At last some of our Churches are being permitted to open for private prayer only for a few hours each week. Churches which are already open for private prayer in the Leicester Deanery (which covers the whole of Leicester and South Leicestershire, as well as some areas surrounding the city):
- Holy Cross, Wellington Street, Leicester will be open between 2pm and 5pm from Tuesday to Saturday;
- St. Patrick’s, Beaumont Leys Lane, will be open between 10am and 12 noon on Sundays, and between 5pm and 7pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays;
- Sacred Heart, Mere Road, Leicester, will be open between 10am and 12 noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and between 5pm and 7pm on Wednesdays and Fridays;
- Our Lady of Victories, Market Harborough will be open between 10am and 12 noon on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
In addition, two more Churches will be open for private prayer from this weekend (probably):
- St. Peter’s, Hinckley Road, Leicester, will be open on Sundays between 3pm and 5pm;
- Our Lady of Good Counsel, Gleneagles Avenue, will be open on Sundays and Tuesdays from 10am to 12 noon, and on Thursdays from 5pm to 7pm
In order to be able to open for private prayer, a Church must have at least two volunteers to act as stewards for the whole time of opening. These stewards must be at least 16 years old. The previous upper age limit has been relaxed, but anyone 70 years old or above who wishes to volunteer as a steward must be healthy and aware of the risks. All volunteers must be not at risk themselves nor caring for a person who is at risk due to age or an underlying health condition. The Churches must also have volunteers to clean the Church thoroughly after every day of opening. Looking forward to when it may be possible to open St. Pius X Narborough or Our Lady of Victories and St. Alphonsus, Lutterworth, and in particular for when we may have services of public worship again, it will be necessary for us to have volunteers to act as stewards and as cleaners.
I am very grateful to those who have already volunteered, and would ask for more volunteers if possible please, so that we can consider opening at some time for private prayer. In order eventually to be able to hold public worship (including weekend Mass) it will be necessary to have the volunteer stewards and cleaners in place. There are also a number of other conditions, such as signs indicating where people may sit, which must be in place; and we have to have completed a ‘risk assessment’ which the diocese has approved; and we must also have photographed the inside of the Church, showing the signage in place, and sent the photograph to the diocese for approval.
So I am again asking for volunteers! Please let me know whether you would be willing to act as a steward or as a cleaner (or both!); and whether you are 70 or over, or under 70. I will probably need to be ready with lists of volunteers for when we are permitted to start celebrating Mass again in public, and it would be wonderful to think that we were ready to go on the first day possible.
I have measured St. Pius X Church, and think we can accommodate 40 people, keeping a 2 metre distance. I intend to measure Our Lady of Victories and St. Alphonsus Church on Sunday and see how we could best arrange the restricted seating to maximize the possible number attending at any one time. I am very grateful to Father John Joe, Deacon Kevin, members of the parish committee, and all who have been willing to give me the benefit of their advice and offers of practical effort in regard to future possibilities. We will all need to pull together very effectively in the months ahead. I will need a lot of assistance – as well as the stewards and the cleaners, I will need help obtaining and putting up the appropriate signage, obtaining setting up the sanitizers, obtaining face masks, and no doubt other items will be necessary as well, completing the risk assessment, and then, of course, taking the photographs and sending them by email to the diocese.
When we are permitted to celebrate Mass in Church again, there will be a number of necessary changes to the ceremony we have been accustomed to. There will be no holy water at the entrance of the Church. Readers will have to wear gloves. There will be no altar servers or offertory procession. Holy Communion can only be received as the host, and must be received in the hand – and the priest or deacon must not touch the hand of the recipient. The priest must not greet the people at the Church door before or after Mass. These, I think, will be the main differences.
Outdoor Mass will be allowed after 4th July, provided we can maintain social distance and obey the regulations given above. If we use this method (weather permitting, of course) we would need to leave the car parks free of cars. I wonder whether we might be able to celebrate Mass in the Church porch, with parishioners in their cars, if the weather is poor?
Since mid-March, of course the ‘Sunday Obligation’ has been suspended: there is never an obligation which it is impossible to fulfil! However, when Churches are open again for celebrating Mass, because of the restrictions it will probably be impossible to accommodate everyone during a weekend. Further, there will be many people, particularly those who are 70+ (like me) or have an underlying health condition which makes them particularly susceptible, who will not wish to attend a public celebration because of a well-founded fear. I think that the ‘Sunday Obligation’ will probably still be suspended for some weeks after public worship can resume. We need to reflect further about how we can reasonably help those who are more vulnerable to attend some celebrations of Mass. By own preference would be that we could celebrate Sunday Mass also on (at least some) weekdays. Even if that is not permitted (I have no reason to think it will be) I am sure that it would be helpful to some (perhaps many) of our parishioners to be able to celebrate Mass and receive Holy Communion on a weekday rather than on a Sunday.
I have also been given instructions about hearing confessions. This includes the possibility that a priest may hear confessions outside – and one suggestion is that priest and penitent should sit back to back! This takes me back to the days when I was a tutor for the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council. We had a technique for people pretending to have a telephone conversation: we would make them sit back to back so they couldn’t see each other. Perhaps confessions by telephone will be the next stage?? (I’m not sure about security!)
