Our Re-opening Weekend

05-29-2020Letters From Fr. BrianRev. Brian F. Manning

Dear Parishioners and Friends of Saint Mary Parish,

This weekend, May 30-31, we will “re-open our Parish” to Saturday/Sunday Masses. We begin this reopening on a special, powerful and meaningful feast: The Feast of Pentecost, the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, also called the Birthday (Beginning) of the Church. After this long quarantine we are at a “new beginning” of our Parish and its spiritual life. The Holy Spirit, sent by the Lord Jesus, is with us as we start the “baby steps” to begin to walk and re-open our Parish. I invite you to read this letter closely because although everyone is invited, there are many, many of you who should remain at home for health and safety reasons.

The Apostles at Pentecost: they were brave, they will filled with faith and hope, but they also had to stumble about, back up a few times, go forward a few steps and also stop to figure it out some more. Some were able to step right along, and many were unable to come forward until later. Remember the great and magnificent Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome took centuries to be built as it appears today and also was torn down, added to and changed inside and out at various times. We cannot gild the lily with gold, until we plant, water, care for and grow the lily first, a lots of steps which all take time. So we do not start with the highest and fancy best as we begin again, we start with the basic and solid elements of Mass. Also, what is true is that the early church is a good model for us about deciding about “returning to church”. We need to remember that this decision is not about lack of faith; instead it is about being prudent and sensible and also using common sense. No one will get a higher seat in heaven for coming this week or in the next period of time, we receive our seat by the grace of God and then by our actions of our entire lifetime. We will begin with Masses at 4 PM this Saturday May 30, 7:30 AM and 10:30 AM on May 31 this Sunday. Bear in mind we need to clean and sanitize the church between each Mass.

The Mass in church for the foreseeable future will feel very different and perhaps strange to you. Further along in the letter I will explain some of the steps which we must take. Bear in mind that Cardinal Sean has continued the Dispensation for everyone about not attending Mass for any reason. This means any age. First I wish to address straight on a serious matter of who should consider coming to Mass and the folks who simply should not come. We are at present in Phase One in our State which means “stay safer at home.” This means there are categories of people who should choose not to attend Mass:  People who are over the age of 70, with health issues the ages of 65-70, those who are receiving medical care, especially cancer and cardiac patients, people with emphysema, asthma or COPD, a history of pneumonia, those who use oxygen, or any respiratory complication etc. - basically any significant health reason whether physical or psychological.  Good Catholics will observe this and all good Catholics will understand.

Coming to Church for Mass means cooperating with the new mandated rules and procedures, whether you like them or not. None of us will prefer them, but you, me and everyone else must care for the safety of others first. You may find a video of this as an example on our website (stmarysfranklin.org) or our Facebook Page All of us must observe the rules. Please place your mask on while at the sidewalk. Entrance is only by the front middle door or the elevator side entrance. Everyone must come in and go down the main aisle to the front and circulate to side by going up to the front, across and then up the side. Benches are closed off by tape. Do not break the tape. The benches without tape on the aisle are for sitting. Tape is placed on the bench seat to show where you may sit in that bench so that six feet will be observed. If you are a household of 2 or more, you may sit as a group. The next single near your group must stay 6 feet away. There are only about 180 seats available in the church. When capacity is reached, by law we must not admit anyone else. Sadly, you will be unable to attend Mass in the church. There will be volunteer “Ambassadors” who will remind folks, help direct traffic flow and answer questions.  There will be no missalettes or singing. At Communion, the Ambassadors will direct this bench by bench. You must come down the main aisle. The sides must go to the back, come across and come down the main aisle. You must stay 6 feet apart. Only Communion in the hand is allowed. “By tongue” is expressly forbidden because it is so very, very most dangerous in spreading infection, now or at any time. Please put out one hand palm up. Then step over about 6 feet to the taped box on the rug, remove your mask, receive Communion and then re-mask. After receiving, please go down the side aisle and leave immediately by the front side door. You must leave by the two side doors in the lobby area. “Middle in, side out!” If you are coming, please realize it will take extra time and come starting a half hour before hand.
The side stairwell and wooden door on the Rectory side will be unavailable for use for the foreseeable future. Entrance to the lower level, will be by the side glass doors towards the front. The Prayer Wall in our Church is available electronically via our Facebook Page and also in church. If you use in church, you must come early and put your prayer up before Mass. Because of health reasons, you must provide your own pen for church. Terry Kerr, our Music Director and Organist, will provide music and singing at allowed times.

Also, please know that Private/Family Only Funeral Masses are now being held. Weekday Mass will be a few more weeks away. We are following the priorities as directed  by the Archdiocese.

Please know the very spiritual and holy Masses and Services on Catholic TV (catholictv.org) are available for everyone who should be staying at home. I have received many, many emails from folks about how this great spiritual treasure of our Archdiocese has kept their faith vibrant and strong. Parishes that stream their amateur efforts just cannot compete with Bishop Reed offers on the Catholic TV Channel.

Our Saint Vincent de Paul acknowledges your generosity to them for their caring for the needy and frail. To bring donations of food and supplies from now on, please bring them up the sidewalk between the Rectory and church building and place them inside the glass doors on the side of the church at ground level. Many have also mailed in financial donations to the Rectory. I admire greatly the constant and faithful generosity of all who have thoughtfully sent financial support to our Parish via on-line giving (found at stmarysfranklin.org) or mailed in or dropped through the Rectory mail slot. Your continued generosity will help us as we go slowly through the many stages over the long time of re-opening.

Our Blessed Mother Mary is our Patroness and we honor her especially in this month of May. Saint Rocco, our special Patron, intercedes for us in heaven. We are blessed to be able to begin. We have the Holy Spirit who has been sent as an Advocate and Helper to us. The Spirit empowers us as we begin and re-open.

May the Lord bless us as we continue His command to announce “the Good News of Salvation”.

Father Brian.

P.S. “Dear God, please get Father Brian to write shorter letters!”