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COVID-19 Updates

from fathers desk

Dear OLPH Family,

A Palm Sunday like no other! We ordered our palms weeks ago. They are in the basement now since we cannot distribute them, to avoid congregating and to honor the wisdom of social distancing.

Each day as I offer holy Mass in an empty church, or nearly empty (for the recorded Masses I need a few key helpers). It strikes me that while I am in the church I am not among the church. Or, rather the church is not with me. As I tend to stress: you are the church! While the building is the church, without you there praying and singing and laughing… and even crying, the building feels like a ghost of its former self. The Most Blessed Sacrament is present, and I have been making holy hours and offering Mass each day, but it is just not the same. And it is more than just being alone… I miss the beautiful roles you play in the worship of our Lord and God. 

I long for the day to be with you again, gathered around our lovely marble altar, to offer the sacred mysteries once again. I hunger for the occasion when together we can receive the holy Eucharist from the Mass and be nourished by the bread of life. I miss not being able to feed you with that super-substantial food that nourishes the soul not the body. And I hope you feel that hunger and longing too! Often when we are without something essential in our lives do we realize how much we miss it. And I miss you. I miss how you worship with me and how together we lift up a pleasing and fragrant offering to our Father. I miss how you help me to be me: your pastor. Pastors need flocks.

Over the past two weeks, we have joined Flocknote: a service that helps us connect with you via email and text. Text OLPHMS (all caps) to 84576 to sign up. I began a YouTube channel: “Father Joel Wilson.” And I am trying to light up FaceBook - even though I don’t care for it too much. But all that is not the same. The virtual world will never supplant the real world… well not for me.

These days of isolation make me realize how Sacramental we Catholics are. A Sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace. It is a physical thing (bread, oil, water, the human body) that communicates an inward gift of blessing. So many of them involve touch and personal contact, the collapse of personal space. They are earthly. We are earthy, fleshy people - with smells and warts and now airborne droplets. Who knew?!

I am praying and sacrificing for you everyday. Please pray for me. Remember Pope Francis’ first public address from that high window?  When he said “pray for me” - we heard his earnest plea. We could tell that he meant it. Pray for me, please - that I may be a faithful shepherd in these chaotic times. Know that I am trying, but part of the struggle is just knowing what to do. Unprecedented is the word that keeps reappearing.

This week we offered simple committal prayers by the graveside of the first parishioner we needed to bury during this time. The family was so supportive and helpful. They understood. We are planning a great celebration of life around a birthday during the summer. More funeral services will come and they will be strictly limited to brief services with only key family members present at the cemetery. We look forward to praying holy Mass for our beloved dead in Memorial Masses when normalcy returns.

With all newness, we have been working very hard to minister to our community in diaspora, but we have not been able to arrange for Live Streaming services. Therefore, I invite you to participate in Mass on ETWN cable channel, or to enter into Mass streamed by other parishes in our Diocese. 

But the best is to join in prayer with our Bishop David O’Connell, by live streaming from the Diocesan Website. Palm Sunday Mass with our Bishop will be live at 11:30am on April 5th. Holy Thursday Mass live at 7:00pm on April 9th. Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion at 3:00pm on April 10th. Easter Vigil at 7pm on April 11th. 

I will continue to offer short reflections, posting them on YouTube.

We are so grateful to all of you for your generous support of our parish during this unique time. Thank you so much for mailing in your envelopes, or joining Givelify (electronic giving), or just dropping your donation in the mail slot. Thank you so much! We are beggars and we are so grateful for your support.

May God bless you now and always!

Fr. Joel Wilson