For months, we have been turning to God in prayer, asking him to eradicate the coronavirus—and God has been answering our prayers! One way that God often answers prayers is by empowering us to bring about the change for which we pray. We have cooperated with God to keep one another healthy, by diligently wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and sanitizing our hands often. In these ways, we have demonstrated selfless love for those around us.
So now, as the coronavirus abates in our region, we are able to relax some of the restrictions which have been in place. Not long ago, Governor Northam issued an executive order detailing the loosening of various prohibitions and limitations in Virginia. This week, our diocesan leaders guided us through the applications of this relaxation to our liturgical practices and parish life, and on Thursday, your parish staff met to discern how to apply these new diocesan guidelines here at Sacred Heart.
When you come to Mass at Sacred Heart this Memorial Day weekend, to celebrate the beautiful Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, here are some things you can expect:
– For individuals vaccinated against COVID-19, wearing masks is optional. Those who are unvaccinated or not completely vaccinated are asked to continue wearing masks. Nobody will be asked about their vaccination status. I will continue to wear a mask as I distribute the Eucharist, out of deference to our parishioners who might be nervous about approaching to receive communion otherwise.
A pastoral note should be interjected here: the values that we apply to our personal decisions to continue or discontinue wearing masks are unique to each of us. Others may have underlying health conditions they wish to keep private, or a loved one who they wish to protect. We must not judge anybody’s decision about retaining or removing masks.
– Holy water will be returned, on a regular basis, to the baptismal font, and to the small basins at the entrance to our worship space. It is always optional for us to dip a finger into the holy water to bless ourselves, reminding us of our baptismal faith.
– All doors will be unlocked. You may enter and exit through any of the four wooden doors, inset with stained glass, which lead to and from our parking lots.
– The nursery will be unlocked. If your children become restless during Mass, you may take them to play in the nursery. There is a screen in the nursery, where you can see and hear the Mass. It is critical that all toys be put away when you leave.
– There will no longer be limitations in our bathrooms. More than one person may access them at a time.
If you are accustomed to holding hands with others during the Lord’s Prayer, or extending a handshake to others during the Sign of Peace, you are encouraged to do so with your immediate family members. For now, please refrain from physical contact with anybody else around you at these moments during the liturgy.
The dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass remains in place at this time.
Even though every teacher and staff member at Sacred Heart Catholic School has received their COVID-19 vaccine, the students have not. Next week is their last week of school for the 2020-21 academic year. Some of our students and faculty will come to church next week, especially for the Mass on Thursday, June 3, and the graduation ceremony of our eighth graders that evening. (Sadly, both are closed to the public.) To protect our students during their last week of school, some restrictions will remain in place until next weekend. Watch for another email from me on Friday, June 4, detailing further loosening of restrictions. (Sneak peek: say good-bye to yellow tape!)