May 18, 2020
Good Afternoon! I am wishing you and your families many blessings during this challenging time. The other day someone asked me on the phone, “When will this all be over and when can we go back to a normal life? I miss the Eucharist.” These are good questions, and many might be asking the same during this time of social isolation. We all want to go back to “normal life,” and we all want to come together to celebrate Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist. During times of uncertainty and fear, Paul encourages us to keep the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). Paul says if you keep your faith close, the Lord will be with you every step of the way, throughout your life, especially when you need Him most. He will be your guide. Paul experienced many hardships on account of his faith, while preaching the Gospel. These hardships did not discourage him, but rather brought him closer to God and closer to his faith.
During this dark time, when people are wanting to come back to normal life and wanting to attend Mass, I would like to share with you some updates of the situation. On Tuesday, May 12th, the pastors of the El Cajon deanery met with Bishop McElroy. In his update, Bishop McElroy said that the California Catholic Conference of Bishops is in communication with the governor of our state. They expressed to the governor the importance of reopening churches for religious worship. Representatives of San Diego County, recognizing the need for opening churches for worship, asked our bishop to provide them with social distancing guidelines which would allow churches to reopen.
The diocese provided us with a template and asked us to study and customize it to suit the local needs. The diocese is expecting individual parishes to send their plans back to them by Friday, May 22. I have set up a small committee to study the template and come up with a draft plan for our parish. If our plan is accepted, I will set up a larger committee to devise a concrete implementation plan. We recognize that the draft requires a strict social distancing plan. Please know we are in the planning process and do not know an exact date for when the churches will reopen. At this stage, we are putting a plan in place so we will be ready when that moment comes.
There is a possibility of holding Mass inside the church, or outside, in the parking lot. If we have Mass inside the church, we can only accommodate one fourth of the seating capacity, which means we can accommodate approximately 150 people. If we have Mass outside in the school parking lot, we will be able to accommodate more people. We are looking at both possibilities and hopefully will soon come to a decision. I will keep you updated every step of the way. While making this important decision, I will keep in mind the concerns of our parish community. Our main concern is as expressed by many people in our parish to come together for Mass and to receive the Holy Eucharist.
Whether Mass is held inside the church or outside, I will need many volunteers and other assistance to celebrate the Mass. I will communicate with you when the time comes, so please be prepared. I am excited about the possibility of reopening our church for Mass. Although I am eager to resume celebration of the Mass in person, I have some fears as well such as: How are we going to comply with the social distancing requirements? Though fearful, I am also confident that we will be able to work out a viable solution to all potential problems that we encounter during the re-opening of our church. We are all very understanding and caring people, and I strongly believe that we will manage to meet whatever requirements are needed to attend Mass. As I mentioned, there will be some inconveniences and restrictions during this time, but I ask you to be understanding and bear with me; I earnestly seek your support. We all miss Mass and the Eucharist. So, please be prepared to face these inconveniences by keeping in mind the purpose, which is to celebrate Mass and to receive the Lord in the Eucharist.
Pastor, Santa Sophia