In the feeding of the crowd, Jesus reveals himself as a prophet.
(Mark 6. 34-44)
MESSAGES FROM THE BISHOP
Dear clergy and faithful,
We have just celebrated the great feast of the Epiphany. From now on, God’s salvation becomes universal, for He is no longer reserved only for the people of Israel. All are invited to participate in the great banquet of the eternal wedding feast that God reserves for those who will persevere to the end, practicing here below the Christian virtues and dominating their earthly passions and desires… with the help of divine grace, of course!
Christians today are still called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus, the Saviour of the nations, by their words, their actions and by the example of their lives which should all be consecrated to God, each according to his or her state of life. In this Christmas season, which will continue until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord this coming Sunday, may our whole being become a sign of the presence of this God who comes to dwell deep within us. Today, so many people are unaware of the fact that God dwells within them and that He desires nothing more than to communicate His personal and infinite love to them. They do not yet understand that they need to imitate the spiritual journey that the Magi undertook after having scrutinized the signs of heaven, symbol of their desire to know God and to enter into a personal relationship with Him.
As we hold in our hearts the souls who ignore God, let us pray that they will resolutely convert and set out to follow the star that God will create to guide them to the stable in Bethlehem. Following the example of the Magi who travelled from the East, I pray that many of us become true seekers of God, and that after personally encountering the Saviour – a step that we should all undertake every day through our prayer time – we may depart joyfully and accomplish our daily mission of making him known, loved and served.
+ Guy Desrochers, C.Ss.R., Bishop of Pembroke
Letter to the Priests, Deacons and faithful of the Ontario sector of the diocese
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Dear confreres, dear colleagues, dear faithful,
Yesterday’s decision by the Ontario government to reduce our liturgies to a maximum of 10 people (including the priest) for the next 28 days, starting December 26, 2020, once again forces us to limit drastically the number of our faithful who will be able to receive the Holy Eucharist or other sacraments. I am very sorry about this, rest assured, for our gatherings contribute to our growing together in unity, fraternity and charity, all of which have their source in the divine heart of the Father and the Son.
Last July, I sent you a letter in which I invited you to observe as faithfully as possible the directives of our governmental and health authorities. I would like to thank you sincerely for all the efforts and sacrifices you have made since then in each of our parishes, which have helped to prevent and considerably reduce the spread of the virus. Virtually no other organization or business frequented by the general public offers so many ways to prevent the spread of the virus : systematic decontamination of the premises after each religious service; use of hand sanitizers; wearing a mask when entering, leaving and receiving Communion in the hand only, except for a few rare exceptions; physical demarcation of the places where one can sit in order to maintain the social distance of 2 meters; elimination of all songbooks or even holy water to avoid possible contamination; volunteers or employees trained to educate and guide the faithful who enter the premises; courteous invitation to sign the register of participants in each of our liturgical celebrations; elimination of choirs and songs where the risk of contagion is greater; training and education often renewed to get used to the new ways of proceeding; elimination of the traditional way of giving the sign of peace; and so on.
This means that if we continue to adhere to all the health measures recommended by the authorities, we will eventually come to be recognized by the authorities as one of the safest places for the public to gather in times of pandemic. I believe that the greatest challenge we still have to overcome is to convince our authorities that our places of worship are truly “essential” places, on a par with, if not more than, the food chains or the liquor boards. Our churches must not be closed in the future, because they are truly essential to the psychological and spiritual well-being of people, especially when they are experiencing periods of insecurity and anxiety in times of great trial.
Today, I would like to draw your attention to some of the health regulations and measures that have evolved since the beginning of the crisis, and which the Renfrew County District Health Unit is urging us to adopt as soon as possible. These guidelines were communicated to me directly yesterday by the RCDHU Manager of Healthy Environments, Mr. David Tantalo. I assured him that he would see my message prior to publication so that he could approve it before it is sent to you.
In my last message sent at the end of July, I wrote that we had to enter the church wearing a mask and that we could lower it once we arrived in our pew, since at that time we were observing physical distancing. We also had to wear it before and after receiving Communion in our hands, and wear it again when leaving the church. Now, the RCDHU is asking us to wear the mask throughout the whole celebration, not just at certain times. I suppose that the alarming increase in the number of cases in some parts of Ontario plays a big part in this new request, even though our region is not currently experiencing a serious risk of an explosion of new cases. The purpose of this request is no doubt based on the fact that because of the present lockdown in high-risk areas like Toronto, there is concern about the possible movement of people from these areas to come and participate in our liturgies simply because they could then benefit and participate in our Eucharistic celebrations. So, by confining all areas of Southern Ontario at the same time (we are in this category!), as the government just did yesterday, the risk factor of contamination is considerably reduced, according to them, because we avoid the movement of people from out of town.
When congregants enter the church, assuming a person is not wearing a mask, RCDHU invites our volunteers to ask them, “Are you able to wear a mask?” If the answer is yes, then the volunteer offers a mask free of charge from a designated area in the church. However, I made it clear to Mr. Tantalo that volunteers or priests are not police officers. If the person is stubborn, we simply have to let them go. They are not to be threatened or insulted with unkind words. This is why physical distancing of our parishioners is so important in that it acts as another level of protection. We must also avoid judging those who do not wear masks, because they often have medical reasons for not wearing them. I also take advantage of this moment to ask those who would be tempted at some point to make a complaint to the RCDHU or to the bishop directly, to first go through the pastor of the parish before lodging the complaint. The present letter that I am sending you today could already help to alleviate or elucidate certain tensions or possible criticisms and unfavorable judgments. I invite pastors to keep a number of copies of my letter in the church.
