Dear Friends in Christ,
I would like to give you an update on things here in the parish. We hope to have our Annual Report ready soon and it will be published on our website. To say that this has been a challenging year is a gross understatement. For us here at St. John Vianney, it has not been just one year of challenges but several. In the last few years, we have had to contend with a downturn in the energy industry. The low price of oil has impacted not just the energy companies but also our parish as so many parishioners work in that industry. As companies reduced staffing, this impacted the livelihood of many of our families. Then there was Hurricane Harvey and the devastating floods that affected so many families in our area leaving their homes damaged or destroyed. Many have yet to recover and our parish continues to aid families who have suffered so greatly. We cannot forget the Memorial Drive construction that went on for years and years! Memorial Drive looks very nice now and we are all grateful but like so many in our area the delays in construction had a negative impact on the parish. Today, we face the coronavirus pandemic – enough said.
Each of these events presented our parish with significant challenges – Mass attendance, evangelization efforts, missionary work, finances and more. Every time it looked like we were turning the bend in recovery, something more serious arose to knock us back down. Well, we may be down but we are not out! To each of these crises, we have been able to respond by the grace of God. We have responded with determination and with a deep love for God and our neighbor. We have responded in faith. With God’s mercy and love, we live with hope for even greater blessings to come. We are not naïve. We know that there will be more challenges in the future and that there is more work to be done in confronting and overcoming our current situation, but we continue to move forward in faith.
How have we responded and where are we at?
Our first priority has been to keep our eyes fixed on the Lord. “God First” is not just a catch phrase or slogan, it is how we try to live in all circumstances. By frequent and regular communication, we have attempted to aid our parishioners in staying close to the Lord during this time of trial. We have reached out using various means to communicate with our parishioners to keep them connected and encouraged. While we have been shut down and unable to conduct almost any of our normal activities, we have kept the church open for prayer. We have provided on-line spiritual resources to help strengthen our spiritual lives and prayer at home. When we were allowed to resume Masses in May, we added extra Masses and confession times. In addition to Mass and confession, we resumed weddings, baptisms and funerals, keeping the health protocols.
During this time, we have become masters of ZOOM and TEAMS, hosting meetings and classes on-line. While we have not been able to offer direct assistance through our Social Services Ministries, we have held two “Drive By Food Drives” collecting nearly 14,000 lbs. of food for those in need. We hosted a successful parish blood drive providing for the sick in local hospitals. SJV sent parish missionaries to Eagle Pass to continue our home repair efforts and our Parish Disaster Response Team responded to those in need following Hurricane Laura in Louisiana. We have kept our financial commitments during this most trying time to the dozens of schools, clinics, parishes and others that rely on our support. We assisted three additional parishes who have been unable to pay their bills during the shutdown. Our financial picture is still tight. Our collections are down and we have no extra income from any of our other normal sources (fees and additional collections). Our part time staff (YCP, Nursery staff, sextons) remain furloughed. We have eliminated some full time positions that have been vacated. We continue to keep spending at reduced emergency levels. This means that our budget does not allow for spending outside the essentials.
Beginning Saturday, September 26 the archdiocese will allow us to have up to 50% capacity in the church. We will no longer be required to use only every other pew. People will continue to be asked to keep the safety precautions of washing their hands often, wearing face coverings and keeping social distance. All the surfaces in the church will continue to be treated with an anti-microbial barrier that kills bacteria and viruses. Cardinal DiNardo continues to require that Holy Communion be administered only in the hand and only by priests and deacons.
We will continue offering the 12:10 weekday Mass at least through Christmas. We have also been allowed to resume in-person Youth Formation and sacramental preparation for adults. At this time, no other gatherings or activities are permitted on campus by the archdiocese. RCIA, Adult Confirmation and Youth Ministry have already begun. In-person Youth Formation (CCE) will resume beginning November 2. To accomplish this, we will first need a sufficient number of volunteer catechists and assistants. At this moment, we are approximately fifty (50) adults shy to meet the needs of our youth and the requirements of social distancing.
With the relaxation of restrictions on nursing homes, care facilities and retirement residences, we hope to resume our pastoral care of our parishioners and others in these centers. There remain restrictions, so only the priests and deacons will be able to serve the more than 120 seniors under our care.
Due to the cancellation of the parish bazaar for 2020, we are looking at ways to make up the $300,000 loss. These funds support our SJV Charities. We are also exploring options in the spring so parishioners may gather together in a fun and relaxed environment when COVID-19 is no longer an imminent threat.
Our hope and prayer is that the parish may resume most of our activities in January, 2021. This will include our Young Children’s Program, nursery, adult formation, social activities, Social Services Ministries (Joseph’s Coat, Food Pantry etc.) and others. Planning is now underway. Some of our activities will not be able to resume until the fall of 2021.
A Future Filled With Hope
St. John Vianney Parish is more than our buildings, programs and activities. We are a family of faith in God and we are filled with hope. God has always been our strength and our source of joy. As we move to resume activities we also look to new opportunities of loving God and bringing God’s love to others.
In pace Christi,