Dear friends in Christ:
It now seems like so long ago but it is still Easter. This Sunday is the 6th Sunday of Easter! May we never cease to rejoice in our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Still, even in the midst of Easter joy there is no escaping the reality of this tragic coronavirus saga. Hopefully, we are at or near the backside of this pandemic and will soon be able to approach, once again, our daily activities without fear or worry. In our area of west Houston we have been extremely fortunate and blessed in that there have been very few cases. The total number of cases in our area to date is less than 1/10 of 1% of the population. We pray for all of those impacted and we hope that the number of persons infected continues to decline.
Just as we did when the pandemic was approaching the parish leadership and staff are making plans and preparations for the next steps. Everything remains tentative but we are looking ahead with faith and confidence. As we plan there is an overall approach of taking things slow and steady. We want to be cautious but we also desire to move forward and in the right direction. We cannot and should not become paralyzed with fear; that does no good whatsoever. As Jesus reminds us, “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust!” (Mk 5:36). As Catholics we esteem and exercise both faith and reason. In response to Governor Abbott’s directives and those of our archbishop, Cardinal DiNardo, we are undertaking our “re-opening” in phases. Last week we began weekday Masses and Confessions. We have resumed the joyful celebrations of baptisms and the solemn spiritual responsibility of funerals. As we move to Phase II we will be allowed to have up to 50% of the Church occupied (800 people). At that time we will officially resume Sunday Masses. In Phase II we will continue to observe the health protocols that have been prescribed. Hopefully, that means we will be able to gather for Masses for the weekend of May 23/24, the Feast of the Ascension. If that occurs we will then welcome the women and men in the RCIA, who were delayed from being received into the Church at the Easter Vigil, on Saturday evening, May 30, at the 5:30 Mass, the Vigil of Pentecost. On Pentecost Sunday, at the 12:30 Mass, we will baptize the youth and children who have been preparing to become Catholic. In the next several weeks our young children who have been preparing for their First Holy Communion will at last experience the joy and great gift of Jesus in the Eucharist. Some of the children will be at weekday Masses and others will be at some of the Sunday Masses in June. We are hopeful that all restrictions will be lifted by June 1. If not, we will take appropriate actions and make other accommodations. Please keep all of these brothers and sisters in your prayers.
As we continue to progress we know that there will be challenges for each one of us and for our neighbors and friends. As so many of our volunteers in Social Services Ministries are from “at risk” groups, out of concern for their health and safety, it is not prudent for us to re-open Joseph’s Coat or the Food Pantry at this time. However, there are still many people who are in need due to the financial crisis caused by this pandemic. It has been very difficult for many of our parishioners seeing so many people in need and being unable to personally respond. On Saturday, May 30, we will sponsor a Drive Thru Food Drive to benefit other food pantries that are being overwhelmed. I am asking all of our parishioners who are able, to help in this endeavor by donating food for the many needy families who are struggling at this time. Details are in the bulletin and on the website.
Our dedicated parish staff is already preparing for the fall. We are making plans and contingency plans for all of our ministries and programs. We are working on our Youth Formation (religious education) programs. Beginning Friday, May 15, you can enroll your children in our religious programs on-line and through the parish office. We are also preparing for Adult Formation offerings (Bible Studies, RCIA, Adult Confirmation). In the fall there will be a special event with bestselling author and popular speaker, Matthew Kelly. There will be special events for our Young Adult community as well. We have new programs and special events for our Jr. High and High School youth and much more.
Although we do not know when this pandemic will end, on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we will offer a Solemn Mass and Eucharistic Procession in praise of God and in thanksgiving for the gift of the Holy Eucharist. Having been forced to refrain from celebrating the Eucharist and fast from receiving Holy Communion, all of us should have a greater appreciation for so great a gift and sacrament that we have in the Mass. Having been without the Eucharist, we should have a deeper hunger and desire for the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. The Solemn Mass and Procession will be Sunday, June 14, beginning at 5:30 pm. On that evening there will not be a 7:00 pm Spanish Mass. The procession will take place at the end of Mass. There will be three outdoor stations where altars will be set up on the campus for adoration and benediction. For those who wish to attend but may be concerned about the crowds or social distancing inside the church, they may still come and stand along the route of the Eucharistic procession which will proceed along the exit and entrance driveways.
We have also modified our regular summer schedule to accommodate these special circumstances. We hope to offer additional activities to help bring us back together: Sunday Coffee and Donuts, Parish Breakfast, an outdoor parish cookout and picnic, and our annual Feast Day Celebration. Naturally, we will want to do everything with an eye to safety and health concerns. That means all of these plans can and may change. The important thing is not the speed with which we come back together. Rather, the important thing is that we come back together as a parish family, a family of faith!
Lastly, we must continue to move forward in faith. While there is not yet a vaccine or cure for the COVID-19 virus, there is treatment for all those facing the threat and reality of this pandemic. The solution and answer to all of our troubles are found in God. Like the first disciples may we devote ourselves to the teaching of the apostles, the communal life, the Breaking of the Bread, and prayer! (Acts 2:42) Living Faith, Changing Lives, Making a Difference!
Be hopeful, keep praying, and keep smiling!
In pace Christi,