Immaculate Conception Parishioners:

We recall how abruptly the pandemic came upon us, as Masses were immediately canceled without much notice, and our Catholic schools and parishes were instantly shut down.  Almost as abruptly, the CDC, the State of North Carolina and the Diocese of Charlotte declared very relaxed procedures for gatherings, distancing and mask-wearing.

As a result of the rapid changes in protocol, with very little notice, we have had to quickly shift gears here at Immaculate Conception.  I realize that, for some, the relaxing of masks and distancing are very welcome, while for others there is anxiety about dropping some of our pandemic-era practices.  As I have attempted to do through the entire pandemic, I will continue to try and balance the needs of many different perspectives on these matters.

As such, I want to assure you that the health and safety of those attending Mass is very important to me.  At the same time, we must acknowledge that we must start moving in the direction of more normal, pre-pandemic operations.  Because the Sunday and Holy Day Mass obligation has been restored by our Bishop, as of this weekend (May 22-23), we must have the ability to accommodate all those who wish to fulfil that Mass obligation.

You need not sign up for Masses any longer, and our weekend Mass times will be: Saturday, 4:00PM; Sunday, 7:00AM, 9:00AM, 11:30AM, and 1:30PM (Spanish).

Even though crowd size, distancing and mask-wearing has been relaxed, we will try to retain a social distancing seating pod (ushers will direct you) where distancing will be in place and masks will be worn.  If you do still do not feel safe attending Mass, because you are in a high-risk category, or you are compromised to contract communicable illnesses, your Mass obligation is still dispensed.

In reality, many of us are already engaged in other activities that present similar or greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 and other illnesses, including eating out, traveling, engaging in non-essential shopping, and expanding our circle of contacts.  Therefore, returning to Mass under similar relaxed procedures as other social activities is an acknowledgement of our need and desire for prioritizing the source and summit of our faith, that is attending the Holy Mass and receiving the Eucharist in a state of Grace.

Therefore, in a General Executory Decree dated May 14th, the Diocese of Charlotte has issued these Liturgical norms for parishes: religious services no longer require social distancing or face coverings.  However, those who remain vulnerable are advised to continue wearing face coverings or watch Mass virtually.  Masses and confessions will return to their pre-pandemic operations, except that receiving Holy Communion from an ancillary chalice and extending the Sign of Peace at Mass remain omitted. 

I assure you that I, and the Diocese, will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation in North Carolina and the effectiveness of our local parish protocols.  If this pandemic era has taught us anything, we must be docile to God’s will, and ready to make changes to our protocols, as necessary.  At the forefront of our decision-making is the health and wellness of everyone in our community, and if we need to tighten protocols in the future I will not hesitate to do so.

For a Diocesan FAQ please click here for English, o haga clic aquí para Español.

God bless us all,

Fr. Cook