Letter to Parishioners
As you know, we are celebrating a Year of the Eucharist in our Petersburg Parishes throughout 2021. We want this to be a year where the importance and centrality of the Holy Eucharist—of Jesus Christ, present in the Blessed Sacrament—is reaffirmed and strengthened in every aspect of parish life. And certainly, the most obvious place where we encounter Christ in the Eucharist is at the Sacred Liturgy, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Archbishop Schnurr (as well as most of the world’s Bishops) temporarily suspended the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. Of course, we’re always obligated to keep holy the Lord’s Day (the 3rd Commandment), but the way we do so can be amended by the local Bishop in cases of grave necessity. While many have remained away from public gatherings, we wanted to ensure that the Faithful had access to the Mass at least in some way. To this end, we began livestreaming the Sunday Masses at St. Joseph. At the same time, our four parishes have been abundantly blessed by the incredible numbers of the Faithful attending Mass in person. We have continued to see our numbers growing over the past several months. So, praise God for bringing in a copious harvest!
But now, as COVID cases have dropped significantly, public health restrictions are easing and the vaccine is accessible for those who desire it, Archbishop Schnurr—as well as the other Bishops of Ohio—have determined to reinstate the precept to attend Mass. The obligation to attend Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation is being reinstated, beginning with the Masses on the weekend of June 5-6 (Corpus Christi Sunday). Archbishop Schnurr has also said that those who are, “ill, have significant (emphasis original) health risk factors or care for someone who is immune-compromised or ill, as well as those who have significant fear or anxiety of contracting the coronavirus in a large group of persons” remain dispensed from the obligation. If you have any questions about the obligation, especially if you live or work around those in a high-risk category, please reach out to either of us (Fr. Sean or Fr. Jedidiah) and we would be happy to answer any questions to the best of our ability.
The Sunday obligation to attend Mass is for our benefit. The Lord greatly desires us to attend Mass to worship Him and receive His Body and Blood. We are happy to welcome everyone back to Mass and there is plenty of room. Following guidance in our state, we have eliminated social distancing protocols throughout our churches, except a pew in the front.
As the mask mandate is lifted throughout the state of Ohio in early June, we will be lifting it for our parishes as well. If you desire to continue wearing a mask, feel free to do so. If people are wearing masks, please respect their decision to follow their conscience. Our Distributors of Holy Communion will not be required to wear face masks. The current health guidelines define exposure to Covid-19 as being within six feet for 15 minutes or more. Since parishioners aren’t near the distributors for 15 minutes, distributors won’t be required to wear a mask.
Also, on the weekend of June 5-6, we will be discontinuing the livestream of the 10am Mass at St. Joseph. We know that many have expressed their gratitude about this addition to the liturgical life of our parishes, but we believe that it’s time to emphasize the importance of attending Mass in person. Spiritual Communions are pious practices, but they do not substitute for actually receiving the Eucharist. The Church encourages us to receive worthily and frequently, and we can only do that in person! There are still plenty of livestreamed Masses available online (EWTN, Ascension Presents, St. John Cantius, and many other Catholic YouTube channels).
On the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Feast Day specifically dedicated to the Holy Eucharist, why not avail yourself of this marvelous gift which the Lord gave to us through His Church? If you’ve been away from the Sacraments for some time, the first step would be to make a good Examination of Conscience and Sacramental Confession. There are many great Examinations of Conscience available online, and we have them available in the Confessionals at all four Churches. Among other times, Confessions are available before the Saturday evening Masses at St. Joseph (Wapakoneta) and Immaculate Conception (Botkins), and before Sunday morning Masses at St. John (Fryburg) and St. Lawrence (Rhine).
Finally, this presents a perfect opportunity to welcome someone back to Mass. All of us have family or friends who have stopped attending Mass over the past year or longer. Now is a wonderful time to invite them back. Offer to sit with them or go to confession with them. We have an evangelical opportunity to reintroduce those we love to Jesus Christ and His Church. We warmly invite you to return to the public Sacramental life of the Church, and we hope to see you at Mass on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi!
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Sean Wilson, Pastor
Fr. Jedidiah Tritle, Parochial Vicar