Dear Friends in Christ:
This past week, the State of Connecticut announced some more changes to the COVID restrictions. One of those changes involves us! The Governor announced that he is easing up on the number of people that can be gathered in a House of Worship. His plan allows for 50% capacity provided the proper social distancing can be maintained.
With that said, and after consultation with the leaders of our Parish Pastoral Council, I have decided that we will open up our Masses to 200 people right now. I know this is not 50% capacity, but in reality we cannot permit that number of people and still ensure proper social distancing. What we will do is as follows. We will open all Masses to 200 people beginning THIS WEEKEND and see how that works out for a couple of weeks. Then we will meet again and discuss whether it is possible to increase that number and still provide a safe environment for all who come to worship with our family of faith. I want more people to be together but we have to do this strategically and prudently maintaining the safety of our parishioners.
This is exciting news! And as I have said all the time since the beginning of this pandemic, IT IS COVID. And we know, with COVID-19 things are constantly changing, and we will continue to adjust based on the guidelines issued from the State and from the Archdiocese.
Therefore, we will reconfigure the pews to accommodate this change! In the beginning of reopening we permitted extra space between the rows, certainly more than the required amount, as a means of being overly cautious and safe. Now with this change, we are going to open every other pew, which still permits proper social distancing.
I am SO grateful to Lynn Krieg and Jim Mitchell, Co-Chairs of our Parish Pastoral Council, for all that they have been doing and continue to do to assist us in this process of reopening! As you can imagine with everything constantly in flux, having two people there to assist in making the necessary decisions really has been a true blessing. Their input and counsel have been a source of great inspiration to me! I know I speak for us all in saying thank you to them for their daily efforts to ensure a safe environment for all. Daily they are monitoring the sign-ups for Mass, removing duplicates, emailing or printing lists, coordinating volunteers, as well as dealing with all my text, emails, and calls. They are truly remarkable and patient! Thank you both!
We ask all who attend Mass here at Saint Bridget of Sweden Parish either weekday or weekend to continue to make a reservation online! BUT THERE IS ONE CHANGE! We are moving away from using SignUp Genius and moving to a new software that is more user friendly and designed for churches! We are beginning to use software from Parish Solutions. It will still be found on our website at www.stbridgetcheshire.org. You will still visit the website to sign up or call the parish office to have one of our staff members assist you in signing up in advance. Parish Solutions describes their software as follows:
Now you can allow parishioners to make reservations for limited seating events. Built specifically for Catholic Churches handling reduced capacity events for social distancing purposes, our Mass Reservation System is the solution for which you have been looking. Mobile friendly, email confirmations, printable lists, and super simple interface make our Reservation System the perfect solution.
Our staff has looked into other software and sign up solutions but it seems this is the best one! There is no commitment, so if we find after some time that it is not as user-friendly as they claim, then we will look into other options again. Stay tuned…IT IS COVID.
Please remember we are still only using the front door or south door entrances only, someone will continue to greet you and check you in, and while in church PLEASE REMEMBER masks must be worn!
We continue to ask that there be no congregational singing. Also when approaching for communion keep masks on, approach single file via the center aisle, remain six feet distant in the communion line from those not in your household as marked by tape in the aisle, and receive communion in the hand. Step to the side to lower one’s mask to consume the host, then reposition the mask and return to one’s seat via the side aisle.
Also, just by way of reminder when receiving the host in the hand, please place one hand on top of the other, keeping the palm fully open, and waiting for the priest or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion to place the host in your hand before moving. Please do not cup your hand, try to take the host between your fingers from the minister, or move quickly. We have to do our part to avoid contact with the communion minister. Following these procedures ensures the safety of all involved.
Donations for the collections may be put in the corresponding offering baskets on the communion rail (they are covered with a red cloth) or by using our online giving portal, available on the parish website at www.stbridgetcheshire.org.
Again, I personally thank you all for your flexibility and patience as we navigate these uncharted waters of the pandemic. Let us continue to pray for all those affected by COVID, and those working diligently for treatments, vaccines, and other remedies-physical, financial and emotional-that one day soon we can return to our regular worship practices and daily routines. Finally, if you or someone you know is in need of any assistance during this time, please contact me to let me know so that we may reach out to them with whatever help we may be able to provide. May God continue to bless us all!
The Pastoral Staff really felt like there is a longing in all of our hearts as we deal with this pandemic that is a call for more! But we also recognize that we are made for more! We are made for more than isolation. We are made for more than being fearful to go out in public. We are made for more than sitting in our lazy boy chair watching Mass on some device. We are made for relationship! And in Lent we are called to turn to Christ. We are called to the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as a means to a deepening awareness of our need for Christ in our lives. More to come but for now I invite you to start thinking about this question in your time of prayer. want more? I do! Do you?
ASH WEDNESDAY will be a little different this year! We will begin Lent with Ash Wednesday (February 17th) and we will have Masses with the Distribution of Ashes at 7AM, 9AM, and 5:30PM.
We will also have the distribution of ashes from 11AM until 1PM, and 4PM until 5:15PM in Saint Bridget Church. Last year we offered this opportunity and it was very well received! You are invited to come during these hours, say a few prayers in quiet, then approach to have ashes administered to you.
Please note that we will be distributing ashes using Q-tips cotton swabs in order to avoid any contact and make this as safe as possible during this time of pandemic. A new Q-tips swab will be used for each person, discarded, and buried in sacred ground in the following days.
Don’t forget that this year, during Lent, we will, once again. As a parish family focus on the Corporal Works of Mercy in a special way. It will be an opportunity for us as a family of faith to reach out to others with the mercy and love of God and to fulfill the call of Pope Francis to be instruments of mercy in the lives of others. IT’s COVID so things will be a little different. It is our hope that each weekend our parishioners will bring the items and leave them at the entrances to make it easier for our volunteers to collect them after all the Masses. We will not bring them to the altar this year.
Weekend of February 20 & 21—Feed the Hungry
· non-perishable food items for the Cheshire Community Food Pantry
Weekend of February 27 & 28—Give drink to the Thirsty
· beverages (water, juice, coffee, etc.) for the Cheshire Community Food Pantry
Weekend of March 6 & 7—Clothe the naked
· new (WHITE) socks for the Saint Vincent DePaul Shelter in Waterbury
· or onesies for use at Carolyn’s Place
Weekend of March 13 & 14—Shelter the Homeless
· a monetary collection for the Saint Vincent DePaul Shelter in Waterbury
Weekend of March 20 & 21—Visit the Sick
· make Easter cards to be given to those in skilled nursing facilities or our homebound parishioners
Weekend of March 27 & 28—Palm Sunday—Visit the imprisoned
· Father Villa who works with the prisoners in the Cheshire Prison asked for us to purchase a book by Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan called The Road of Hope. He was a Cardinal in the Church who was imprisoned in Vietnam for thirteen years and instead of giving in to despair and self-pity, he found God in the darkness and that his life had purpose. It is a story of hope for those Father Villa serves. The book is $24 so we will have a special basket to collect funds in order to purchase some of these books for his ministry.
Weekend of April 3 & 4—Easter Sunday—Bury the Dead
· as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, we remember our loved ones who have gone before us in faith. May they share in His Resurrection!
More to come on Lent…but ask yourself: want more?
As always, please remember to pray for our parish family and ask God’s blessings as we build His kingdom here. Please know that I am praying for you, and I ask for your prayers for me, that together through the intercession of Saint Bridget of Sweden, our Patroness, and Blessed Father Michael J. McGivney, and united in the Eucharist, we will reflect the presence of Jesus to the world. Have a blessed week and stay safe!!!