First public Sunday Mass since mid-March brings joy, hope

As the faithful left Mass at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice on May 24, 2020, there was a feeling of joy and hope. The joy came from the return to public Sunday Mass after a two-month absence. The hope was that this small step means that lives are closer to returning to normal in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Therefore, it was fitting that the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord was the moment the faithful returned to the regular Sunday Mass for the first time since March 15, 2020. The Solemnity includes the reading from the conclusion of the Gospel of Matthew called the “Great Commissioning” – when the Lord gives instructions and sends forth the Disciples into the world to spread the Good News.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane, who lifted the suspension of public Mass effective May 18, 2020, celebrated the 11 a.m. Mass on May 24, 2020 at the Cathedral, noting it was a pleasure to be back before the faithful after such a long absence.

“It is gift from the Lord that we are able to come back to our churches and our Parishes,” Bishop Dewane said. “At the same time, we have to acknowledge that Christ calls us to be a people of hope. During this time of the pandemic we must remain believers and hope for the best – for one another, for ourselves, but most of all for our Faith. We have to have hope in Jesus Christ.”

Brad Gaines attended the Vigil Mass at Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers and was very happy to be back.

“It is such a blessing to be here for Mass,” Gaines said. “It brings me great comfort, just like I had been every weekend since I was born, at least until the pandemic hit. I never realized how much I would miss being at Mass, in the presence of the Lord and singing hymns with others.”

The reopening of public Mass came with some restrictions as churches were only allowed to accommodate up to 50 percent of normal capacity while maintaining appropriate social distancing. As expected, many decided to remain home because they are older, are vulnerable to illness. or they are not fully comfortable to return. For this reason, Bishop Dewane extended the dispensation of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass through June 28, 2020.

For those who did go to Mass, signs were posted reminding everyone of social distancing regulations. Greeters kept doors propped open and ushers directed people to available seating as half of the pews in churches were blocked off. All Parishes required that masks be worn. There were no missals in the pews, thus the music selections were more common, making it easier for people to participate. Hand sanitizer was readily available and between Masses extra cleaning took place.

Many Parishes also created instructional videos to prepare the faithful for what to expect when coming to Mass, such as which entrances would be open and providing directions on receiving Holy Communion while wearing a mask.

Fran Kingman admitted she was wary about going to Mass until she saw the instructional video on the precautions being taken at Epiphany Cathedral.

“I so wanted to come back and was very worried,” Kingman said. “I soon realized that the Cathedral was taking this situation seriously. For me, wearing a mask at church is strange but a small price to pay. Honestly, I would rather do that from now on if it meant keeping the churches open for Mass.”

At the Cathedral, and many other Parishes, Holy Communion was made available in the afternoon for those who watched the Mass through a live stream and did not feel comfortable being at Mass in the church. Such accommodations were made to ensure the Sacrament remained available to all during these unique times.

During the pandemic, the live streaming of Mass became commonplace. While some Parishes have opted to stop or reduce the number of live streaming Masses, the Diocese of Venice will continue to offer its live stream service (available on Facebook or at www.dioceseofvenice.org) from the Catholic Center at 9:15 a.m. daily through June 28, 2020.

Welcome Home! Public Mass returns to Diocese with maximum 50% capacity

There was an expectant atmosphere for the 8 a.m. daily Mass on May 18, 2020 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. It was an extraordinary day; the first public Mass at the Cathedral of the Diocese of Venice since March 19, 2020. The social distancing and the wearing of masks reflected the unique circumstances necessary in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lines mark the floor of Epiphany Cathedral in Venice to ensure appropriate social distancing on May 18, 2020, the first day of the return of public Mass.

Bishop Frank J. Dewane announced the reopening of the Mass to the public, in a letter to the faithful dated May 12, 2020. Each church will have a maximum capacity of 50 percent while ensuring 6-foot social distancing. The announcement marked the end of a 59-day hiatus from the celebration of public Masses throughout the Diocese. This was preceded by the opening of churches for private prayer on May 11, 2020.

Therefore, it was no surprise when the 130 in attendance for the first Mass at the Cathedral applauded when Parochial Vicar Father Sebastian Szczawinski said “welcome.”

“I feel like I’m home,” said Roberta Cartwright. “I felt empty from being away for so long. I watched the daily Mass online, but it just wasn’t the same. I am so grateful to the Bishop for allowing everyone to return home and once more be close to Our Lord.”

Frank Paget said he was overjoyed to be back for the Mass and comforted to be among others who share his Faith. “I understood why the (public) Mass was suspended in the first place; it just had to happen. I am so grateful to be back and that everyone is following the restrictions for being safe and out in public – wearing a mask and sitting apart. I know it is temporary, but it is important for all of us to do our part.”

Public health officials have repeatedly advised wearing masks in public in order to reduce the risk of unknowingly transmitting the virus through droplets emitted from one’s mouth when speaking, coughing or sneezing. Many individuals who are infected with the virus do not develop symptoms, meaning even people who do not feel sick could spread the virus. For this reason, masks – along with social distancing – are an important tool in fighting the spread of the disease.

