Father's Bulletin Letter 5.3.20

Apr 30, 2020


On Tuesday we received a communiqué from the Catholic Conference of Ohio stating their response to the Governor’s announcement concerning the state’s response to the COVID 19 pandemic. In this letter you will find 1) a look at the bishops’ statement, 2) our diocesan administrator’s personal assessment of the situation and 3) my analysis for our local situation.

THE BISHOPS’ LETTER:  Let’s cut straight to the chase. The most important part of the document states that, “Out of deep concern for the common good as well as the physical and spiritual well-being of all the people of Ohio, the Catholic Bishops of Ohio have agreed once again to cooperate with the governor, and to support and abide by the multi-phased approach to returning to work and eventual public gathering in large groups.”

“To that end, the Catholic Bishops of Ohio extend the temporary suspension of all publicly celebrated Masses/liturgies ending on May 29th, with the hope of publicly celebrating together the Solemnity of Pentecost on the weekend of May 30th/31st. Each of the bishops of Ohio, once again, dispense the Catholic faithful who reside in their respective dioceses and all other Catholics currently in their territories from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass during this time. We ask for the cooperation and adherence of all the faithful to the governor’s directives during this period.”

After stating that they are looking for ways to safely bring people back to Mass they conclude with: “This decision has not been taken lightly and, as your bishops, together with you, we recognize the sacrifice we are called to make being physically distanced from the Holy Eucharist and from one another. We remain grateful for your understanding and prayerful support. As your bishops we continue

to encourage you to keep holy the Lord’s Day by participating in Sunday Mass by way of radio broadcast or televised or livestreamed options and making a spiritual communion. Keeping in mind of the gift of plenary indulgences offered to us by the Church, we encourage all the faithful to turn to the Church’s treasury of prayer, praying as a family or individually the Liturgy of the Hours, rosary, divine mercy chaplet, and Stations of the Cross, etc.”

After calling for the intercessions of the Blessed Virgin, the letter was signed by six bishops of the state of Ohio, our diocesan administrator, and the Romanian, Ukranian and Byzantine Catholic bishops of the Eparchies that have their sees in the state of Ohio. A full copy of this letter can be found on the church doors. If you want a personal copy, Cathy Sivec can send you an electronic version via Email. Please call the office at 330-836-2233.

OUR DIOCESAN ADMINISTRATOR RESPONDS:  Fr. Don Oleksiak is a priest of the Diocese of Cleveland who was voted to be administrator of the diocese by the Presbyterate until such time as a new bishop is assigned. He wrote to the priests in part, “These past few days have been disappointing to say the least. I was hoping, and to be quite honest with you, ready for all this to be over. The extension of the restriction on public celebration of Mass was not an easy decision to make. My conversations with the bishops of Ohio revealed the deep love they have for their priests and faithful of their respective dioceses. We all long to celebrate Mass publicly and to be able to return to some sense of normalcy. It goes way beyond the economic impact this is having on our dioceses, parishes and parishioners. These restrictions go against the very nature of who we are and what we do best, worship God, give praise to God and celebrate the blessings of God in our midst together at Mass. I rely on the grace of God to continue with hope and confidence that He will see us through this.”

After telling us about the letters he has been receiving from you during our time of separation he goes on to say, “I would ask that you begin to plan and prepare for the day we can finally invite our people back to the pews. I thank you for not caving in to pressure from groups or individuals asking you to violate this extension or the governor’s executive order. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.”

It cannot be easy for him as diocesan administrator to fill this role. A couple times, when I was very young, someone has handed me control of a boat or a plane for a few minutes and it was fun. But what would it have been like if all of a sudden we hit a storm or some such thing and there was no “captain” to whom you could just hand the wheel back and say, “that was fun, but you, who are an expert at this, take control back!”

He told his fellow priests, “Please know that I have been keeping all of you in prayer asking God to sustain you, fill you with peace and protect you from all evil,” and concluded with, “Again, know that I pray for you and am here to help if you have questions or need assistance. Praying for your safety, good health and spiritual well-being.”

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR ST. SEBASTIAN PARISH:  First and foremost this means that it does not appear that we will be having publicly celebrated Masses until May 30th/31st. Whatever restriction there are (if there are any) you can be assured that we will do everything we can to meet and surpass them and with your help make sure that we will publicly celebrate sacraments at the earliest possible moment that we can. As soon as I know what this means, you will be sure to know.

In the meantime, here is our plan as of Wednesday morning:

MASSES:  We will continue to live-stream Masses as we have so far. We are in the process of making our ability to do this more permanent thanks to your generosity and support.

CONFESSIONS:  The rectory offices will continue to take your appointments for confessions. The Diocese does not want us to have general hours out of concern that it may draw a large crowd that would defeat the purpose of “Stay at Home” and social distancing.

FUNERALS:  We are allowed to celebrate funerals but with no more than 10 persons present. Memorials Masses may be celebrated for larger gatherings when we are permitted to do so.

SPRAY & PRAY:  As long as these awesome volunteers continue to show up, we will keep our doors open to you for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament present in our tabernacle. If you would like to volunteer, please call the rectory for more information.

PHONE BRIGADE:  Since we will be apart for about another 30 days, volunteers will be calling everyone registered at the parish once again. We hope to begin these calls next week.

YOUR IDEAS:  If you have any further ideas as to what your parish can do (or what you might do for the parish) within the mandates placed on her, please let me know.

Fr. Simone and I feel frustrated and saddened at this news. Although we continue to work on all of the things that we can (and some of those things take longer, and may be more complicated and feel more isolated,) we miss you terribly and look forward to the day that we can worship together again as a family. It can’t come soon enough.

God bless you,

Fr. Valencheck.

St. Sebastian, pray for us.

Holy Mother, pray for us.

St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us