My Dear Parish Family Members:
Last Monday (March 16) we learned that, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Sacred Heart and St. Ann families would not be able to congregate for the celebration of the Eucharist until at least after Easter. When I celebrated Mass by myself the remainder of this week and pondered the reality of a weekend when I would be forbidden to share the sacraments with all of you; I assure you there is a hole in my spiritual heart the size of Mt. Rushmore. Yes, you can still watch the televised Mass on EWTN or listen to Mass on Sacred Heart Radio. You can even see the Mass “live streamed” on your computer from the Cathedral. Still, it is not the same as being the Body of Christ when we celebrate the Eucharist together.
However, pain can inspire us to innovation! By Sunday, March 29 I hope to be able to record the celebration of the Mass for the Fifth Sunday of Lent so that by clicking onto an icon on the Sacred Heart webpage, members of St. Ann and Sacred Heart will be able to celebrate the complete Mass with me via your computer screen or smart TV. As soon as we have this in place, the feelings of separation will fade away; and while being sheltered in place, we can be together in our familiar ecclesial surroundings while still being physically safe from infection invading our home.
My brothers and sisters in the Lord, members of St. Ann and Sacred Heart; we WILL get through this. If you need me for the Sacrament of the Sick or for another emergency; I am a telephone call away. I will have to come wearing my color coordinated facemask and plastic gloves (to protect you from anything I might have) but I will be there. And please don’t worry about physically missing Sunday Mass. As the Bishops of Ohio have assured you, let me reiterate that there is no sin in physically missing Sunday Mass in a time of crisis. Jesus was always a practical carpenter. He would remind you that a few weeks away from the Eucharist is a small price to pay for allowing you the rest of your life in service to him.
I will also celebrate confessions at the published times in the published locations. I will ask that you go behind the screen for the safety of everyone.
When we pray, we are one in Christ. Close your eyes and imagine you are surrounded by the friendship and affection of those you see at Mass. When you recite the Our Father, make it your family prayer. You can’t feel lonely when you are surrounded by the prayers of friends and the radiance of Christ. Don’t let worry hold you down. Let the presence of the Holy Spirit within you lift you up.
Your pastor in Christ,
Fr. Larry Tharp