May 23, 2020
Update from Fr. Tim (Returning to Mass)
These have been very exciting days! Finally, after a long two months of shut-down, we have been given the opportunity to begin to re-open our churches for public worship. I say, “begin,” because I hope that everyone is aware that this will be a process, not a singular moment. We cannot simply turn the lights on and start celebrating masses the way we did before. There will be many changes that must be planned-for so this can happen properly. Just as your weekly shopping trip to the supermarket has undergone significant changes, so, too, will our return to church.
To begin with, attendance at mass will be by advanced-reservation only. As of this writing, we are still finalizing which method will work best, but any parishioner wishing to attend a live weekend mass will have to do this by making a reservation online or over the phone first. The reason for this is because our churches will have very limited seating capacity in order to comply with the Governor’s directives on reopening and also to allow for proper 6-foot social distancing in the pews. Each church will be clearly marked where someone can sit, and also, where people may not. Parishioners must sit only in the marked positions in the pew. Couples or families may need to occupy more than one seating position or an entire pew to maintain distance from their neighbor.
While at church from the moment you leave your car in the parking lot to the time when you return to your car, all parishioners must wear a face mask. Only those with medical conditions that make wearing a mask difficult (such as those with asthma) or young children are exempt. Otherwise, anyone 6 years old or older are asked to bring a mask with them and wear it for the entire duration of the mass.
All parishioners are asked to properly wash their hands vigorously with soap and water prior to coming to mass. Parishioners are also asked to bring with them a small bottle of hand sanitizer and use it liberally during the mass in the event they’ve come into contact with any surfaces or objects. Good hygiene is important for all!
While on parish property, all parishioners will be required to maintain a social-distance of 6 feet or more from one another. There will be markings on the floor to assist with this. While heading to your seats and also while in the communion procession, please be sure not to get any closer than 6 feet from the person in front of you. This will require extra patience on everyone’s part, so please come prepared to spend a little more time doing the things that we have done habitually or without much thought in times past.
All collections will be taken up by means of deposit boxes at the entrances of the churches. Parishioners are asked to make their weekly contributions either on their way into mass or on their way out. There will be no passing of the baskets or offertory procession. Also, parishioners may continue to use the online-giving option, the “90-Days for Your Parish” online-giving program through the Archdiocese, or simply mail in their contributions. However you choose to contribute, a hearty Thank you! for your continued support of your parishes!
When it comes time for Holy Communion, parishioners will be asked to form a single Communion line in the center of the main aisles of each church, maintaining the necessary 6-foot distance from one another and keeping your face mask on as you do. Again, please watch for the markings on the floor to assist you with this. When it is your turn to approach the priest or Eucharistic Minister, extend both arms with hands flattened, one upon another, and the priest or Eucharistic Minister will place the host toward your hand from the top down and gently drop it into your hand without contact. Keeping your hands flattened, please step away 6-feet from them, quickly lower your mask, place the host in your mouth and quickly replace your face mask so that it fully covers your mouth and nose. Then, keeping a 6-foot distance from anyone in front of you, please return to your seat by the side aisles only. At this time Holy Communion will be distributed in the hand only. The Precious Blood will not be distributed. Please be careful not to have any contact with the priest, Eucharistic Minister or any other parishioners. No one should have to climb over another person to enter or exit the pew. Please move out of the way for each other if necessary.
A few other things that will be different: There will be no congregational singing during mass. Although we will plan to have limited music at these celebrations, people are invited to enjoy the music in a reverent silence for now. All hymnals will be removed from the churches. No bulletins or other printed materials will be available prior to the start of mass, although eventually we hope to be distributing them after mass is over on the way out of church. All parishioners are encouraged to visit our Collaborative website (www.hriccatholic.org) prior to mass and follow the links for the readings to prepare for mass ahead of time. Even as we begin to celebrate public masses in our churches, we will continue to improve-upon and offer our live-streamed masses online which will be available through our website or on Facebook. You do not have to be a member of Facebook to participate in the mass online.
While we will be doing everything we can to make our celebrations in the churches as safe as possible for all those who attend them, it is important for those who are in a high-risk category for COVID-19 (the elderly, those who have compromised immune systems or those with multiple risk-factors) to consider staying home at this time and enjoy our live-streamed mass. We must insist that anyone who does feel ill or if you believe that you have been exposed to COVID-19 please stay home and consult with your physician. This is for your health as well as the health of our faith communities.
To enable all of this to happen, we are in need of volunteers who can help with the cleaning our churches before or after a public mass, people to assist as greeters and help direct parishioners to proper seating sections of the church and those who would be willing to serve as Lectors and Eucharistic Ministers. We are also looking for new people to help with the live-streaming of our masses. Additionally, we will be engaging professional cleaning services to ensure that our buildings are as clean and safe as possible for all who wish to use them. Please contact our office at [email protected] for more information on how to volunteer or help.
Right now, we are planning on offering our first Sunday masses on June 7th at both Immaculate Conception Church in Newburyport as well as St. Ann’s in West Newbury. Nativity Church in Merrimac is currently closed for a long-awaited interior painting that was planned for from Holy Redeemer’s capital campaign of several years ago and will re-open a little later in June. To make your reservation to attend one of these masses, please watch our Collaborative website (www.hriccatholic.org) for more information in the days ahead. At this time, we are not ready to resume daily masses, but will do so after the launch of our Sunday masses and when proper arrangements can be made for cleaning, etc.
Confessions are available by appointment only and will be held outside in the fresh air and only when weather permits. Priest and penitent must wear face masks and maintain proper social-distancing throughout. Please contact our office at (978) 346-8604 or (978) 462-2724 to make an appointment.
