Dear Fellow Parishioners,
It was wonderful to see so many of you this past weekend at Mass. After several weeks of gradually stricter measures against the coronavirus outbreak, I was already praying privately that we would not need to suspend public celebration of the sacraments.
On Tuesday, March 17, the clergy of the Diocese of Santa Rosa received a letter from Bishop Vasa announcing the suspension of all public Masses, confessions, weddings, baptisms, funerals and other liturgies until further notice. Since the virus can live on hard surfaces for 24 hours or more, he encouraged the closure of churches lest they become places where the virus could possibly be transmitted. This is perhaps the most difficult measure of all. For over 90 years, our church has been a sanctuary of quiet spiritual refreshment and repose for generations of the faithful, some of whom visit every day.
For the same reason, the bishop also cautioned against the administration of Holy Communion, even in the hand, except for serious pastoral reasons weighed against the risk of transmission. All Masses and visits to convalescent and care homes are suspended. Anointing of the Sick of those in danger of death will require prudence on the part of all parties, and the cooperation of the institutions in which those who request the sacrament may reside.
Effective Tuesday, March 17, St. Vincent High School and St. Vincent Elementary School switched to remote learning. Students are now taking their classes live at home via on-line video transmission.
These measures are hard to hear, and even harder for me to write. In 34 years of priesthood, I have not experienced anything remotely like it. For the time being, the compelling interest of public health must prevail.
In closing, I would like to repeat two suggestions I mentioned at last Sunday’s Mass.
First, rather than considering these events as interruptions of the Lent you had expected, try to make this crisis part of your Lenten devotion of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Second, to let prayer do the work of your imagination. If you are a worrier—and these days, who isn’t?—convert your worries into prayers. In anxious times, it’s all too easy to fear the worst, and be needlessly weighed down by worry, even about things that may never happen. “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7.
Most, if not all, of us are already on “information overload”, and this is enough information for one letter. I will post regular letters and updates on this website.
Fr. David is working on a video hook-up to make Mass available to you through an internet connection, and we will announce this as soon as it is available. In the meantime, Fr. David and I continue to offer the regular daily Masses for your intentions, as we pray for you and your loved ones, for the safety of all medical and public safety personnel, and for a safe and quick resolution of this coronavirus crisis.
In Christ, our Lord,
Rev. William P. Donahue