Prominent signs and markings in the pews throughout the Cathedral were in place to ensure social distancing. Lessons learned throughout the week will be used to prepare for the Saturday Vigil and Sunday Masses when more people are expected to return to Mass. Immediately following the Mass, volunteers wiped down the pews and areas where people may have touched exposed surfaces. All Parishes throughout the Diocese have taken similar steps as they reopen and adjust to the necessary requirements to ensure the health and safety of the faithful, volunteers, Parish staff and clergy.

The letter from Bishop Dewane notes that the faithful should expect that churches will be limited in capacity (maximum 50 percent) while the faithful maintain social distancing and wear a mask. At the same time, Bishop Dewane noted that the dispensation of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect through June 28, 2020. The Bishop also encouraged those who are most vulnerable or in fear of being in public to remain at home. “The faithful ought not to worry about remaining home if they are concerned for their wellbeing or that of other parishioners. Of course, those who are sick or have symptoms associated with COVID-19 are to stay home.”

For this reason, the first public Mass at Epiphany Cathedral was live streamed on Facebook, as Masses have been since late March. As with other Parishes, the online service from the Cathedral initially ensured everyone could remain connected to the Mass during quarantine and now as restrictions are eased, it will remain for those who still need to stay away for the time being.

If you are unable to find a Mass online, the Diocese of Venice will continue to provide the daily Mass at 9:15 a.m. from the Catholic Center in Venice through June 28, 2020. This is available through the Diocese Facebook account or website (www.dioceseofvenice.org. The Mass remains available for viewing throughout the day.

Parishes work to ensure safety for all during Mass

When Bishop Frank J. Dewane announced that May 18, 2020 would be the resumption of public Mass at churches in the Diocese of Venice, a deadline for Parishes to be ready was set. At the same time directives and guidelines for reopening were provided to the Parish.

Planning sessions took place at Parishes across the Diocese and included all who are involved in preparing the Mass for the Sacred Liturgy, including the priests, deacons, sacristans, lectors, cantors, musicians and members of the maintenance team.

A hose stretches across pews at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice on May 13, 2020, as part of an effort to clean the church for the resumption of Mass on May 18, 2020.

These groups typically gather ahead of major Church celebrations such as Advent, Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week and the Easter Season, to name a few. The gatherings the week of May 11 were quite different. Instead of preparing for a festive celebration with large crowds, the planning included figuring out how to keep individuals and families separated and safe while preserving the dignity of the Sacred Liturgy.

Following Florida Department of Health guidelines – calling for 50 percent capacity and 6-foot separation – the planners had to reimagine how best to use the worship space to balance between safety and the needs of the faithful. Parish have been open for prayer with enforced separation since early May. Thus, the planning for private prayer laid the groundwork for opening for public Mass.

In a note to parishioners, which was followed by a video message, Administrator of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish Father Joseph Gates explained what was happening: “Over the past few weeks during the coronavirus pandemic I stated several times that when we resume public Masses, the way in which we “Gather to Worship’ was going to be different. At the same time, I did not know what that ‘difference’ was going to be, but I knew change was coming. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass would be the same, but the way we “Gather to Pray” would have some unique modifications. Some of you may not like the changes but know that I respect your opinion.”

This is a proposed configuration to ensure social distancing at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Parrish for the reopening of public Mass on May 18, 2020.

Father Gates noted that an honest conversation took place between the priests of the Diocese and Bishop Dewane where many thoughts, concerns and ideas were shared, but it was agreed to have this transitory stage of gathering in public as a community once again. “Please keep that in mind and let us be thankful we can open our doors to worship once again. Because if we are not careful, our doors could close once more due to a second swell in the pandemic.”

Ahead of reopening for Mass, Parishes went through a deep cleaning and put up signs, as well as floor markings throughout churches to indicate the flow of people, available pews and even spacing for when the faithful come forward to receive Holy Communion. Parishes have also committed to doing a cleaning between each Mass.

Several Parishes have also posted notices and instructional videos indicating procedures for the faithful to follow to ensure everyone’s health and safety including how to receive Holy Communion in the hand while wearing a mask. These notices are asking for patience from the faithful as each Parish adapts to the changes and work to ensure Mass is available for as many people as possible, but all within safety guidelines.

“How temporary this transitory stage will be is unclear,” Father Gates said. “But we are blessed to gather once again to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and in that we should Rejoice!”

Parish messages also include notices about changes to the seating, with some noting the maximum capacity of spaces (some as few as 30 and as high as 300). These are at maximum one-half of capacity of the respective Church and reflect the need to maintain distancing based on the specific layout of the worship space. In Parishes where there are several priests, overflow Masses will be offered in the Parish Hall.

Other items of interest indicated in notices included: masks must be worn; bring your own hand sanitizer; stay home if you are sick or are in a “greater risk” category per the Centers for Disease Control (the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday has been lifted until June 28, 2020); space will be limited and you may have to attend Mass at a different time; entering only through the main doors; follow all directions of greeters and ushers; maintain distancing and limit socializing in the church; in some Parishes, Holy Communion will be distributed in the pews (a Eucharistic minister going row by row); Communion to be received only in the hand; a central location for the offertory; orderly dismissal by rows; and all other Parish activities remain suspended until further notice.

