Nearly thirty-three years of priesthood I have taken for granted that I would wake each morning and prepare to offer the Sacred Mass with my parishioners. The Sunday Liturgy has been the weekly highlight of my priestly ministry and now, for the first time ever I will not be able to gather with you to offer the “Source and Summit” of our lives and of our faith.

Today, knowing that it will be my last public Mass for a while, I could not keep the tears back nor could I imagine what the upcoming weeks will be like without you with me celebrating who we are in the sacred space of our parish church. Upon hearing the news last night a parishioner emailed me with great sadness knowing that our regular weekly time together would be put on hold said….. “I will miss you.” I will miss every one of you… tremendously!! I will miss even more feeding you on the bread of life! Sharing my thoughts on the sacred scriptures and a smile and a laugh as you leave to start another week in loving service of the Lord.

I pray that this suspension of Sacred Mass will be but for two weeks but for its duration, I will be praying for you at my private Mass. I will be posting written thoughts, audio and video throughout to keep connected with you. It is in these times, I hope and pray, that we realize how blessed we are to be Catholic and to have such an awesome gift of the Mass and a shared faith in Jesus our Lord!!

ALL WEEKDAY AND WEEKEND MASSES TEMPORARILY SUSPENDED DUE TO COVID-19

As concerns surrounding the spread of the coronavirus continue to grow, Bishop Edward C. Malesic, after consulting with the Presbyteral Council and Senior Staff, has decided to temporarily suspend ALL weekday and weekend public Masses in the Diocese of Greensburg effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Tuesday was the final day of public Masses until further notice.

The churches of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and Immaculate Conception will be opened for time for individual and family prayer. Immaculate Conception Church will remain open 24/7 as it has been the practice for 15 years. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton church will be opened from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. every day. Only one door will be open at each church. Please enter the main door facing Oak Street at Immaculate Conception and the far-right front door next to Mary’s Garden at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.

PRAYER TIME BEFORE THE BLESSED SACRAMENT IS IMPERATIVE AND NECESSARY DURING THIS CRISIS

I ENCOURAGE, especially during this Lenten Season, to make an effort to stop by the church for a time of private prayer and or family prayer. Families are encouraged to work this visit into your schedules to keep in mind our deep connection of Jesus’ presence in the Holy Eucharist dwelling in the tabernacle.

Bishop Malesic asks us, the Faithful, to remember in our prayers all those whose lives have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. “This is a seriously contagious illness. We have trust that God will see us through and we must do our part to not overwhelm our hospital systems. We have a responsibility to our neighbors. These actions help us to be proactive in the spread of the disease,” Bishop Malesic said.

THE OFFERING OF MASS BY PARISH PRIEST IN PRIVATE AND THE CARE OF THE CRITICALLY ILL AND DYING

Bishop Malesic is asking that priests continue to offer Mass daily in private for all previously scheduled parish Mass intentions, as well as offering additional prayers at these Masses for the protection of our flock during this time of crisis. Father Roniel and I will continue to respond to all pastoral emergencies and provide Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum for the critically ill and dying following the clergy health alert for best practices.

OTHER IMPORTANT DECISIONS

While public Mass is being suspended during this time, the Diocese recognizes that many other important events need to be considered. Priests in the Diocese of Greensburg should act with sensitivity and work with parishioners to use common-sense measures to improve the safety of each event or postpone as many as possible.

For baptisms, funerals, and weddings, an effort to scale back attendance to the immediate family would be preferred. For funerals, it is recommended that public notification of services would not designate a specific time for Mass.

All other gatherings including faith formation are now suspended but should continue as possible electronically.

The Lenten Fish fries have been canceled as well as all social events, small group parish groups and meetings are suspended during this time as well.

Public Liturgical and devotional gatherings are suspended including:

  • Stations of the Cross
  • Chaplet of Divine Mercy
  • Morning/Evening Prayer and Rosary
  • Daily Adoration
  • Choir practices

SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION

  • All public Penance services are suspended.
  • Father Roniel and I will be posting periods of time that we will be available for individual confession.
  • This will be done in a way to allow for the proper social distancing between priest/penitent.
  • The extended time will help to lower the number of those who are in the church at one time.
  • We will make sure that while the penitent waits for confession they will keep safe distances from each other as well.
  • Those who require the sacrament of reconciliation should contact their parish for an appointment.

The confessionals will not be used since they would not permit adequate social distancing. Each parish church will find room where the priest can be six feet from the penitent while retaining the ability for anonymous confessions if possible.

PARISH OFFICES WILL BE CLOSED

Per the non-essential business closures, the parish offices will be closed for 14 days or longer depending on the ever-changing command of our Governor. Father Roniel and I and other staff members can be reached by phone and email. Email will be the fastest and most direct to reach staff and phone messages will be returned ASAP upon receiving them. Office employees will be working from home or during staggered times at the office to keep social distancing in the workspace.

DLA AND WEEKLY PARISH SUPPORT IS MUCH NEEDED IN THIS TIME OF CRISIS

As the suspension of Sunday Mass takes away the normal way we contribute to the parishes’ weekly offerings and the DLA, I much appreciate your continual sacrificial offering via mail or online giving. If we need to suspend Masses beyond the two week period the parishes will suffer greatly financially. Please remember these important aspects of parish and diocesan life!!

SOCIAL CONNECTIVITY WITH PARISHIONERS

Father Roniel and our staff will make every effort to stay connected to you on a daily basis through the parish website, Facebook, Flock Notes and The Seton Chronicle. Sunday Mass will be available to stream beginning next week form our churches and your priest. I am in the process of developing a better social media presence via posting and a YouTube Channel. I want to share my thoughts, reflections and light-hearted humor with you through these struggling times. I know that Father Roniel will want to do the same.