Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
We continue to journey through this Lenten season impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Renewed uncertainty about the propagation of the virus has led the Archbishop to decree the closing of Catholic schools beginning March 17, memorial of St. Patrick, our patron saint. During the upcoming weeks, the teachers will impart online classes to mitigate the effects of the loss of school days.
With regards to parish life, the church is open. The sacramental life of the parish will not be affected. Sunday and daily Masses and Confessions continue with their regular schedule and so do the celebration of marriages and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Pastoral care of patients at Mt. Sinai will continue as usual. We have informed the hospital authorities that even though some of our dedicated volunteers may avoid visiting the sick during the sanitary emergency, the priests are available as usual, especially to attend to any emergencies that may arise.
The Archbishop has decreed an indult for the obligation to go to Sunday Mass especially for those who are infected, care for sick persons, belong to high risk groups or may be overcome by anxiety due to the ongoing uncertainty.
To those who do not come to Mass I recommend that they follow it through our webpage or watch it on EWTN. It is a pious practice which is not the same as being present but helps in the spiritual life. It that was not possible, I invite you to devote a special time to prayer, reading of the Bible, and the rosary.
For those who do come to Mass, the recommendations published last week remain.
We have emptied the holy water fonts. However, those who moved by their personal piety wish to bless themselves, can approach the sacristy with a container or request one to receive holy water and continue their pious practices while the extraordinary sanitary measures last.
We have decided to temporarily change the way we take the collection during Mass. Given the fact that handling the collection plates may facilitate contagion, we will place a basket by the back door so that upon leaving the church you may leave your offering.
The Archbishop has decreed that all non-sacramental events and parish activities be cancelled until further notice. Therefore, all Emmaus groups in English and Spanish, prayer groups, Bible classes, Narcotics anonymous, Al-Anon, book club, charismatic group and others will immediately suspend their weekly meetings. We will also have to suspend CCD and RCIA classes until further notice. The director of religious education and catechists will work to mitigate any inconveniences by their creative use of resources such as Formed, the multimedia portal available to all with abundant catechetical material.
The charitable work of the St. Vincent de Paul society will be affected. Our parish renders a beautiful service in line with the command of the Lord and Matthew 25, which as Pope Francis often reminds us is the protocol by which we will be judged. The command of the Lord to do good to our brothers and sisters and practice works of mercy knows no exceptions. We cannot turn our back on the needy, especially in a moment of crisis that is having a negative impact on global economic activity and will surely negatively impact the income of many. Thanks to the creativity, the commitment with Gospel values and the generosity of volunteers, we will implement alternative procedures. Beginning this week, we will temporarily change our practices. Those persons in distress who usually came on Tuesday to the office will be taken care of via telephone conversation and the operation to distribute food on Saturdays will stop to limit the exposure of volunteers and customers, while continuing to attend to the needs for food of those in difficult situations.
Fire and police chaplaincy programs will continue to provide spiritual support to our brothers and sisters who look after our safety and security. The Stella Maris center remains open subject to the decisions and directives of port, health and church authorities.
In the coming weeks we will continue to monitor the situation making any necessary adjustments. In the meantime, I ask you to be cautious, not to be overcome by fear or panic. In times of uncertainty it is more than ever necessary to be open to the grace that flows to us especially through the sacraments. The love of God consoles us, gives us the necessary strength to bear consistent witness of Christian life always and everywhere.
As Pope Benedict taught us: “Faith, hope and charity go together. Hope is practiced through the virtue of patience, which continues to do good even in the face of apparent failure, and through the virtue of humility, which accepts God’s mystery and trusts him even at times of darkness. Faith tells us that God has given his Son for our sakes and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! It thus transforms our impatience and our doubts into the sure hope that God holds the world in his hands and that, as the dramatic imagery of the end of the Book of Revelation points out, in spite of all darkness he ultimately triumphs in glory. Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light—and in the end, the only light—that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working. Love is possible, and we are able to practice it because we are created in the image of God.”
May St. Patrick, St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother intercede for us now and always!
Fr. Roberto M. Cid