This week a priest shared with me a letter that Cardinal Sean O’Malley sent to the seminarians of our Archdiocese. His words of encouragement go far beyond the confines of the seminary educational institution and I think we can all draw great strength from in this very turbulent and challenging time. I don’t think Cardinal Sean will mind me sharing this with you:
March 22, 2020 – Laetare Sunday
My Dear Seminarians,
In my own seminary years, communications meant something very different. We had no radios, television sets, or Internet and we could rarely use a telephone. The only secular journals in our library were The Ellis County Star (a nod to the large number of German Americans from rural Kansas in our community) and Sports Illustrated (except for the swimsuit issue). We did have, however, a ham radio transmitter that allowed us each week to be in contact with our friars in Papua New Guinea where we had just started an exciting new mission. We were allowed to write one letter each month, that was read by the Superior, who also read our incoming mail.
The practice did promote good penmanship and spelling.
How different today’s world is, where our priests and seminarians can reach so many people by social media. It is such a great blessing, particularly at the present time when we are practically in lockdown. It is so encouraging to see the messages and Masses that are being live-streamed to our people in their homes. Facebook, Twitter, Zoom and so many other devices are being used most creatively by our priests, deacons and parish leaders. With the help of Father Eric Cadin, Father Paul Soper and their very able team, we are planning a mission for Catholic Television to be broadcast and streamed every evening this week.
It is truly amazing that with relative ease I can send this message by means of email to all of you seminarians at once. In the days of yore this would have been a Herculean task involving typewriters, carbon paper, mimeograph machines and the U.S. Postal Service. The only form of communication that is more efficient and more accessible is prayer. Without any Internet connection, wi-fi or hotspots, we can always lift our minds and hearts to our Heavenly Father who sees in secret and whose love is unfailing. We never have to ask: “Can you hear me now?” Our God is always listening.
In this strange Lent brought to us by the coronavirus, we will all have a little extra time for prayer. We have truly ventured into the desert that social distancing has brought us. We must be careful to use this time well, to pray, to reach out to those in need, to read and to study. The sudden unstructured pace of our lives requires a lot of discipline, and fidelity to rule of life.
My own seminary years coincided with the Second Vatican Council and the pontificates of Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI. It was a time of great hope and excitement, but also of great challenges. One of the things that we seminarians enjoyed so much was when Cardinal Wright, a Boston priest who was our Bishop, returned from the Council and visited our monastery. He would talk to us about what was happening at the Council and answer our questions. Cardinal John Wright was one of the most erudite and eloquent preachers of the Church in our country.
Our seminary years were also marked by great social upheaval: the Vietnam War, the assassinations of John Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King and thus subsequent riots in the urban areas of the country, the Cold War, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is a wonder we learned anything at all.
Your seminary years have also had your own challenges: the aftermath of September 11, and the clerical sex abuse crisis, the Boston Marathon, the McCarrick scandal, and the seminary visitation, and all this culminating with the coronavirus pandemic.
In our Capuchin community we have House Chapters before Lent to decide what penances we will do as a community. I remember one such chapter where Father Guardian was receiving recommendations and writing them on a blackboard. Afterwards we had a vote to determine which penances we would embrace communally. After the guardian wrote the number of votes after each item and was about to announce what our Lenten penances would be, a lay brother who never spoke up at all in these chapters made a suggestion that shook up the process. He said that if we really wanted to do penance, we should choose those things that received the least number of votes. I always thought that was an ingenious insight.
The truth is the coronavirus is a Lent none of us would have chosen, but in God’s providence this experience can be our 40 days with Christ in prayer, fasting and resisting temptations. Let us try to discover what God is calling us to during this lockdown. Somehow all of this is an opportunity to draw closer to God and to one another. Our world seems smaller, more fragile, and yet more connected. Who had ever heard of the Wuhan? In the midst of all of this we must grow in our trust in a loving God who is calling us to follow Him. He never promised that it would be easy, but He did promise that He would always be with us.
This year I celebrate 50 years of priesthood. They have been beautiful years, but they have not been easy. When I took my vows at age 20, I never dreamed where those promises would lead me. I am grateful that despite my unworthiness and limitations, God has called me to serve in his Church. I have discovered that a priest’s life is like the rosary that has joyful and sorrowful mysteries, but all of it is a prayer. The coronavirus is part of the prayer, part of the purification, part of a process of learning to trust in God’s love that is beyond all imagining.