Baptisms and Weddings are allowed to take place, subject to all of the above criteria. Again, please contact our office for additional information. We will begin to offer Funerals in our churches very soon. More information will be available shortly. Additionally, we will plan to re-open our Collaborative office in June. Again, more information will be available shortly on how and when that will happen.
The Archdiocese of Boston has released a short video on YouTube to help us prepare for returning to mass in what is now the “new normal.” Please take a moment and watch it before venturing forth into any of our churches in the weeks ahead. https://youtu.be/vLkFzkV9UjM
In all of this I would ask for your prayers that our collective efforts to resume public worship may be fruitful and safe for all concerned. It will be a great blessing from the Lord to be able to share in the Eucharist together once again, even under these limited circumstances. I am grateful for all that you do to help strengthen our parishes and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I deeply appreciate your witness of faith and evangelical patience!
May the Lord bless us all richly in the days to come!
Fr. Timothy Harrison, Pastor
May 18, 2020
Mass.gov link to the reopening of Massachusetts information: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/reopening-massachusetts
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
Update from 3-16-2020
Over these past few days we have been witness to many things that most of us thought were unlikely or improbable only a week or two before. With changes happening minute by minute, decisions were being made by those in leadership across our country, state and city that will have a profound impact on us all. As members of the Church, our faith life will be affected as well.
In response to the growing threat of the COVID-19 or the so-called “Coronavirus,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M., cap has made the decision to suspend all regularly-scheduled public Masses in all parishes in the Archdiocese. This will include Sunday as well as weekday Masses. Weddings, Baptisms and Funerals may proceed as needed, however with attendance being limited only to immediate family members.
All Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are directed to suspend their visits to the sick in area hospitals and nursing homes, as these institutions are largely on lock-down anyhow. Priests may still visit the sick and offer the Sacraments as needed.
All parish meetings and gatherings are cancelled until further notice, with the exception of AA/Recovery meetings, the Tuesday evening meal at IC (although it will be limited to take-out only) and the Holy Redeemer Sandwich Program.
Immaculate Conception School is closed and the children will be engaged in remote-learning through at least March 27th, with further extensions possible.
During this time, our Collaborative Office and the Immaculate Conception School Office will be open during normal business hours, unless circumstances require that to change.
Although public Masses are prohibited, we are going to attempt to live-stream certain Masses on our Collaborative Facebook page. Please connect with us on Facebook or visit our website: www.hriccatholic.org for more information and a link to these Masses when they are available. If successful in working out the technical details, this would be a great way to stay connected together in faith for the duration of this suspension of public worship.
Additional resources will be made available through the Archdiocesan website: www.bostoncatholic.org as well as on Boston Catholic TV available through your cable TV provider.
As we move through these uncertain times, it is important to remember that the Lord walks with us to protect us and lead us forward despite the challenges we face. It is essential that each of us take time every day to pray, ask for God’s help and open our hearts to trust in His love. With a special awareness of those in need around us, let us embrace this particular time of penance with humility and peace.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to our Collaborative Office and Staff if there is any way that we can help you, your family or anyone in need.
May God Bless us and protect us all in the days ahead!
Fr. Timothy Harrison, Pastor
From Cardinal Sean, March 13, 2020
In response to growing public concern and following Governor Baker’s Emergency Order prohibiting most gatherings of 250 or more people, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap, Archbishop of Boston, has made the decision effective immediately to temporarily suspend all daily and Sunday Masses and religious services in the Archdiocese of Boston until further notice. This begins at 4:00pm on Saturday afternoon, March 14. In announcing this decision, the Cardinal has also issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass during this time to the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Boston.
Cardinal Seán said “We live in times when many people are confused, hurt, and fearful, for many different reasons. In the midst of these challenges Jesus seeks to meet us in the same way He met the disciples on the road to Emmaus, accompanying us on the journey, calming our fears and anxieties and assuring us that He will be with us always in the gift of the Eucharist. This decision to temporarily suspend the daily and Sunday Mass is motivated by an abundance of caution and concern for those most vulnerable and the need to do our part to help limit and mitigate the spread of the illness.”
The directive to temporarily suspend the celebration of Mass applies to all Archdiocesan parishes, missions, and campus ministries until further notice.
Coronavirus, Church, and you!
March 2, 2020
With all of the media attention given to the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), we might wonder about how all of this will affect our families, community and the Church. Because this situation is evolving so rapidly, it is best to turn to online sources for the latest information and best-practices. Here are a few resources for up-to-date information from reputable authorities:
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health: https://www.mass.gov/guides/information-on-the-outbreak-of-2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19
The Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/
Boston Children’s Hospital: http://www.childrenshospital.org
Additionally, the Archdiocese of Boston will have updated information available as this situation affects our life together as a Church: www.bostoncatholic.org.
We will endeavor to keep our Collaborative website www.hriccatholic.org up-to-date as well.
Officials from the Archdiocese asked parishes to drain the Holy Water Fonts that parishioners customarily use to remind themselves of our Baptism as we enter and leave church. Also, we have already suspended the use of the common Communion Cup during Mass. We also ask you to refrain from any physical contact with other parishioners by a handshake or kiss during the Sign of Peace or to simply skip the Sign of Peace altogether for the time being.
We also underscore the encouragement we are all receiving from health officials to:
- stay home if you are sick
- wash your hands very frequently
- cover your mouth and nose with your elbow if you need to cough or sneeze.
Taken together, all of the above will help keep everyone as safe as possible during this time of concern. We will work to update our response as needed and required by those in authority. Please check the above websites for the latest information.
May the Lord and protect all of us, especially the most vulnerable and needy in our midst.
Fr. Timothy Harrison, Pastor