Let us not forget that all the other elements present in my previous letter are still in force. I am thinking here in particular of the question of Communion on the tongue. During the time of the pandemic, I recommend that those who prefer to receive Communion on the tongue refrain from doing so until further notice. For those who have serious problems of conscience with the reception of Communion in the hand, I invite you to proceed as I have already indicated: wait until all those who receive Communion in the hand have received it first, and present yourself at the end of the line only. If your pastor is in the habit of distributing Communion in the pews, let those who wish to receive Communion on the tongue be the last to receive it. And I add that if the pastor who is circulating in the pews realizes that he has accidentally touched the tongue or lips of the communicant, despite all his usual precautions, let him go immediately to purify his hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer before continuing his service. Public health has asked that hands be purified after each person receiving Communion on the tongue. Let us remember that I have also asked priests to provide a number of larger hosts, cut in half before the beginning of the celebration, for those who might still want to receive communion on the tongue. In this way the possibility of making a false move at the moment of giving Communion is considerably reduced.
The RCDHU has put forward the observation that the priest or extraordinary minister distributing Holy Communion may also utilize a face shield over the mask when carrying out this function. As many parishioners are already doing, communicants are encouraged to step aside, lower their mask and then consume the Host to reduce face-to-face contact. Ensuring this procedure would mean a face shield would not be necessary. This does not apply to those receiving Communion on the tongue.
Thank you once again, dear fellow priests, deacons and faithful who have, since the beginning of the pandemic, observed with such meticulous attention all the directives of the health and government authorities, even if some among us have at times doubted or continue to doubt the true effectiveness of certain health measures. You have done so with zeal and perseverance for the greater good of our Christian communities and for the good of the population in general. Let us not cease to focus first and foremost on the apostolic mission that Christ entrusts to us, that of making him known and loved here and now. In spite of and because of all the obstacles that confront us during this pandemic, they will bring out more clearly our true nature as sons and daughters of God. Our patience, charity, peace and trust in God in the midst of trials will become signs of God’s presence and love for those we encounter and whom we must evangelize by our words and deeds, by our prayers and by the comfort we can provide for them.
May God bless you in these times of rejoicing and festivities as we celebrate the birth of our Savior,
+ Guy Desrochers, C.Ss.R.
Bishop of Pembroke
FROM THE DIOCESE
For the repose of the soul of Theresa Marsey, staff worker of Madonna House, died peacefully on December 26, 2020 in Our Lady of the Visitation – St. Mary’s, Madonna House, Combermere.
Pope Francis Proclaims “Year of St. Joseph”
With the Apostolic Letter “Patris corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”), Pope Francis recalls the 150th anniversary of the declaration of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. To mark the occasion, the Holy Father has proclaimed a “Year of Saint Joseph” 8 December 2020, to 8 December 2021. (Read full article here)
CONFIRMATION PREPARATION a problem this year?
Consider two options for online Confirmation preparation. Simple and cost effective. Both are excellent programs to help young people prepare and be strengthened for their mission in the Catholic Church. Please visit https://www.catholiconline.school/pages/confirmation or https://www.hopestone.ca/confirmation. For more information contact Deacon Adrien Chaput at 613 732-7933 ext. 206.
MARRIAGE, FAMILY, YOUTH & YOUNG ADULTS
Parishes…..looking for ways to reach out and minister to youth during the pandemic?
LIFETEEN has new resources for youth grade 6-8 and 9-12 that are all online and virtual to help keep teens engaged in their faith and connected to the Church. Contact Yvette Bourque at 613 732-7933 ext. 208 for more information. I would be happy to discuss the options that are available.
Holy Mass – Extraordinary Form
Holy Mass in the extraordinary form is offered at St Columbkille Cathedral on the first Saturday of each month at 9 a.m. These Latin Masses are in the form of the Liturgy as it was celebrated at the time of the Second Vatican Council—the same form which nourished the faith of many of our ancestors. English translations of the entire Mass are provided. Next Mass – postponed until further notice due to the new governmental restrictions.
OTHER CATHOLIC EVENTS
Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services of Ontario Monthly Virtual Pray Meeting
C.C.R.S.O. invites you to their monthly virtual pray meeting night on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 at 7 p.m. Register by January 5th to receive the Zoom invitation at www.CCRSO.net.
Companions of the Cross and The Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services of Ontario present School of Charisms “Discover your Spiritual Gifts” Virtual Workshop
On Friday, January 8th from 7-9 p.m. and Saturday, January 9th from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Please pre-register for the virtual ZOOM meeting online here to receive a link the day before the event. An opportunity to make a free-will offering can be made at the end of the workshop. Everyone is welcome!
Knights of Columbus presents “Into the Breach”
This video series will be offered beginning Tuesday, January 12th at 7 p.m. Into the Breach is a call to battle for Catholic men which urges them to embrace wholeheartedly masculine virtues in a world in crisis. For more information about this 12 week series for men, contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org or 306 260-9672. Learn more or download the study guide at here.
2021 Diocese of St. Augustine Virtual Catholic Holy Spirit Healing Conference “Who Do You Say I Am?” (Matthew 16:15)
On January 31st. Key note speaker: Dr. Ralph Martin, President Renewal Ministries. No Cost, however donations are greatly appreciated. Click here to register or for more information.
Marianhill Lottery 2021 supports the “Building Care” Redevelopment Project
Marianhill 2021 Lottery tickets are now available through to January 31, 2021. Lottery funds go towards the purchase of furniture and equipment for the new building. Each $25 ticket provides you with 69 chances to win. Call Marianhill to order 613 735-6838 ext. 4306 OR download ticket order form at https://marianhill.ca/news/. Tickets will be mailed via Canada Post. Thank you for supporting the Marianhill Foundation!