In his May 12, 2020 letter to the faithful announcing the celebration of Holy Mass with a congregation present, Bishop Dewane concluded by writing: “The Faithful of the Diocese of Venice have remained resolute in their faith during these unprecedented times, vibrantly expressing their Spiritual Communion with Christ and His Church. Still, I am aware that there is a hunger for the Eucharist. My prayerful hope is that, strengthened by the Bread come down from Heaven, you will emerge from these times with stronger faith.  As we return to Holy Mass, let us with the psalmist, raise our voices in praise of God:  I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’”

Bishop reaching out to prisoners

Bishop Frank J. Dewane has stressed the importance of prison outreach since his 2006 appointment as Episcopal leader of the Diocese of Venice, making a point to celebrate Mass at many prisons and jails each year while also conferring the Sacraments on numerous inmates.

Therefore, it was distressing for Bishop Dewane to learn that the prison outreach effort came to a halt when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) to close chapels and stop all programming and prohibited visitors. This extended to county jails and impacted some 150 volunteers, including 25 priests and 10 deacons, providing a variety of services, such as Bible study, religious education and assistance with receiving the Sacraments such as Baptism, First Holy Communion and Confirmation.

This screen grab of a televised Mass by Bishop Frank J. Dewane for the Prison Outreach from the Santa Maria Chapel in Venice on May 13.

This new reality motivated Diocese of Venice Prison Outreach volunteer and program coordinators Bob Hiniker and Joe Mallof to find a practical solution in a complicated and challenging situation. With the assistance and support of Bishop Dewane, Hiniker and Mallof developed a multi-pronged solution targeting the inmates in the state prisons. This effort was made with the encouragement and support of Father Severyn Kovalyshin, Region 3 Chaplain, and the State Chaplain Johnny Frambo.

The first part of the solution included, thanks in part to private assistance, donating televisions to the state prisons, Mallof explained.

“In return for donating the TVs, we were able to leverage this to get a guarantee from prison leadership that the TVs would be used on Sunday to show the Catholic Mass from the Diocese of Venice, and for any other religious programming at that time,” Mallof said. “The TVs would be another source of entertainment for inmates confined to their dorms at other times to keep them occupied. This was a good solution for the chaplains to get religious content to the inmates despite the chapel closures and other restrictions. And this was a huge concession by prison management, to mandate religious programming in the dorms on Sunday morning.”

The large TV donation also allowed the chaplains to leverage this with their prison management superiors, to get religious content put on JPAY, a program which provides each state inmate with a tablet with controlled access for content such as emails, video visitation and other services.

“This would be for all inmates state-wide, not just in the three prisons with the TVs,” Mallof explained. “I believe this is the first-time religious content other than the St. James Bible is on JPAY.”

The state chaplains chose to work with the Diocese of Venice because of the TV donation, and the great respect and trust they have in the Diocesan Prison Outreach program. This will provide the inmates additional religious content at a time when the chapel and its programs, including all ministry, were suspended.

That content will include the Mass celebrated by Bishop Dewane for the prisoners for the month of June, which are recorded in advance at Santa Maria Chapel at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice. This is needed because a month of recorded Masses are uploaded at one time, Hiniker said.

“This allows those who did not have an opportunity to watch on TV on a particular Sunday, or those who want to watch again, the chance to watch at their leisure,” Hiniker said.

Additional religious educational material is also being prepared to be loaded onto the tablets. This material will be available in English and Spanish and will be periodically updated. This part of the outreach is made possible through Anne Chzran, Diocesan Director of Religious Education, and Father Claudio Stewart, Diocesan Director of Hispanic Outreach.

The cataclysmic and sudden stoppage of spiritual efforts at the prisons, generated new opportunities as the Prison Outreach in the Diocese of Venice was correctly positioned to capitalize on, Mallof said.

“It is truly a win-win for the inmates, the chaplains, and our Diocese,” he said. “The relationship we have continues to build with the chaplains, by strengthening their position within the FDOC, and will bear additional future fruits in ways yet to be seen.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Diocesan Prison Outreach, please contact Bob Hiniker at hinbob5@hotmail.com or Joe Mallof at mallofjt@comcast.net.

Please check back with the Florida Catholic to learn more about the religious education aspect of the ongoing Prison Outreach effort.

Public celebration of Mass resumes May 18

The following is a letter from Bishop Dewane to the faithful, dated May 12, 2020: 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Bishop Frank J. Dewane raises the host during the Mass at St. Ann Parish in Naples in January, 2020. The public celebration of the Mass in the Diocese resumes May 18, 2020.

