My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Christ is risen! Alleluia! He is truly risen. Alleluia!
As we continue to navigate our way through this most challenging time, we do not forget the power of God’s love for us in Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I would like to thank you again for your prayers and support during this time and to assure you of my continued prayers and the prayers of the clergy and staff of the parish for you and your families. This past week, the Pastoral Council and Finance Council of the parish were able to teleconference. The councils were updated on the status of the parish and how we were doing Pastorally, Financially and Administratively. Early on, plans were made and initiated for how our parish was going to deal with the impact of the pandemic and the subsequent Stay Home/Work Safe orders by the government. In summary, we continue to serve the parishioners as best we can under the circumstances. Formation for youth and adults is continuing electronically, outreach to those in need is continuing through phone calls and e-mails and referrals for social services are taking place. Spiritual resources are being provided and updated on our parish webpage and through social media. Because of the immediate actions of ceasing all discretionary spending and reducing all other spending and deferring the bills that we could, the parish has so far avoided furloughs or layoffs of our full time staff even though we had to furlough 91 part time workers. To date, we are making payroll for our employees who are working from home and we have been able to pay our obligatory bills (insurance, taxes, utilities, etc.). We continue to monitor the situation daily. This is thanks to you, the parishioners of St. John Vianney and your continued financial support of our parish even during this unprecedented experience.
It is important to note that some of the decisions for the parish are not made by the parish administration. Some decisions are by government officials and by the Chancery (Administration) of the Archdiocese. That is true for us at SJV and for all Catholic parishes, schools and entities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. That remains the case as we move through this situation. With the announcement by President Trump on the phasing of the re-opening of the country and the announcement by Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, people are already asking about when public masses will resume here at the parish. This is not a call that the pastors have been granted to make. Cardinal DiNardo will instruct the pastors when he and his advisors believe it will be safe and appropriate for the public to once again gather in large numbers.
As we move forward, planning is already underway to prepare for when we can “open” the parish once again. Some of the most significant items on the “to do” list include: the Baptism and reception into the Church of those in the RCIA (Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults) who were unable to participate in the Easter Vigil, the First Holy Communion Masses for nearly 300 children, the Sacrament of Confirmation for our youth and adults, and the re-scheduling of marriages for those couples who had their weddings postponed. We are currently working on preparations for our Summer Youth Camp, religious formation programs for our children and teens for next fall, summer programs for children and teens and exploring how to bring back our social service ministries. Each of these face their own unique set of challenges. Administratively, we are working on budgets and finances for the fourth quarter of this fiscal year and trying to gauge the financial impact of this pandemic on next fiscal year’s budget. In the midst of all this, we are also trying to monitor, examine and evaluate our response to this situation. This will be ongoing.
Spiritually, emotionally, and pastorally, we are acutely aware of the immense stress, pain, anger, fear and anxiety that people have suffered. In the best of circumstances, dealing with 15,000 parishioners is not easy. Dealing with so many people facing so many serious issues in a time of crisis is particularly difficult. Being deprived of the greatest resource that we possess, the sacraments, has been a hardship that is beyond description. For some, this has been a spiritual crisis and for others the real test is yet to come. But for all of us, the cross of Jesus is and remains our only hope! In some ways, facing COVID-19 during Lent and Holy Week was a blessing. We are reminded in a special way this year that the cross of Jesus has already saved us unto life eternal. This terrible cross of the coronavirus that we and the rest of the world carries has already been carried for us by Jesus. We are reminded that the strength that we need to endure this time of suffering has already been afforded us by Jesus who carried his cross for love of us and for the whole world. As Catholics, we live in the sure and certain faith and hope that every Good Friday is followed by an Easter Sunday.
We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!
In pace Christi,