UPDATE (3/20/20 2:30 pm):
Our Live Stream Mass schedule is as follows:
- Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at 12:00 noon
- Saturday at 9:00 am
- Saturday Vigil at 7:00 pm (Spanish)
- Sunday at 11:30 am
Masses can be viewed on our Facebook Page. Videos will be available for viewing live during Mass as well as recorded after Mass ends.
Our new Confession schedule is as follows:
- Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 5-6 pm.
Father will be hearing “drive-through” Confessions in the church parking lot. He will be sitting under a tent with his back toward the parking lot to maintain anonymity. Those going to confession are asked to please remain in their vehicle as they wait their turn in order to maintain social distancing.
UPDATE (3/17/20 12:10 pm):
We received notice this morning from the Chancery of the latest CDC recommendations against gatherings of more than ten people. We are therefore cancelling all public Masses. This will go into effect immediately for both Sunday and weekday Masses. Fr. Coleman will continue to celebrate Mass privately every day. Mass intentions will be honored and the faithful of the parish will be prayed for.
Fr. Coleman plans on live streaming Masses on our parish Facebook Page. More information will follow.
In the meantime, the church building will remain open for prayer. We will be sanitizing the pews in the church regularly throughout the day. We ask that you remain mindful of the CDC’s recommendation of group size and spacing.
Please stay tuned for an updated schedule for Adoration and Confession.
Bishop Jugis has written a letter to the faithful of the diocese. Download that letter here.
UPDATE (3/16/20 6:00 pm):
Updated Diocesan norms reflecting the most recent CDC recommendations released on 3/15 now state that public Masses may only be celebrated for groups of less than 50 people.
In light of this stricter policy, Sunday Masses for our parish will be celebrated at the Catholic Campus Ministry chapel at WCU, which has a seating capacity of 50. Additional Mass times will be added to accommodate as many people as we can.
Masses will be offered at the Catholic Student Center at the following times:
- Saturday, 5:00 pm (Bilingual)
- Saturday, 7:00 pm (Spanish)
- Sunday, 8:30 am (English)
- Sunday, 11:30 am (English)
- Sunday, 1:30 pm (English)
The Catholic Student Center is located at 197 Forest Hills Rd, Cullowhee, NC 28723.
PLEASE NOTE: The chapel is not wheelchair accessible and there is a short, but steep walk up the driveway from the parking lot. Restroom facilities are also very limited. Please exercise prudence in making the decision to come to Mass, remembering the bishop has dispensed the faithful from the usual Sunday Mass obligation. Parishioners who are over 60, immune-compromised, or otherwise belong to an at-risk group are strongly advised to stay home.
The 11:30 Mass will be live streamed on our Facebook Page.
Father Coleman will be available for Confessions for half an hour before each Mass, starting 45 minutes before Mass begins.
Sunday “Donuts & Dogma” is cancelled until further notice.
Weekday Masses will continue to take place as scheduled at St. Mary’s.
Father will also begin making use of Flocknote to send out immediate email and text messages to parishioners. All parishioners are encouraged to subscribe by going to Flocknote.com and clicking on “Find Your Church.”
UPDATE (3/15/20 4:00 pm):
Our parish St. Joseph celebration (evening Mass, procession and dinner) scheduled for March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, has been postponed until May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. We will still have weekday Mass on Thursday at our usual time of 9:00 am.
The Living Stations of the Cross scheduled for Friday, April 3, has been cancelled.
UPDATE (3/14/20 9:30 pm):
In response to the governor’s executive order issued late this afternoon limiting the number of people allowed to gather in one place, St. Mary’s parish will have its normal Sunday Mass schedule but only 100 people will be allowed inside the church for Mass. We will utilize only our main entrance (side entrances will be locked) in order to take a headcount of the number of people who enter. Once the maximum capacity is reached, the doors will be closed. Our weekday Mass schedule will continue as normal.
A reminder that Bishop Jugis has dispensed the faithful of the Diocese of Charlotte from the Sunday Mass obligation. The Bishop will celebrate a special Mass at the Cathedral at 10:30 am this Sunday which will be broadcast live on the diocesan YouTube channel, at the following link:
Read the full announcement from our bishop regarding Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order’s impact on Masses in our diocese on the Catholic NewsHerald web site.
Further, all faith formation classes are cancelled until further notice.
Please continue to monitor our web site and Facebook page for more information as the situation continues to develop.
From the Pastor
Posted 3/14/20 4:00 pm
On March 13, Bishop Peter Jugis issued guidelines and norms for all parishes and ministries within the Diocese of Charlotte in response to the ongoing Covid 19 coronavirus outbreak, which has been declared by the World Health Organization to be a global pandemic. These guidelines offer prudent practices to help us all remain safe and to prevent the further spread of illness. They will remain in effect until Holy Thursday (April 9, 2020).
Liturgy & Sunday Mass Obligation
- All Sunday and weekday Masses at St. Mary’s will continue to be offered as scheduled. Bishop Jugis instructs that, “For now, priests are to continue offering public Masses for the well-being of all the faithful.”
- However, the Bishop has also dispensed the faithful from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass until further notice.
- He instructs that, “The faithful… should refrain from attending Mass or any public space if they have been at risk of exposure or experiencing symptoms of sickness. We ask that the faithful exercise caution with due regard for themselves and their neighbor’s health and well-being.”