As we rejoice in our Easter Faith, my prayer is that the new life we have in Christ will bring you and your family hope and comfort. The Coronavirus has brought numerous challenges. Our common efforts to mitigate the disease have asked us to sacrifice and adjust to new realities for the good of all. United in Christ, we continue to face the present difficulties with courage and compassion. So many have persevered in faith and charity and our Parishes have remained beacons of God’s love and grace. For this, I am profoundly grateful to God and to the Priests and Faithful of the Diocese of Venice.

After much prayer and discernment, and having consulted with the priests on the Presbyteral Council, it has been determined that public celebration of the Mass in the Diocese of Venice can resume. Therefore, I am announcing that the celebration of Holy Mass with a congregation present, will begin on May 18, 2020 and moving forward.  All other non-liturgical activities at Parishes remain suspended until it is determined that these activities can safely resume; thank you for your understanding on this point.

Out of concern for the safety of all involved, our Pastors have been asked to follow established directives and guidelines. These limit the size of the congregation to 25% of occupancy, maintain social distancing guidance, and ask the Faithful’s cooperation to wear facemasks and bring with them hand sanitizer for their use. The Faithful are also asked to receive communion in the hand. These are extraordinary times and I ask for your patience and good will as Parishes reopen for public celebrations. Further, schedules may need to be adjusted and some Priests or liturgical ministers may not be able to participate publicly because of age or health conditions.

As Parish churches reopen for Mass, I remind those who are at greater risk or anxious about returning at this time, that the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect until June 28, 2020. Parishes have been asked to continue livestreaming until the dispensation is lifted. The Faithful ought not to worry about remaining home if they are concerned for their wellbeing or that of other parishioners. Of course, those who are sick or have symptoms associated with COVID-19 are to stay home.

The Faithful of the Diocese of Venice have remained resolute in their faith during these unprecedented times, vibrantly expressing their Spiritual Communion with Christ and His Church. Still, I am aware that there is a hunger for the Eucharist. My prayerful hope is that, strengthened by the Bread come down from Heaven, you will emerge from these times with stronger faith. As we return to Holy Mass, let us with the psalmist, raise our voices in praise of God: I rejoiced when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+ Frank J. Dewane

Bishop of the Diocese of

Venice in Florida

 

First phase of reopening Churches implemented

Churches throughout the Diocese of Venice have opened for private prayer in what is the first phase of a process toward reopening Churches for all liturgical celebrations and access to the Sacraments. This was done in response to the State of Florida announcement of the relaxation of stay-at-home order and the reopening of some businesses and lays the groundwork for the eventual opening of Churches for Mass.

“The Diocese is planning so that Parishes are able to move gradually and prudently towards resumption of public celebrations of Mass as soon as local conditions permit this to be done safely,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane in an April 28 letter to the priests of the Diocese explained the planning process for this first phase.

In the letter, the Bishop noted that each Parish would have its own procedures for opening based on a multiple of factors. The factors included, but were not limited to, the size/layout of the worship space, the ability to do regular cleaning, the availability of volunteers and ultimately to have the confidence that the health and safety of the Faithful and the Parish staff and volunteers are maintained at all times.

The Bishop added that he understood and appreciated the extra effort required by the priests and Parishes to facilitate the opening, but “because the Faithful are hungry for a return to the Church and for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, this desire is worthy of the extra effort.” It is expected this first phase will allow for a growing reassurance by the Faithful that it will be safe to return for Mass once it is possible to do so.

Throughout this process, Bishop Dewane has been consulting with priests from across the Diocese while following guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Florida Department of Health.

Naturally concerned about the health and well-being of all, Bishop Dewane said his focus is also on the spiritual health of the Faithful. “I am confident that these visits will yield abundant spiritual fruit in personal holiness and the communion of our Parishes. This will eventually lead to being able to offer the access to all of the life-giving Sacraments in the near future.”

At the Church of the Resurrection Parish in Fort Myers caution tape was laid over the various pews to mark off where to sit. This has been a common solution for several Parishes. For example, at Resurrection every third pew was partially open on each side to ensure a minimum 6-foot spacing for adequate social distancing. A volunteer was present in the narthex to offer hand sanitizer and to direct people to available places for prayer. Once a person departed, the volunteer would then wipe down the pew. All are always required to wear a mask.

Caroline Herbert said it was good to be able to prayer in the Church for the first time since early March. “I felt lost with my Church closed, but it is comforting to know it is now open for private prayer.”

Herbert said she was hopeful the Mass would be offered soon, but understood the complicated logistics involved in making that happen. “The way they have the Church blocked off now, there would only be room for 30 or so people. That really isn’t enough, but if it is what is needed to make it safe, then that is what it will be. I pray for a solution that is best for everyone.”

Visitors for private prayer at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice are greeted in the narthex and shown a seating chart for the Church. The faithful selects the spot from where they wish to pray and given a number that corresponds to that spot. A volunteer escort is provided as a guide. Upon leaving the Church, through a different door, the faithful are asked to drop their number off in a basket. The Parish cleaning staff later uses those numbers as guidance for deeper cleaning. This system works well as only between 20 and 50 people are coming for prayer throughout each day.

