, and that your heart is prepared to celebrate Christmas together, here at our beautiful parish church of the Immaculate Conception. This pause of Advent has allowed us to meditate on what the birth of the Christ Child means to us, some 2,000 years later. As we prepare to leave the still and quiet darkness of Advent, and welcome the Light of Christ on Christmas Day, let us all enjoy the true joy that is represented by our Savior’s birth.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has said that “... joy is the true gift of Christmas, not the expensive gifts that call for time and money. We can communicate this joy simply: with a smile, a kind gesture, a little help, forgiveness.”

When God is perceived as being absent in the world, there is fear and uncertainty. But where God is present, there is the true joy of Christmas, of which the Holy Father Emeritus speaks.

So, on this Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us be reminded that God is not absent in the world. He is present in our world always, and longs to be welcomed into each individual heart.

If you have been away from the Catholic Faith, and are joining us here on Christmas, we welcome you with the joy of the love of Christ. I encourage you to pray about becoming active in your faith again; perhaps this Christmas is the first step in that journey. As Pope Francis reminds us all: “God forgives us, not with a decree, but with His love, healing the wounds of sin.” It is never too late to return to God, because He does love you.

And if you regularly practice your Catholic faith, the arrival of the Christ Child reminds us to show the joy of your faith in your smile, in kind gestures, and with a forgiving heart. God is, indeed, present in this world, of which the celebration of Christmas reminds us. Let us then welcome Him into our hearts, for that is what the birth of the Messiah means, these 2,000 years later.

On behalf of our Parochial Vicar, Fr. Britt Taylor, and our parish office and school staff, I wish you all the true joy of a Blessed Christmas!

Fr. Cook

 

As we come to the end of the Church year (Advent being the beginning of the next Liturgical Year), I wanted to begin to share with you some insight and catechesis behind some of the more noticeable changes I have made in the sanctuary, and during the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of Mass.

Father Taylor has undertaken the training of our altar servers, and you have most certainly noticed the reintroduction of the Sanctus bells, rung by our altar servers during the Liturgy of the Eucharistic within Mass.

Sanctus bells derive their name from being rung first during the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. They have been rung as part of the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Church for more than 800 years.

About the thirteenth century, outdoor tower bells began to be rung as "Sanctus bells" during the Mass, specifically at the Consecration (epiclesis) and the presentation of the Eucharist (elevation of Host and Chalice by the priest). Most Sanctus bells used today are small handheld bells, of three to five bells, that are rung in the Sanctuary during the Mass as directed in Chapter IV, paragraph 150 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).

Sanctus bells are first rung at the epiclesis, when the priest prays to the Holy Spirit to change the gifts of bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

The bells are rung a second time as the priest elevates and presents the Body of Christ, and are rung a third time as the priest elevates and presents the chalice filled with the Precious Blood.

Sanctus bells may also be rung at specified times outside of the Mass, such as during Holy Benediction and during adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

The Sanctus bells are more than an auditory signal meant to "wake up" the congregation to the consecration of the Eucharist. Sounding the bells at the moment Christ becomes present in the Eucharistic species of bread and wine is an audible sign of our joyous praise and thanksgiving.

I hope that the reintroduction of the joyful noise of the Sanctus bells helps to raise your hearts and minds to the Real Presence of our Eucharistic Lord on the Altar of Sacrifice.

 

Father Cook