May 25, 2020
Good Morning! I am wishing you and your families many blessings. I am writing to provide you with some updates of the situation and give you some follow up information to my last letter. As mentioned in my last letter, the diocese provided us with a template and asked us to come up with concrete plans to re-open our church for Mass. I formed a committee comprising of representatives from Pastoral Council, Finance Council, a few staff members, Deacon Mike Moore, and myself to work out a plan. The committee studied the template and looked at guidelines from some other parishes outside of California that have already re-opened their churches for Mass. It helped us to come up with some concrete plans for re-opening our church for Mass. I sent the guidelines to the diocese for its review and am waiting for their feedback. I will communicate and share with you the progress. As I was writing this letter, I received a communication from Bishop McElroy indicating the possibilities of reopening our churches for daily Mass from Monday, June 8th and the Sunday Mass resuming the following Sunday, June 14th. The news that we will be able to open our churches for worship, with restrictions, is great news and a real blessing.
The drafting committee met several times last week to finalize the guidelines. With input from the planning committee, when permission is granted, I decided to conduct an outdoor Mass on the north east side of the school parking lot. The parking lot that will be used as the worship space for Mass is a fenced area that is safe, secure and will give privacy. We plan to start with one Mass on Sunday mornings at 7:00 am. If Sunday outdoor Mass proves successful and there is demand, the plan is to offer an outdoor evening Mass on subsequent Saturdays, which would be held at 6:00 PM.
Having Mass on the parking lot has several advantages and also a few disadvantages. The main advantage is that it can hold many people, and we are planning for over 300 people. Another advantage is that the place does not need to be sanitized after Mass. Finally, we will not need many volunteers and helpers because we will be having one big Mass. If we were to have Mass inside the church, we can only accommodate one fourth of the seating capacity, which means we can accommodate approximately 150 people. I do not like to turn anyone away from attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist. We can have more Masses if we have it inside, but the pews need to be sanitized after every Mass and we will need more volunteers and helpers to help during Mass, too. I think that the majority of the current ushers will not be able to help much because of their age and I do not want to put their health at risk. I know there will always be some advantages and disadvantages in either way. Given our current situation and the restrictions, I believe we have more advantages in conducting Mass outside than inside. I urge you to bear with me and I want you to keep in mind the purpose behind the reopening, which is to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist.
Daily Mass will be held inside the church at 8:00 am as usual, but we will have to follow Sunday Mass guidelines. Regarding confession, I will continue to hear confessions on Wednesdays as per schedule in the children’s chapel until things are better.
As I mentioned, there will be some inconveniences and restrictions during outdoor Mass, but I ask you to be understanding and bear with me; I earnestly seek your support. I will need many volunteers and ushers. I know we all miss Mass and the Eucharist, so, please be prepared to face some inconveniences. Though circumstances may not be ideal or back to normal, it is a blessing that we are able to gather in some capacity to worship and receive our Lord. Again, our goal is to celebrate Mass and to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
Attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist is important, but at the same time because of COVID-19, all the faithful are dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass. Therefore, I urge you that if you exhibit any frailty due to advanced age, health impairment or symptoms of any kind, please stay home for your safety and for the safety of others. In addition, if members are acting as a caretaker for people in such situations, they likewise, should refrain from attending and should continue to watch Mass online. The online Mass is valid during this time and know that the reopening in this manner is only a temporary solution. Continue praying that we will be able to resume our worship in church and remember to thank God for this step in that direction, it really is a grace and our prayers are being heard.
Pastor, Santa Sophia