Bishop Dewane as well as priests across the Diocese are now in the process of determining the best way to open for Mass, noting that maximum 25 percent capacity and 6-foot distancing of unrelated individuals creates challenges for all Churches.

No matter when the public Mass resumes, the faithful should expect changes. Church capacities will be greatly reduced and seating restricted. Face masks will be required, no worship aides, holy water fonts will be empty, no choirs, no Precious Blood, and Communion should be taken in the hand.

The general dispensation for the obligation to attend Mass will continue even when the offering of public Mass resumes. Those who are vulnerable, elderly, caregivers to the vulnerable, or just not comfortable going to a public Mass, should continue to participate in live-streamed Masses being offered and make a “Spiritual Communion.”

“The Faithful will need to have patience and understanding during this process as well as to take personal responsibility in their actions when they return to ensure the health and safety of themselves and of their brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Updated Coronavirus Prayers and Resources

Act of Spiritual Communion

It has long been a Catholic understanding that when circumstances prevent one from receiving Holy Communion, it is possible to make an Act of Spiritual Communion which is a source of grace. Spiritual Communion means uniting one’s self in prayer with Christ’s sacrifice and worshiping Him in His Body and Blood.

The most common reason for making an Act of Spiritual Communion is when a person cannot attend Mass, as is the case during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Acts of Spiritual Communion increase our desire to receive sacramental Communion and help us avoid the sins that would make us unable to receive Holy Communion worthily.

For all who will not be able to receive the Holy Eucharist in person, consider this special prayer, an Act of Spiritual Communion:

My Jesus,
I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there

and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
Amen.

Resources online

A special Coronavirus webpage is located on the Diocese of Venice website homepage at www.dioceseofvenice.org.

Resources include links to the Mass, the prayer for Act of the Spiritual Communion, videos of the Stations of the Cross, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Pray the Rosary by following the links for the Diocese response to Coronavirus included on the Diocese homepage.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website, www.usccb.org, also posts the daily Mass readings.

The Diocese of Venice Mass is streamed at 9:15 a.m. daily from the Catholic Center in Venice. Meanwhile, Mass is being streamed live from many Parishes daily (some on weekends only) throughout the Diocese of Venice (See updated list on Diocese website). Most streams are available with links through the Parish websites or through Facebook (to watch a live stream on Facebook, you do not need an account) or YouTube. Check with your Parish if you are having trouble finding the Mass or for more details.

Additionally, Magnificat is offering the online version of this devotional free at https://us.magnificat.net/free.

The Televised Mass for the Homebound is available throughout the Diocese each Sunday and on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass.

In northern parts of the Diocese (Manatee, Highlands, Hardee, Sarasota, DeSoto and Charlotte counties) the Mass airs on television at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Collier, Lee, Glades, Hendry, Charlotte counties) the Mass airs at 10:30 a.m., on WFTX-TV (FOX-4). This same Mass can be found on the Diocese of Venice website, www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass. Please check local listings for channel information.

Parish donations

During this challenging time in the life and mission of the Diocese of Venice, our Parishes face increased risk of financial shortfalls due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic and its effects on everyday life. Parishes depend on weekly financial gifts to continue their ministries, especially in this critical time of crisis.

The Diocese of Venice is providing an online platform and encourages the Faithful to support their Parish. Please visit https://dioceseofvenice.org/ways-to-give/parish-donations-online/ to donate to your Parish.

The Faithful may also contribute through their usual channels (e.g., envelopes, and through the Parish online giving option). Together we will navigate through this crisis, provide assistance to those in need, and secure the road ahead for the Parishes within the Diocese of Venice.

Please continue to pray for the repose of those who have died, for the recovery of those who are sick, for the strength of healthcare workers and caregivers, as well as for an end to this health crisis. Thank you for your generosity.

Prayers

 Prayer Against Coronavirus

Lord Jesus Christ, our Divine physician, we ask you to guard and protect us from Coronavirus COVID-19 and all serious illness. For all that have died from it, have mercy; for those that are ill now, bring healing. For those searching for a remedy, enlighten them; for medical caregivers helping the sick, strengthen and shield them. For those working to contain the spread, grant them success; for the afraid, grant peace. May your precious blood be our defense and salvation. By your grace, may you turn the evil of disease into moments of consolation and hope. May we always fear the contagion of sin more than any illness. We abandon ourselves to you infinite.  Amen

By Pedro de la Cruz

 Oración contra el Coronavirus

Señor Jesucristo, nuestro Médico Divino, te pedimos que nos guardes y protejas del Coronavirus COVID-19 y de toda enfermedad grave. Por todos los que han perdido la vida por causa del virus, ten piedad; por los que están enfermos ahora, sánalos. Por los que buscan su cura, ilumínalos; por el personal médico que cuida de los enfermos, fortalécelos y protéjelos. Por los que trabajan para contener al virus, que sean existosos; por los que temen dáles la paz. Que tu preciosa sangre sea nuestro escudo y salvación. Por tu gracia, convierte a la maldad de esta enfermedad en momentos de consuelo y esperanza. Que siempre temamos más al contagió del pecado que al de cualquier enfermedad. Nos entregamos a tu infinita misericordia. Amén.