I have been asked to add a notice about the Church collection. I have so far not done so, because I know that many of you will be worried about your finances, and I had no wish to add to your burdens. However, I have now received a directive from the diocese that all parishioners must be encouraged to make their contribution by standing order or electronic means if possible. I can provide the parish Bank details to anyone who would like to donate in that manner – many of you already do so (and I am very grateful indeed). I can provide standing order mandates for anyone else who wishes – please just ask. When public celebration of Mass resumes, the collection must not be taken in the usual way. Baskets can be at the Church door for people to put their offering in as they enter or leave the Church – and obviously these boxes must be under the watchful eye of a steward at all times! The collection then has to be put into a sealed bag and left for 72 hours. When it is counted, the counters must wear gloves, and the counting must be done in a well ventilated area.
I know that many of you who have ‘planned giving envelopes’ have been putting money in each week – and that is very good of you. When we can meet again, please bring the envelopes to Church and they can be added to the ‘sealed bag’ as above! This gives a different dimension to ‘filthy lucre’.
LACY “Leicestershire Active Catholic Youth” will be holding their next on line by Zoom meeting on Wednesday 1st July at 7.30 p.m. A warm invitation is extended to anyone interested in helping us put together new ideas to share “Faith and Fun” with our young people. Our recent “Via Lucis” Stations of the Resurrection, held on the feast of Pentecost, via Zoom, was well supported and as our meeting is also on line this may be an opportunity for you to share some time with us! The ID is 753 4350 3073 and the password is 2j2bGp. We look forward to seeing You! More information if required from [email protected].
This week I will celebrate Mass at approximately 9am each day for the following intentions:
Sunday Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul: for the people fo the Parishes; Monday Intentions of A and M Bunyan; Tuesday the people of the parish (Mass in time of pandemic); Wednesday Lesley Hudson RIP; Thursday Intentions of Mrs U Murray; Friday John Scattergood RIP; Saturday Anne Kemp RIP; next Sunday People of the Parishes.
Please pray for Michael Morrissey, Teresa Maugham, Debbie Bourke, Elaine Smith, Sheila Knight, Elizabeth Fullerton, Mary Dunne, Ranjit Mann, Juanita Zaman, (all parishioners or relatives of parishioners), Sister Philippa (of the convent in Derby) and Father Michael Horrax (retired priest of this Diocese) who are seriously ill; and for Mary Smith, Kathleen Pearcey, Anne Kemp, Sheila Dunn, Joan Lamyman, Sister Breege Leddy, Steven Moger, Anne Foong, Michael Ginnerty, Agnes Hanford, Father Richard Adam (of Mount St. Bernard’s Abbey), Sean O’Neill, and all who have died recently. Please let me know of any others who have died, or anyone who is ill and wishes to ask for prayers, so that I can add them to the list.
While we have been unable to meet together to celebrate Mass, I know that many of you have been able to access Mass ‘on the internet’. Some, I know, have been ‘attending’ Mass in many different churches in countries across the whole world – a wonderful reminder that we are a Universal Church and that Our Lord came to save everyone. Perhaps it is also a good opportunity to reflect on the ‘Sacrifice of the Mass’ and the idea of a ‘spiritual communion’. So first of all the ‘sacrifice of the Mass’ – and next week perhaps ‘spiritual communion’.
Last week I read that in the Sacrifice of the Mass we:
- Actively celebrate the death and Resurrection of Our Lord;
- Join with Christ in his eternal thanksgiving for creation and the redemption of the world;
- Give our own personal assent to the obedience of Christ who died for us;
- Ratify with our own faith, hope, and love the transformation of the world which was begun in Christ’s death and resurrection;
- Enter, by our own free surrender, into our Lord’s own love, uniting all people into the Body of Christ;
- Renew Our Lord’s consent to his death on the cross as the law of our own lives;
- Look with expectation and confidence towards Our Lord’s return;
- Enter into the victory of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and the coming of his Kingdom;
- Ratify that covenant which God has sealed with us in the blood of his Son;
- Surrender ourselves to Our Lord’s humanity in his weakness, his vulnerability, his subjection to death, as the way in which the power of God works in us.
When I read that I was horrified! I hardly touch the surface when I celebrate Mass each day! If I reflect on one or two of those points, I think I have done quite well. Isn’t it a wonderful thing that every time Mass is celebrated, it is the whole Church celebrating – and the Church makes up for my own weakness.
I am still thinking of you all and looking forward to meeting you again in person. I pray for you, and ask that you pray for me and for all members of our two communities. I hope you are all keeping well and virus free, and keeping as active as possible and in good spirits. If there is any way that I can help, please do let me know.
I am very grateful to all of you who have been distributing my thoughts and messages to those who may not have been receiving them directly. Do please think of those members of our community who may not be ‘computer-savvy’ or do not have email, or perhaps may not have given me their email address. You are welcome to share these thoughts with anyone else who you feel may benefit from them or would like to read them. Please also continue to pass on to me any messages from them – including email addresses. I would very much like to reach as many members of our communities as possible, and if my thoughts are of any benefit to those who are not in our community, I would be delighted.
With best wishes to you all, and assuring you all of my prayers. Father John