When you men reach your 50th anniversary of ordination, it will be a very different world, but what will not change is God’s unfailing love and the joy of the Gospel, and the great blessing of being a Catholic priest called to share in Christ’s saving mission. That will not change. So, when the coronavirus makes you feel frustrated, bored or lonely, please remember that your Bishop and God’s people are praying for you and your vocation. Find strength and enlightenment in St. Teresa of Avila’s bookmark:
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing;
God only is changeless.
Patience gains all things.
Who has God wants nothing.
God alone suffices.
Until next week,
Collaborative Update As of March 24, 2020
As the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis continues to unfold, we continue to get updates every day directing us to follow various policies and procedures as they affect our community life and worship. Frankly, it has been difficult to keep up with all of them, as things have been changing so rapidly.
As of this moment, in response to Governor Baker’s latest advisory and orders, we have been asked to close all parish offices to the public. Many of our Collaborative Staff will continue to work from their homes and be in communication through email and phone messages. I would direct your attention to the following:
- All public masses are suspended, however we will continue to livestream private masses on the weekends at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and 10:00 a.m. on Sunday through Facebook and our website. I would encourage all parishioners to “attend” Mass virtually until we are given the ability to gather in our churches once again. We have been notified today that this will likely affect our Holy Week and Easter celebrations this year. Plans are being made to celebrate these special moments virtually as well.
- Although we cannot take up a physical collection in church, the parishes of our Collaborative are very much in need of your continued financial support. Even though we are unable to offer public worship, many of our expenses continue through this time including utilities, vendor payments, employee salaries and fixed benefits. We are working to reduce these costs as much as possible. Nonetheless, if you are in a position to do so, I would encourage you to mail-in your regular contributions and / or utilize our on-line giving program.
- While we have been prohibited from celebrating funerals in the church buildings, we are allowed to be present to funeral home and graveside services as needed, provided the Governor’s limits on the number of people gathered is respected. Currently this limit is 10 people or less. Our church buildings will remain closed to the public at this time.
- Priests may continue to minister individually to those who are ill, offering the Sacraments of the Sick as needed.
- Holy Redeemer Parish has suspended their sandwich program at the request of the shelter they served, as they are unable to take in made outside of the premises at this time. When it is able to resume, we will make everyone aware. The Tuesday night meal at IC continues, but for take-out only. Provisions are being made to deliver to those in need who cannot pick up the meals in person.
- While AA / Recovery meetings are still allowed (subject to the number limitation by the Governor) most groups are attempting to meet online through Zoom or other video-conferencing. Members should contact their group leader or check for a meeting online.
- Please use email and our phone system to reach out to our Staff if you have any questions or concerns. We will do our very best to help anyone in need with our communities as much as possible.
- Please check our website hriccatholic.org and social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) often for on-line bulletin, updates, spiritual resources, and other information.
Please join with me in praying for health and protection for our families, neighbors, communities, nation, and world. May the Lord deliver us soon from this disease and every other illness and hardship.
Prayerfully yours in Christ,
Fr. Timothy Harrison
Join us for Daily Mass celebrated for the Immaculate Conception School Community
Tuesday March 31 at 10:00 a.m.
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CATHOLIC TV DAILY AND SUNDAY MASS
Daily and Sunday Masses broadcast from the CatholicTV chapel.
· Daily Mass airs live at 9:30 a.m. and is rebroadcast at 7:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.
· Sunday Masses air throughout the day at 10:00 a.m., 4:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m., and 11:30 p.m.
· The Sunday Spanish Mass airs live at 8:00 a.m. and is rebroadcast at 5:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.
Viewers can watch these Masses on demand at any time at www.WatchtheMass.com.
For more information about CatholicTV and where you can watch it, visit http://www.catholictv.org/.
EWTN broadcasts the daily Mass live at 8:00 a.m. Eastern from Our Lady of the Angels Chapel on the EWTN campus in Irondale, Alabama. At that time, you can watch live on TV on EWTN (check your local listings for channel number) or online via streaming at ewtn.com/tv/watch-live.
Make sure to check out our Lent during the coronavirus emergency page for more ideas on websites and devotions you can access from home.
Mass from March 28, 2020
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Welcome to Holy Redeemer and Immaculate Conception Collaborative Parishes: the Catholic presence in the more than 60 square miles of the four towns of Merrimac, Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury in Massachusetts.