By Pedro de la Cruz

Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe for Protection from the Coronavirus

Holy Virgin of Guadalupe,
Queen of the Angels and Mother of the Americas.
We fly to you today as your beloved children.
We ask you to intercede for us with your Son,
as you did at the wedding in Cana.

Pray for us, loving Mother,
and gain for our nation and world,
and for all our families and loved ones,
the protection of your holy angels,
that we may be spared the worst of this illness.

For those already afflicted,
we ask you to obtain the grace of healing and deliverance.
Hear the cries of those who are vulnerable and fearful,
wipe away their tears and help them to trust.

In this time of trial and testing,
teach all of us in the Church to love one another and to be patient and kind.
Help us to bring the peace of Jesus to our land and to our hearts.

We come to you with confidence,
knowing that you truly are our compassionate mother,
health of the sick and cause of our joy.

Shelter us under the mantle of your protection,
keep us in the embrace of your arms,
help us always to know the love of your Son, Jesus.

Amen.

Courtesy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Oración a Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe para la Protección del Coronavirus

Virgen Santísima de Guadalupe,

Reina de los Ángeles y Madre de las Américas.

Acudimos a ti hoy como tus amados hijos.

Te pedimos que intercedas por nosotros con tu Hijo,

como lo hiciste en las bodas de Caná.

Ruega por nosotros, Madre amorosa,

y obtén para nuestra nación, nuestro mundo,

y para todas nuestras familias y seres queridos,

la protección de tus santos ángeles,

para que podamos salvarnos de lo peor de esta enfermedad.

Para aquellos que ya están afectados,

te pedimos que les concedas la gracia de la sanación y

la liberación.

Escucha los gritos de aquellos que son vulnerables y temerosos,

seca sus lágrimas y ayúdalos a confiar.

En este tiempo de dificultad y prueba,

enséñanos a todos en la Iglesia a amarnos los unos a los otros

y a ser pacientes y amables.

Ayúdanos a llevar la paz de Jesús a nuestra tierra y a nuestros

corazones.

Acudimos a ti con confianza, sabiendo que realmente eres

nuestra madre compasiva,

la salud de los enfermos y la causa de nuestra alegría.

Refúgianos bajo el manto de tu protección, mantennos

en el abrazo de tus brazos,

ayúdanos a conocer siempre el amor de tu Hijo, Jesús.

Amén.

Cortesía de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de EE. UU.

 

Parishes adapt to suspension of Mass: Live streaming now common

Parishes have had to adapt to a temporary reality that Mass is temporarily suspended, and offices transitioned to reduced staffing.

The initial shock of this new reality may have worn off, but the solution to this problem has been varied and encouraging. What may have been a novelty in the past, such as live streaming daily and Sunday Mass, or having a Sacrament of Reconciliation from a car in a church parking lot, are becoming commonplace.

As common as these efforts to stay connected to the faithful have become, more is still taking place, all in response to a communication from Bishop Frank J. Dewane to the priests of the Diocese. In one letter, Bishop Dewane asked the priests to draw upon the Church’s rich tradition of prayer and devotion to ensure that the spiritual life of parishioners is nourished and remains vibrant through means which are prudently adapted to the current circumstances.

Father Hugh McGuigan, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, is Pastor of Our Lady of Light Parish in Fort Myers, was one of the first to live stream Mass and to hear confessions from the car.

“With people cut off from reception of the Sacraments and the Mass we had to make adjustments,” Father McGuigan said. “While these are not the answers to all of the problems, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

St. Joseph Parish in Bradenton has confession times on Saturday mornings and afternoons. Each session is scheduled for one hour but in the first two weekends (March 21 and March 28) the time has been extended by as much as 30 minutes.

Father Shawn Roser, Parochial Vicar at St. Joseph Parish, said he was encouraged to have so many people interested in the sacrament.

The drive-thru confession is typically a set time when a priest, or priests are available under the church portico, seated or standing a safe distance away from the vehicle, but close enough to hear the penitent. (See list of Parishes and times below.)

To ensure the Sacrament is properly administered, there is a limit of one penitent in the vehicle. When there are more people in a vehicle, arrangements are made to ensure confession is heard not only at a safe distance for the health of the priest and penitent, but also for the purposes of ensuring absolute privacy. Priests are also available for the Sacrament by appointment through the Parish Office.

The Diocese, as well as Parishes, have used their websites for not only broadcasting a live Mass, but for the prayer intentions for the day, as if the church was open. In addition, numerous intentions have been added for all impacted by the pandemic. Live Masses in the Diocese are being offered, in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Vietnamese and Latin.

Some priests have also been sharing daily and weekly reflections on the readings and/or current pandemic crisis; reciting of prayers such as the rosary, Our Father, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, Angelus, and more; as well as having live Adoration, Stations of the Cross and Holy Hours.

Each effort keeps a connection open. Comments reacting to the efforts have been very positive, with some offering suggestions for more content.