- The bishop reminds us that those “do not incur the debt of a serious sin if, because of grave concerns for their health and well-being, they prudently decide to remain at home,” but that we always have the sacred duty of keeping the Lord’s day holy by refraining from unnecessary labor. Therefore those unable to attend Mass should “spend an appropriate amount of time in prayer on Sunday either by themselves or together with their household.” Those so doing “do not need to seek out sacramental confession once they prudently decide that there is no longer a risk to their own health or they are no longer a risk to other’s health, and they return to join the Eucharistic assembly at their parish church.”
- During Mass, we will not be offering the Sign of Peace or distributing Holy Communion from the chalice.
- Ministers distributing Holy Communion will wash their hands before Mass, and clean their hands again with anti-bacterial solution immediately before and after distributing Holy Communion.
- The faithful may continue to receive Holy Communion either on the tongue or in the hand, or may opt to make a spiritual communion if concerned about the risk of infection.
- The bishop has asked that we pray the St. Michael Prayer after all Masses. We are already in the practice of praying this prayer after daily Masses at St. Mary’s. Beginning this weekend we will also be praying it after all Sunday Masses in lieu of our usual parish prayer for discipleship.
- Holy water has been removed from common fonts in the church. Holy water will continue to be available from the dispenser in the back of the church (near the baptismal font) for the faithful to be able to refill their own vessels.
- The faithful are asked to refrain from shaking hands, hugging, or extending other forms of greeting involving physical contact.
- The pews and other common surfaces will be sanitized between liturgical events.
- We will not be offering refreshments after Mass.
- Missals and hymnals are being removed from the pews, as these are points of contact which are difficult to effectively sanitize.
- In light of the above, we encourage the faithful to bring your own missalettes if you wish to follow along with the readings and order of the Mass. We have inexpensive St. Joseph missalettes available in the parish gift shop, and many copies of The Word Among Us monthly publication available for free. In addition, the Magnificat has announced that they are temporarily making their electronic content available for free. There are also many free or inexpensive apps for your phone or tablet device, such as iMissal. It is always a good practice to read and pray with the readings at home as a means of preparing yourself to prayerfully participate in the Mass. You can access the daily Mass readings on the USCCB web site, and even subscribe to get them delivered to your email each day.
The bishop has encouraged pastors to offer additional confession times during Lent, as communal penance services at many parishes may be cancelled. We have already added additional confession times on Mondays for Lent, and will now be adding more time on Fridays. Our full confession schedule is currently:
- Mondays from 7:00-8:00 pm (during Adoration)
- Wednesdays from 4:45-5:20 pm (before Wednesday Mass)
- Fridays from 9:30-10:30 am (during Adoration after Mass) and now from 5:30-6:30 pm (during Adoration before Stations of the Cross)
- Saturdays from 5:45-6:45 pm (before Mass)
- Sundays before both Masses from 7:45-8:15 am and 10:45-11:15 am.
Other Parish Events & Activities
The bishop has directed that “non-essential activities involving more than 100 individuals are to be cancelled or postponed. For activities involving less than 100 individuals, consideration should be given to cancelling or postponing or using technology to hold virtual meetings.”
Therefore we are making the following adjustments to our schedule at St. Mary’s.
- The Knights of Columbus Fish Fries scheduled for March 20 and April 3 have been cancelled.
- Our Penance Service scheduled for March 26 has been cancelled.
- Our special Mass for the Solemnity of St. Joseph on March 19 at 6:30 pm will be offered with a procession afterward. The potluck dinner that was to follow is tentatively rescheduled for Friday, May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
- We will not be providing dinner at Friday “Soup and Stations.” Instead, we will exposing the Blessed Sacrament beginning at 5:30 pm, with bilingual Stations of the Cross at 6:30 ending with Benediction at 7:00 pm. Confession will be available during this time.
- Faith Formation classes will continue as usual with a few adjustments: We will not be offering snacks, and we will be forgoing the group announcements in the church; all announcements will be sent home with the students.
- Members of parish commissions, committees, and other groups will be contacted by the group leader regarding any cancelled or rescheduled meetings.
- In all cases, individuals should utilize prudence when deciding whether or not to attend any parish event: if you are experiencing any symptoms, if you have been exposed to anyone who may have Covid 19, or if you are a member of an at-risk population (the elderly or those with compromised immune systems) please exercise caution and remain home.
Please stay tuned for information about any further changes in our schedule as things progress and/or we receive further directives from the Diocese. You can find the latest announcements on our website and on our Facebook Page.
The bishop’s guidelines also remind us of our responsibility to financially support our parish in this time of need. Mass attendance may decrease due to concerns of coronavirus, but our financial needs will not. Bishop Jugis writes, “We call upon the faithful to continue their stewardship of treasure by continuing their financial support of our parishes during these trying times. We encourage parishioners who may not be able to attend Mass to continue their weekly offertory gifts to the parish through mail or online.” Online donations (including recurring offertory contributions) may be made to St. Mary’s here.
Final word from our bishop
Bishop Jugis reminds us:
“Since Apostolic times, the faithful have gathered with their clergy on Sunday to offer together the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Intrinsic to this great celebration is the petition that God protect humanity and spare us from all evil. During times of famine, war, and sickness, as in ages past, our churches should remain open so that the faithful can pray, receive the sacraments, and implore God’s healing graces. Pastors of souls should receive the faithful who come on Sunday along with their anxieties, and they should preach the Gospel in a way that calms their fears and comforts them in their distress.”
Know of my prayers for all of you during this time. I ask that you join me in prayer for all those who are ill that they may be comforted by Christ’s presence, for health care workers that they be strengthened by the Spirit in their work, and for government leaders that they make wise and prudent decisions for the well being of those in their care.
In Christ Jesus through Mary,
Fr. Casey Coleman, pastor