Our COVID-19 Resources
During these challenging times, St. Josaphat Parish is here for you! My hope is that this will actually be a time of spiritual renewal for all of us. As the old saying goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” May our time apart from our Eucharistic celebration increase our love for the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and renew our appreciation for the great privilege of being able to gather as a faith community and celebrate together. Until then, we will be offering opportunities to virtually gather in community and sharing resources with you on our website and through email. Some of them area available in the menu to the right.
I am always available to talk on the phone or though FaceTime/Zoom, just send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate.
Previous Letters from Fr. Francis:
March 28, 2020 - Being Reconciled To God During COVID-19
As we move closer to Holy Week and the celebration of Easter, it is our normal custom to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation together as a way of preparing ourselves to enter into the mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. Unfortunately, the current pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus has made it impossible for us to have the reconciliation service we had planned for Monday.
Many of you have emailed or called to ask about opportunities to come to church for individual reconciliation, to have reconciliation over FaceTime or to do “drive thru” reconciliation. This past week the Archdiocese sent out an email to priests outlining what our pastoral response must be during the health crisis. Here is what we were told:
Given that our churches are closed and a stay-at-home order is in effect:
Given that our churches are closed and a stay-at-home order is in effect:
- Individual confessions are currently not possible; this includes virtual or phone confessions, which are never permissible, nor drive-thru confessions. Despite the good intentions around such novelty, we must attend to our underlying theological tradition of the sacrament, as well as support the stay-at-home order and its intended purpose – to keep people safe in their homes at this time.
- In keeping with longstanding pastoral practice when penitents’ access to the sacrament is restricted, they can be assured that their sins are forgiven if they make an act of contrition with a firm resolve to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation after the stay-at-home order is lifted.
- The faithful should be encouraged to pray particular prayers or meditate on passages of the bible that you recommend to assist them in seeking the mercy and forgiveness of God and the grace of reconciliation.
- The Holy See has made clear with a recent decree concerning the Sacrament of Reconciliation from the Apostolic Penitentiary that the conditions for general absolution have not been met. The decree states that the primary place it would be permitted is in a hospital ward. However, our hospitals are not currently set up for this possibility. At the same time, any thought of using general absolution in a parish is moot given that gatherings of people in our churches are not permitted.
In short, it is not possible to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation from a priest at this time. But that doesn’t mean that the Lord doesn’t know our hearts and our desire for repentance. The Lord hears us whenever we call on him in faith.
Here are some scripture passages that you might find helpful in praying to God for mercy and forgiveness of your sins:
- Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Psalm 51:1-2
- For the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him. 2 Chronicles 30:9b
- Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:4-8
There are literally hundreds of passages in sacred scripture that speak of God’s never-ending mercy. And we know the season of lent is all about returning to the Lord with our whole heart. Our lenten hymn reminds us, “Return to Me with all your heart, the source of grace and mercy, come seek the tender faithfulness of God.”
My brothers and sisters, I pray that you may experience the tender mercy of God as we prepare for Easter. And know of my continued prayers for all of you as we journey together through this health crisis. I eagerly look forward to the day when we can celebrate the Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation together as a community.
March 20, 2020
Dear St. Josaphat Parishioners,
Thank you for your kind emails and prayers this past week. This has been a very strange time in my priesthood as we have not been able to gather for Mass and I’ve had to distance myself from our parishioners. I know this must be even harder on you as you are also being asked to distance yourselves from extended family, friends, classmates and work colleagues. We are all learning how to utilize technology to stay connected as we attempt to celebrate Mass, conduct meetings and continue our education through e-learning.
Amid all of the anxiety and uncertainties that have come through this period of transition as we learn to cope with COVID-19, I have also heard some beautiful stories. One parent shared with me the interesting experience of watching her grown son conducting a work meeting from her kitchen table. She said that it was a beautiful moment that she otherwise would never have had. She was reminded of the many times he sat at that same table eating breakfast or doing homework. And now he is a young man leading others. How fast they grow up!
Perhaps that’s something to keep in mind as younger parents guide their children through e-learning and try to help their teens and college students cope with being home and distant from their friends. We can let the frustrations get to us or we can see this time as a blessing. We often get little family time these days because of school, sports, work and other distractions. But now the whole world is being told to slow down, to stay inside and to be together as a family. Let’s take advantage of this moment! Let’s reinvest ourselves in those family relationships and enjoy this time together!
It’s also important that we stay connected to distant family members, especially parents and grandparents. If they’re like my mom, they probably don’t understand FaceTime or Zoom. And trying to teach them now is probably not going to work. Trust me! :) So make sure you give them a call or write them a letter. They need to hear from us too! They need to know we love them and that we are available for companionship, even if over the phone.