Bishop Dewane acknowledged in his March 18 letter to parishioners announcing the suspension of the Mass, the sacrifice for the Catholic Faithful, “who have a great love for the Holy Eucharist and depend on the Most Blessed Sacrament for their spiritual lives. Do recall that Faithful Catholics, throughout the history of the Church, have kept the faith alive through trying times. By prayer and devotion, as well as spiritual solidarity with each other, the life of faith continued to be a source of strength and perseverance during persecutions and other times of public crisis.”

On the Diocesan and Parish websites, a number of additional resources, including links to prayers, devotions and the daily readings have been made available.

Parishes are also continuing to produce their weekly bulletin, updating schedules of cancelled or postponed events and sharing the latest updates on actions people can take to help in the community. In many cases, copies are being mailed to those who do not have access to the internet. This is one reason the Diocese offers the Televised Sunday Mass, airing at 9:30 a.m. on the CW in the northern portions of the Diocese and 10:30 a.m. on FOX-4 in the southern area.

During this time, priests and Parish staff are limiting their exposure to others by first curtailing access to offices and encouraging most, if not all, business to be conducted by phone. Many staff are also working from home to ensure necessary social distancing.

Last rites will be administered only in the case of death. Baptisms are not being denied but temporarily only taking place in cases of emergency. Weddings are encouraged to be postponed. In the event postponement is not a viable option, limitations are required in regard to the number of people present. In addition, funerals are being limited in size to immediate family members only.

Bishop Dewane is aware of the difficulty some of these restrictions are causing but said they are necessary during this extraordinary and historic time.

“In this time of Lent, with challenges, uncertainty, and fear in our lives, let us turn toward prayer,” Bishop Dewane said. “Through prayer and trust be confident in the belief that God does not abandon us in times of peril, in fact, the Lord will draw us close and protect us.

Please pray for everyone impacted by this pandemic – the sick, their caregivers, courageous medical personnel, and those reaching out in charity to help our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Seeking the intercessions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and in particular, her spouse, St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, pray for protection and guidance through these troubling times, the Bishop continued,

“Through the Word of the Lord, that is Sacred Scripture, it is possible to overcome fear and courageously face the challenging days ahead,” the Bishop said.

Prayer needed in time of crisis: Diocese of Venice responds to COVID-19 Pandemic

In this time of challenge Bishop Frank J. Dewane calls on every person to turn toward prayer as the Diocese, state, nation and world continue to face an uncertain future which bring unique difficulties during the ongoing pandemic.

“As Catholics, we trust in the power of prayer, God’s Hope and Mercy,” Bishop Dewane said. “Please join me is praying for those that have lost loved ones to this virus and may God console them and grant them peace. We also pray for the sick, caretakers, medical providers and all those impacted by this pandemic in different ways. When we unite for a common good, we can overcome fear and courageously face the challenges in the days ahead.”

Bishop Dewane, working in consultation with clergy and other Diocesan leadership are meeting daily in response to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

“Rest assured that together with our Priests and Diocesan Staff, I have been closely monitoring developments regarding the threat posed by the Coronavirus, particularly for the most vulnerable among us,” Bishop Dewane said. “

After consultation, on March 14 the Bishop issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass to all the Catholic Faithful until further notice. The celebration of the Holy Eucharist, for now, will continue in our churches with the necessary precautions.

All the Catholic Faithful are asked to observe the Lord’s Day with reverence and in spiritual communion with one another, whether you attend Mass or not during this time. The Diocese of Venice offers a Sunday Televised Mass throughout the Diocese at www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass. (Additional information is location below about the Televised Mass and other ways to stay connected to your Faith while home.)

A special Coronavirus webpage has been created for your easy reference. Located on the Diocese of Venice website homepage at www.dioceseofvenice.org. It will be updated throughout this crisis providing the latest communications from the Diocese to the Faithful including letters or notices from Bishop Dewane, as well as resources to assist in your prayer and spiritual life.

The following additional precautions are effective immediately throughout the Diocese of Venice:

  • Classes are suspended in all Catholic Schools within the Diocese of Venice until at least March 30.
  • All Parish Religious Education and Youth activities are suspended until at least March 30.
  • Parish events are postponed or canceled through at least March 30.
  • Parish and Diocesan offices will remain open during this time.

The Diocese continues to closely monitor the situation and will issue updates as appropriate on the Diocesan website.

Additional precautions have been taken or will be implemented by the weekend of March 21-22. They include:

  • All missals and other printed material that may be handled by parishioners is to be removed.
  • Collection baskets are being retrofitted to include a handle for the ushers to use and will eliminate the need to pass the basket from person to person. Where this is not possible, central collection points are being designated.
  • The doors to Churches are being propped or held open by greeters before and after Mass so as to diminish the number of people touching the handles.
  • Extensive handwashing and parish cleaning guidelines have been shared with all parishes.

