May 20, 2020

Dear parishioners and friends, 

By now, you have probably heard that the Bishop of the Diocese of Wilmington has allowed us to reopen our churches for common worship gradually. We are doing so following the guidelines we received from our governor, of course. 

It feel so wonderful that we are moving in this direction, and I can’t wait to see all of you back to where we form the most wonderful Family: gathered as One in Church, celebrating God’s love for us, and allowing Him to form us into the Body of Christ. 

But, let me be clear about one thing: this gradual reopening does not mean we are going back to normal right away : things are still not under full control. Precautions and specific regulations are still being mandated and enforced. And we are going to follow them all. It’s time to love heroically, when what each one of us thinks or desires may take second place to let our love and care for others come to the fore more brightly. 

In our diocese, we will be able to welcome members of the congregation starting on June 1 for Daily Mass and June 7 for our Sunday serviceFor now, we are going to offer all Liturgical Celebrations at Holy Angels Church, in English-only at 9 AM and in Spanish-only at 1 PM; we will also have a Spanish-only Mass on Saturday at 5PM. More Mass times will be added as we move along. Of course, we will return to St John’s Church as soon as we are sure we can follow the guidelines properly. 

Daily Mass will continue to be celebrated in our chapel and, starting on June 1st, will be at 8 AM. We strongly recommend to let us know if you’re joining us for Mass. Seating in the chapel is really minimum. Again, once we reach capacity, we will close the doors. 

The sacrament of Reconciliation will be also celebrated following the guidelines: We will not use the usual reconciliation room. Another room will be designated for it. Both the priest and the penitent will be seated properly, and must be wearing a mask at all times. No exceptions will be made. It is offered on Saturday at 3PM at Holy Angels Church, or by appointment. 

Because of our guidelines, there will be limited seating. Although various methods (reservations, tickets, random invitations, etc.) have been proposed, none seems to be really the best. For now, we are choosing to follow the “first come, first seated” rule. Once the number is reached, the doors will be closed. All congregants are to use the main doors at Holy Angels Church. 

For the time being, all other celebrations (like Baptisms, Weddings, Funeral Masses, etc.) are still restricted. 

Our liturgical celebrations will continue to be streamed. Because the obligation to participate at Mass is still being lifted, this will allow people to participate at home, especially the particularly vulnerable (e.g., over the age of sixty, existing heart or lung conditions, diabetes, or otherwise immuno-compromised, etc. – please, check the CDC website for more information), who are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED, for their own health, to avoid the risk of attending public celebrations.

The Bishop’s guidelines remind us that: “Individuals are the primary protectors of their own health; during this current situation, there is always risk entering public spaces. To that end, coming into an open church building carries that same risk. Individuals assume that risk for themselves in these circumstances.” Those who are showing symptoms or may possibly be exposed to the virus within 14 days are not permitted to enter the church, according with national, state, and local health directives. All attendees are asked to check their temperature at home before coming to church for any reason. Likewise, anyone with a persistent cough or who otherwise does not feel well should not come to church

You may notice that parishes may implement the Bishop’s guideline in different ways. This situation is because each congregation is different, and pastors have been given the authority to do what is best for the parishioners according to the local situation. For example, the guideline allows us to seat 1/3 of normal capacity, up to 250 people. The number however, can be lowered if a particular parish cannot support all the preparation and the cleaning up that needs to be done before and after every Mass. For this reason, a pastor can lower the number of attendees. 

In our parish, no minister will ever be asked to volunteer against one’s willingness to do so!

No matter what, there are some things that we will all have to follow: no one is allowed in the building without a mask or face-covering, which must be worn at all times while in Church, even during Mass. The priest-celebrant may wear it during Mass but will do so during the distribution of the Eucharist. 

Failing to wear a face-covering at all times will result in either refusal to enter, or an invitation to leave the building. No exceptions will be made

All members of the congregation are asked to sanitize their hands upon entering the church, using the dispensers available. You are also encouraged to bring your own hands disinfectant. Pews and other surfaces are cleaned before the service, and immediately after. 

The ushers will indicate which pews and seats are available to be occupied. Families who live in the same household can sit together; if you plan to participate with your family members, we strongly recommend to let us know in advance. There are no holy water fonts available for blessing, so people don’t need to stop upon entering. Please, follow directions promptly. 

bathroom will be designated to be used but only for real emergencies. 

The most challenging part, I believe, can be the distribution and reception of the Eucharist. 

You will be guided throughout the celebration about these new procedures; these, although temporary, must be followed with no exception. 

None of us has been in this situation before; therefore, I ask you to be patient, kind, and willing to follow directions. We Christians ought to be known as people who place reciprocal love as the supreme law. This situation is allowing us to practice it excellently. 

And remember that people are prohibited from congregating in the building both before or after Mass. 

We must all proceed with caution. As we move forward, I am relying on all of us who are members of God’s household to witness to each other that what we believe is indeed real. Let’s support each other and make these celebrations truly what they are: a transforming gift that the Father has given us. 

I wish you well. Continue to do whatever you can to be safe. I will see you soon and can’t wait to celebrate God’s Love for us without these restrictions.

Fr Stanislao & Fr Carlos