It’s also important that we work on our prayer lives as a family too. Just because we can’t go to church doesn’t mean that our relationship with God is put on hold. In fact, now is when we need God the most. Because we are all feeling anxious, a bit fearful and maybe a little lonely. What do we do when these emotions get stirred up in us? If we are not bringing all of this to God in prayer, where are we bringing it?
Doctor Gerald May wrote a wonderful book called Addiction & Grace in which he writes that we all have the same stressors in life: H-A-L-T, or Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. And we each do something to respond to those stressors—eat, drink, shop, go online, exercise, become angry and short, etc. Some of the ways we handle these stressors feel good at the moment, but over time they can become bad habits that make life worse and contribute to even more stress in our life, creating a vicious cycle.
To put all of this into a religious perspective, what’s your idol? What altar do you worship at when you feel H-A-L-T? Because you’re taking all of that negativity and bringing it somewhere. We know as Christians that the safest and most healthy place to bring them to is God through our prayer. That’s why Jesus tells his disciples, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28–30
Remember, my brothers and sisters, that Jesus has triumphed over the world. He has triumphed over sin and death and over all of the world’s dysfunction. So when you are feeling stressed, anxious, lonely or scared, bring it to him! Open your heart to him in prayer. Share with him everything that you're feeling and experiencing: the good, the bad and the ugly and let the peace of Jesus Christ enter into your hearts. Jesus promises us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
To help you grow in your relationship with Jesus during this time, we will be live streaming Mass on Facebook at least twice a week, then posting those videos to our website so anyone can watch them later. Deacon Arthur and I will be jumping into some of the e-learning with our school students during religion classes. And we’ll be launching some online faith sharing groups with parishioners as well. Look to the parish website, Facebook and parish emails for more information about our upcoming offerings.
Please know that all of you continue to be in my prayers each and every day. Together and with God’s grace we will get through this and grow stronger as a parish community. If anyone needs to talk during this time, please email me and we can arrange to talk by phone or through an App like FaceTime or Zoom so we can speak face to face.
March 13, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Based on current guidelines from local public health departments, Cardinal Cupich has decided to close our Catholic schools and dispense the lay faithful from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. He has mandated the suspension, until further notice, of all liturgical services starting with our 5:00 pm Mass on Saturday.
I know the decision to suspend the public celebration of Mass was not easy and it comes as a shock to everyone. As a priest, the celebration of the Eucharist is the center of my life and priestly ministry. I never imagined that I would ever have to ask people to not celebrate the Eucharist together. But the Eucharist is the sacrament of love and charity, and out of this love and charity for our neighbors, we need to heed the advice of our medical professionals.
I think it’s also important to remember that millions of Catholics around the world go without the Eucharist each weekend because of religious oppression or because of the lack of priests to minister the sacraments. In those areas, the Christian faith continues to persevere because of the extraordinary faith of the people. Over the next few weeks, may we enter into a new solidarity with them as we experience what it is like to go without the celebration of the Eucharist.
My hope is that this will actually be a time of spiritual renewal for all of us. As the old saying goes, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” May our time apart from our Eucharistic celebration increase our love for the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and renew our appreciation for the great privilege of being able to gather as a faith community and celebrate together.
During this time, you may want to read the Daily Mass Readings and watch and/or listen to daily and Sunday Mass:
Watch on tv: AT&T 562, Comcast 119, RCN 260, DirectTV 370, DISH 261
Listen on the radio: 930AM & 950AM
I will be sharing my weekend homilies and other messages via email. I will also be celebrating a private Mass each day, so all of our Mass intentions will be honored. Please know that I will be praying for all of you at each and every Mass. And I ask you to join me in praying for a quick end to this pandemic and praying especially for all of our doctors, nurses and first responders who are the front lines of ministering to people affected.
Aligned with the Archdiocesan policy, I am cancelling all parish functions through Friday, March 27, including Bible Study, Men’s Spirituality, Alpha, Youth Group, RCIA, Saturday afternoon reconciliation, choir rehearsal, parish board meetings (SJAA, School Board), religious education classes, and Stations of the Cross. Masses will be cancelled this weekend (3/14–15) and next weekend (3/21–22). Daily Masses will be cancelled the weeks of 3/16 and 3/23. At this point, our Red Door Room is still scheduled to be a Polling Place on Tuesday.
We will continue to run our Helping Hands Ministry, which serves lunch to those in need from 9:30–11:00 am. We always practice food safety as we serve our guests, and we don’t want the people who count on us for food to go hungry. Jesus would not want us to abandon the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized.
We will be monitoring these developments with input from the Archdiocese. Please continue to check your email and our website www.stjosaphatparish.org for schedule updates.
Together, with the grace of God, we will get through this time together.