Previous guidelines implemented in February include:

  • Communion from the Chalice has been temporarily suspended in Parishes of the Diocese of Venice until further notice.
  • The Faithful should avoid the shaking of hands or making physical contact during the time designated for the Sign of Peace. A verbal indication of peace or a bow of the head to one another is sufficient. Further, please recall that the Sign of Peace is an OPTIONAL PRACTICE in the Liturgy which may be omitted.
  • There should be no holding of hands during the recitation of the Our Father.
  • Holy Water fonts are emptied. However, a dispenser with a spigot will be provided to allow the Faith to take Holy Water home, therefore allowing continued access to this important Sacramental. In the absence of Holy Water fonts, the Faithful may be encouraged simply to make the Sign of the Cross as they enter the Church.
  • The Faithful are encouraged to receive communion in the hand during this period. Please remember that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal indicates, “The consecrated host may be received either on the tongue or in the hand, at the discretion of each communicant” (160).

Please note that because of the specific risk facing clergy and Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Communion, separate guidelines have gone out to all parishes regarding procedures for distribution of Holy Communion in the Church as well as making visits to those at home or in hospitals.

Resources online

As mentioned earlier, a special Coronavirus webpage is located on the Diocese of Venice website homepage.

Resources include the prayer for Act of the Spiritual Communion, videos of the Stations of the Cross, Divine Mercy Chaplet and Pray the Rosary by following the links for the Diocese response to Coronavirus included on the Diocese homepage.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website, www.usccb.org, also posts the daily Mass readings.

Additionally, Magnificat is offering the online version of this devotional at https://us.magnificat.net/free.

As noted, during this time when many are unable to attend Mass, the Televised Mass for the Homebound is available throughout the Diocese each Sunday and on the Diocese of Venice website at www.dioceseofvenice.org/tvmass.

In northern parts of the Diocese (Manatee, Highlands, Charlotte, Sarasota, DeSoto and Charlotte counties) the Mass airs at 9:30 a.m. on the CW Network. In the southern portions of the Diocese (Collier, Lee, Glades, Hendry, Charlotte counties) the Mass airs at 10:30 a.m., on WFTX-TV (FOX-4).

Please check local listings for channel info. Leaflet missals are available upon request by writing to TV Mass, Diocese of Venice, 1000 Pinebrook Road, Venice, FL 34285. Or contact Gail Ardy at 941-486-4714, ardy@dioceseofvenice.org.

Sacrament of Holy Matrimony a Sacred Bond

Two people make up a married couple, but it is so much more than that – the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is a sacred bond between a man and a woman which reflects the honor, commitment and fidelity each demonstrates for the other.

To celebrate significant wedding anniversaries, Bishop Frank J. Dewane invites couples married 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50+ years to a Mass in their honor. Two Masses are celebrated each year in the Diocese of Venice so as to accommodate those wanting to attend. The first in 2020 was Feb. 1 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and a second will be 11 a.m., Feb. 29 at St. Leo the Great Parish in Bonita Springs. (Registration is through your Parish.)

There were 317 couples present – married a combined 16,591 years – with eight celebrating 70 or more years of marriage. The longest married couple was Donald and Nonna Rassier of Epiphany Cathedral. On Oct. 2, 2020, they will celebrate their 72 years together.

Bishop Dewane said this celebration is of their commitment to each other, as well as to God. The celebration acknowledges the accomplishment they experienced in their lives which is honored and recognized by the Church.

“Your commitment to each other brings hope to the world,” Bishop Dewane said. “You represent something so great. A vocation to marriage. You were the ministers of the Sacrament, with a priest as a witness, and lived it each day during the years that followed… What a beautiful moment of grace and your being here – no matter how many years you are celebrating – is no small accomplishment.”

During the Mass, the married couples renewed their wedding vows. In addition, each couple was presented with commemorative certificates, signed by the Bishop, for their enduring commitment to marriage.

In speaking to one of four couples celebrating their anniversary on the very day (Feb. 1) of the Mass in Venice was Donald and Marilyn Dumas of Epiphany Cathedral.

“What a wonderful treat to have our anniversary on the day of this beautiful Mass,” Marilyn said of their 62nd Anniversary. The couple fell in love the moment they met, when he was on leave from the military and visiting a neighbor of Marilyn’s in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.

Now, 62 years later, with three children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, with another on the way, they wouldn’t change a thing. “We joined with each other through Christ,” Donald said. “That bond carried us through all the good times and the bad. The key to our success is that you have to have a sense of humor and have to be able to say I’m sorry.”

A reception followed the Mass with lunch and the opportunity to have complimentary pictures taken with the Bishop.

Present for the Mass were eight couples who were celebrating 70 or more years of marriage:

72 years

Donald and Nonna Rassier, Epiphany Cathedral;

71 years

John Theresa Kromish, St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Port Charlotte;

James and Maria Nixon, Epiphany Cathedral;

Leon and Ann Reser, St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Grove City;

Paul and Stefie Zielinski, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Venice;

70 years

George and Marcia Equizi, St. Martha Parish, Sarasota;

Eugene and Jeanne Jakos, Our Lady of Lourdes;

and Robert and Elena Ranieri, Epiphany Cathedral.

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