Greetings in the Octave of Easter. I hope that the celebration of the Resurrection, despite the minimalist nature of the liturgies, was an occasion to proclaim our joy and hope in the truth of Christ’s redemptive love.
I want to provide some updates and information below on items pertinent to the ministry of priests and the conduct of parishes in the Archdiocese.
Public Masses, Sacraments, and Gatherings
Along with the Diocese of Savannah, the Archdiocese will continue suspension of public gatherings, including Masses, sacraments, and devotions until further notice. This is in keeping with adherence to the Governor’s shelter-in-place order and with the recommendation of the College of Consultors.
Parish Schools of Religion
Parish schools of religion will also remain in suspension during the time that public Masses are not celebrated. Thus, these will be aligned with activity in the parishes rather than with Catholic schools, as was earlier announced.
With approaching First Communion celebrations scheduled on the calendar, pastors are encouraged to strongly consider postponing the celebrations through May. Since it is difficult to determine when the suspension of the public celebration of the Mass will be lifted or modified, and given the planning involved in First Communion celebrations, a pro-active response may be the better route. The Archdiocese will continue to monitor and provide updates when possible.
Daily Rosary Offered Online
If your parish is offering a daily rosary, livestreamed or recorded, and you are interested in making that available throughout the Archdiocese, would you kindly contact Maureen Smith, Director of Communications (email@example.com), so that arrangement can be made to share the rosary with others in the Archdiocese?
Online Retreat and Recollection
If you are interested in making available a series of talks or a reflection during the Easter Season that can be shared with the people of the Archdiocese, please contact Bishop Ned or me, or Andy Lichtenwalner, Director of the Office of Formation and Discipleship (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Funeral Masses in Funeral Homes
Normally, permission is not granted for a Mass to be celebrated in a funeral home. Now, however, during the time that we cannot have people gathered for a larger funeral, sometimes the funeral home has better availability of livestreaming to relatives and others. Thus, permission is granted to celebrate Mass for that reason in a funeral home, until we return to our churches.
Visits to Hospitals and Homes
Visits to the sick and homebound who request it can be the exercise of an essential service, one that respects the sheltering-in-place for the faithful and constitutes a legitimate exception for the priest. These should consist of the Anointing of the Sick as requested, or the opportunity to pray with or to bless an individual or family. Priests whose health or immune system is impaired in any way should seek to locate another priest who can carry out a pastoral visit to the sick.
Regarding contact with those who are or might be infected with COVID-19, please see the attached Guidelines from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
These pastoral visits should not include the bringing of the Blessed Sacrament—except as Holy Communion in conjunction with Viaticum, as we simply would not be able to accommodate all the requests for personal visits with the Blessed Sacrament.
Pastoral circumstances should dictate whether it is advisable to offer the opportunity for individual confession, per individual request. Priests are to maintain necessary distancing from the penitent and to carefully protect the confidentiality of the confession.
In cases in which personal confession becomes impossible because of hospital restrictions or other obstacles, please reference the earlier provisions from the Apostolic Penitentiary regarding the Holy Father’s granting of a plenary indulgence and the instruction on Perfect Contrition.
Mass Intentions and Stipends
The Archdiocese’s Policy (Guidelines) on Mass stipends was issued in 2010 and has not been revised. Some of you are finding that your weekly Masses are fewer and you are accumulating a backlog of Mass intentions and stipends. Until the guidelines are revised or until we return to public Masses, you are advised to offer excess intentions and stipends to senior priests in the Archdiocese, religious congregations here and elsewhere, or missionary societies which may be able to see to the offering of the Masses.
If you are a priest who has the capacity to handle some of the backlog for our parishes, would you kindly inform me or Bishop Ned of your willingness to offer Masses for these intentions?
Archbishop Hartmayer’s Installation
We have learned that the Apostolic Nuncio will not be able to travel to Atlanta for the installation of Archbishop Hartmayer on May 6th. The installation will, however, take place that day as scheduled, albeit under the current maximum limited participants, if those orders are still in force. It will be livestreamed from the cathedral, and notice will be sent to all in the Archdiocese as to the means for viewing it.
Archdiocesan Offices and Services
Our offices in the Archdiocese are attempting to be responsive to your questions and needs during this time that most staffers are working remotely. Should you have difficulty in contacting the right person or knowing where to find an answer, do not hesitate to contact Bishop Ned or me.
I thank the parishes that have made funds available for getting food to those in need, especially in light of the fact that food banks are going empty and St, Vincent de Paul chapters and Catholic Charities are out of supplies and money. We will be working to see how we can provide additional aid to our Catholic support organizations.