Tuesday, March 10, 2020 || Updated: Friday, March 13, 2020
Dear Cathedral Parishioners, Visitors, and Friends:
We thank God that our area has largely been spared thus far from the COVID-19 outbreak, even as we recognize that it has arrived, we do remain in danger, and we must remain vigilant. As we know, the mortality rates for COVID-19 appear to be rather high; moreover, there are no effective treatments for it yet. We need to be careful. We must continue to pray and take reasonable, prudent precautions — and also avoid any panic!
We have already discontinued the sharing of the chalice at Sunday Masses, following Bishop Baker’s recent directives (download PDF here); we have also stopped having the sign of peace at those Masses. I also discouraged hand-holding during the Our Father (which, in any case, is not a proper liturgical gesture). Bishop Baker has also DISPENSED certain categories of people from the Sunday and Holy Day Mass obligation: read about that in his letter, HERE.
This past week, I notified the different priests and deacons who serve the Cathedral, suggesting that they omit the sign of peace at daily Masses as well.
In addition, I emptied the Holy Water fonts (we are keeping the tank in the corner filled and blessed, for those who wish to fill their private bottles — I have also ordered some plastic holy water bottles to share and will put those out when they arrive in the mail).
While I think most of us have small bottles of hand sanitizer in the car or in purses, a generous couple from the parish kindly donated two large pumps for our use — these are in the bathrooms in the church entrance.
Those who are sick (fever/contagious) should stay home so as not to infect others and avoid picking up something worse by venturing out. You do NOT have an obligation to attend Mass if you are sick. In fact, I think it fair to say that in the current circumstances, you have an obligation (in charity) to stay home until you are sure that the illness has passed. If anyone has doubts or concerns in this regard, please do not hesitate to contact me. And again, please be familiar with the dispensation Bishop has given.
If you have concerns about receiving Holy Communion, be advised that Catholics have an obligation to receive Holy Communion only once per year (“the Easter duty”) — if you are immuno-compromised or otherwise concerned, making a Spiritual Communion instead may be the better thing to do. It is a very traditional practice. Google “spiritual communion prayer” and you will find many good prayers. While we do have an obligation to be at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days (if we are not sick or do not have another legitimate excuse), we do NOT have an obligation to receive communion at every Mass we attend. There is much confusion about this today.
Some hospitals and nursing homes are starting to limit who may visit and under what circumstances. St. Vincent’s Hospitals have also cancelled their Sunday Masses. We will continue to monitor this situation and determine how we can still respond to the calls we receive. We are always glad to visit the sick at home or in the hospital. Our emergency line (for sacramental emergencies) remains in operation by calling 205-251-1279 and pressing the number for emergencies after hours. During office hours, Krista, our secretary, will gladly help locate a priest to attend to the emergency.
I have suggested to our priests and deacons that we NOT have the usual greetings/handshakes after Sunday Masses for the time being, that perhaps we instead process back to the sacristy after Mass rather than go out front to greet. If anyone needs to talk, he or she is free to come find us in the sacristy following Mass. I am sure that I speak for the other priests when I say that this is a difficult change — I really do look forward to visiting with folks afterwards and meeting our visitors and parishioners new and old.
If there are any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me. Let us pray! And not panic.
Yours in Christ,
Very Rev. Bryan W. Jerabek, J.C.L.
Pastor & Rector