From the Pastor: The Week Ahead
This is the first full week of October and you all know what that means: it is time for the Annual Diocesan Priest Convocation. Yes, that week when all of the priests get together and hear some lectures, share some stories, eat a lot of good food, pray a bit as a group, and generally enjoy each other’s company. It is also the week that I generally have a visiting priest come and give a parish mission and take over the Masses while I am at the convocation. So for the next few days you won’t be able to find any of us priests around... Oh, wait. I forgot. Covid. Drat! How could I have overlooked that pesky little virus? There is no Priest Convocation this year. Quite a few months ago the command decision was made to cancel it. And with travel restrictions and an ever-lengthening two week “straighten the curve” set of “guidelines” that somehow found more force than the law itself, the parish mission was canceled as well. So life will go on pretty much as normal around here this week. Or will it? After all, who really knows what “normal” is anymore when the “new normal” (wearing masks, avoiding people, bathing yourself in kerosene every five minutes, etc.) is being touted as something wonderful all the time?
You might have realized when you came into church this week that the “new normal” blue and green tape has been removed from the pews and floor. That is a result of the Bishop’s allowing us to follow the Governor’s elimination of occupancy restrictions. That does not mean that you should throw caution to the wind and start licking doorknobs (once again?), but it does mean that there is more flexibility in achieving your own sense of “safe space” in the church and hall. For now, I am keeping the social hall open for overflow during Mass, where you can arrange seats close or far from each other in the open space, while being “morally present” to the Mass which is being celebrated just feet from you although visible only via the monitor unless you have x-ray vision. You can hear it over the speaker system of the church as well. I will also keep the 1:00 pm additional Sunday Mass for now as we see how many people do or don’t rush back to the other Masses. “But Father!” I have heard the cries from so many people, “But Father! What about coffee and donuts?” Yes, that is a real issue. Not quite “the” real issue, but a real one nonetheless. All of the new people want to meet all of the regulars and vice versa. Old friends want to catch up and enjoy some time together. Everyone wants to get back to the old “normal” not just in the spiritual but also in the social aspects of the Church. Would you believe that there were no written guidelines sent to us from the Diocese about this so very important thing? So I have made a command decision. If restaurants can open full bore, so can we. Gathering for coffee and donuts is not mandated under any sort of obligation. Please use your common sense. Don’t cram into the hall like sardines. Grab a bite and sit outside at one of the many picnic tables, or stand under the oak trees chatting if the hall is crowded. Above all remember that if you are sick, if you have even the beginnings of symptoms of covid, stay home! One sure way of getting the churches closed down again is coming while contagious and spreading this darn thing throughout the congregation. Remember that even asymptomatic covid is counted as “killing grandma” in the headlines and official statistics, and the media is searching diligently to gloat about a superspreader event at a church. Don’t let that be us!
In other news, in case you didn’t catch the announcement last week, St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission is in the process of purchasing their own property and church in the Town and Country area of Tampa. Fr. Chien has told me that they expect to move out of Epiphany before Christmas. They have already started a very successful fundraising campaign and have further financing set up with the Diocese. They have the Bishop’s blessing. They are assessing the structural issues of the current buildings on the property which need to be fixed, rebuilt, or otherwise transformed into something usable for them. Some things might need to be fixed before they can move in, others might wait until later. The best-case scenario will be something like this: everything is functioning and there are no safety issues, so they can move right in and do simple repairs and upgrades and aesthetical work while already occupying and using the church and other buildings. But a more likely scenario is that they will have to do some work before they can move in while doing most of the work afterward. Only time will tell.
Speaking of time, I am looking forward to taking some time off. Since this whole week’s normal events were canceled, I plan on taking the “canceled” week off. Well, taking off whatever time is left after praying the breviary, celebrating the morning Masses, hearing confessions, giving the Benediction, blessing all the religious articles brought in, and then checking the mail, answering emails and texts, returning phone calls, writing bulletin articles, attending meetings, and doing all of the other little tasks that pop up. You know, that didn’t sound so restful once I put it down on paper. Sigh...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka