Happy Easter! Here is the anticipated message from our chief pastor:
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
From updates provided by state officials, we are preparing to enter Phase 1 of reintegrating our diocese back to normal operations. While this is not full reintegration of our normal lives, it is a step forward, as Governor Northam’s plan for Phase 1, which begins on May 15, allows for churches to operate at a maximum of 50% capacity, unless a local jurisdiction determines otherwise. Reinstituting the public celebration of the Mass at each parish depends on proper social distancing and the ability of parish clergy and staff to safely accommodate parishioners. This ability may vary from one parish to another.
Know that when we return to our churches to worship together at Mass, some restrictions will be essential for everyone’s wellbeing. A Reintegration Working Group is assisting me in developing those critical measures. This group is composed of pastors from diverse parishes in our diocese, medical experts, public health professionals, and others with pertinent expertise.
The Reintegration Working Group has been preparing requirements and recommendations that will be implemented in all parishes to ensure the safety and health of parishioners. Implementation will allow for some flexibility when appropriate. The Working Group’s approach will evolve as more information is provided by public health and government officials. We will provide pastors and the faithful with more information next week.
Since many still have concerns about attending Mass, such as having health conditions that make attending public gatherings inadvisable, the dispensation I promulgated from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and on Holy Days of Obligation will remain until further notice. I respectfully encourage parishioners who are 60 years old or older and those who have underlying medical conditions to ensure their own health and safety by staying at home until the dispensation is lifted.
The risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus will remain a reality for quite some time. Those who visit our parishes, ministries, charities and programs must recognize this inherent risk and take every reasonable precaution. Consequently, the use of face coverings and hand sterilization are recommended as a critical part of our gradual reintegration.
Diocesan guidelines will include limiting the number of persons allowed per Mass, maintaining social distance, and providing for an active cleaning schedule. Due to limited attendance, parishes will be asked to continue live streaming the Mass as much as possible. The Reintegration Working Group guidelines will also include measures such as omitting the presentation of the gifts by members of the assembly, omitting the
exchange of peace among those gathered, and suspending the distribution of the Precious Blood.
Thank you for your patience as we adapt to this ongoing situation. You can be assured that the Reintegration Working Group and I are working steadfastly to reinstitute quickly and safely the public celebration of the Mass, as well as diocesan and parish events, celebrations and liturgies. This will be done while doing everything reasonable to provide for the spiritual and physical well-being of all the faithful.
Going forward, we will continue to share updates regarding our guidelines through our website, social media, email and the Arlington Catholic Herald. I recommend everyone follow us on social media to receive the most current information regarding new developments.
I also encourage everyone to sign-up for our e-newsletter at ArlingtonDiocese.org/Email.
In closing, I am grateful for your faith, for your prayers, and for your continued support during this demanding and unusual time.
Please continue to pray for your priests and for me—know that I am praying for you and your families as well. I look forward to seeing you all very soon. God bless!
Sincerely in Christ,
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge
P.S. Details about how this effects our parish and our worship will be forthcoming. I need to meet with staff this week.
P.P.S. On May 29th, the Knights of Columbus will be collecting non-perishable food to replenish the Saint Lucy Project’s food warehouse. Donations will be accepted at the Food Lion parking lot off Washington Street in downtown Haymarket between 10AM and 2PM on Friday the 29th. If you can’t deliver your donation to the Food Lion parking lot on the 29th, you may bring any donations to Saint Stephens from May 11– May 28. There will be a bin labeled “St.Lucys” in the narthex for your donation