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