TO PARISHIONERS OF PARISHES IN THE BUNBURY DIOCESE
Dear Brothers and Sisters
For the first time in our memories, it is no longer possible to celebrate public masses in Australia. No one can say how long this situation will continue.
For the moment, therefore, I need to clarify what is demanded of us – Priests, Deacons, Consecrated Religious and people – while current Orders are in place.
All churches are to be closed
Please ensure that all churches and chapels are locked closed until further notice. No one is to be admitted into a church for any reason.
Masses and public devotions
The Sunday Mass obligation is suspended for everyone but priests at present – so no one should feel guilty about missing Mass while the coronavirus remains in the community.
No public Masses
There are to be no public Masses or public devotions until further notice. This will be a real hardship for many Catholics, I know, but there is no other option at present.
However, the Lord is still with us and we can still pray parts of the Mass in our homes.
There will be Mass streamed from the cathedral each Sunday when we cannot celebrate public Masses. The cathedral Mass will also be available on YouTube.
Like many areas of the world where Catholics are deprived of weekly Mass because of persecution or a shortage of priests, we can
- Repent of our sins by praying the Penitential Act
- Pray for our personal intentions before the Collect Prayer
- Reflect prayerfully on the scripture readings, asking the Lord to see how they relate to our personal lives and situations
- Unite ourselves with the Lord by offering our own lives and crosses as we pray the words of the Preface and Eucharistic Prayer
- Pray a spiritual Communion Prayer, such as
I believe that you are present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.
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.
Mass readings and reflections on the scriptures can be found also on numerous websites.
Some Parishes will be streaming Masses also.
Home prayer and devotions
Those less familiar with technology can use the time they normally participate in the parish Mass to pray devotions. The decades of the Rosary is a common example. We could pray the four mysteries – the Joyful, Light, Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries of the Rosary.
The main thing is to give time to the Lord as best we can.
Priests, Deacons and Consecrated Religious
Priests will continue to celebrate private Masses on their own. I ask them to offer Masses periodically for the sick; those working hard to protect the community; those caring for the sick; for the protection of the community from the further spread of the virus.
I ask Priests, Deacons and Consecrated Religious to include these intentions when they pray the Prayer of the Church each day.
The celebration of Baptism
Celebrations of Baptism should be postponed until further notice – except where there is danger of death.
The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation
This Sacrament will not be available inside churches or other buildings until further notice – either the First, Second or Third forms.
Parishioners should make sincere examinations of their consciences and pray an Act of Contrition from their hearts.
If individuals feel still that they need to go to confession for reasons other than personal devotion, Priests should agree if requested only if the conditions for hygiene can be strictly followed outside a church or other building.
Under no circumstances should Confessions outside buildings be advertised: they should be ad hoc and only upon specific request.
All Catholics are dispensed of their annual duty in relation to this Sacrament.
Weddings and funerals
These may be held in a church for a very small group, normally the immediate family only. The church is to be opened to admit them and closed again once they have been admitted. It should not be left open.
Pastoral visits to the sick, the frail shut-ins and the elderly
These people need to be cared for especially by Priests and Deacons – provided they are low risk where the catching of coronavirus is concerned. However the normal hygiene regulations must be adhered to strictly.
Under no circumstances should the person be touched.
Priests must ensure that their own health will never be at risk.
Priests should wash their hands carefully before and immediately after the visit –before they touch the doors or steering wheels of their cars.
Holy Communion can be given only in the hand, never on the tongue.
The Sacrament of Anointing
For the celebration of this Sacrament
- The Laying on of Hands should be only over the head of the person receiving the sacrament – the head should never be touched
- The priest should use a cotton wool ball or a glove for the anointing
- Anointing the head alone will be sufficient – not the hands.
It is sad that we have come to this situation in Australia. However, we must do everything in our power to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Let us all pray that the Lord, who always brings good out of evil, will help us to see also what we can do for the good of others.
We can pray for all, but especially for those for whom this will be a time of reassessment of their lives and values and an opportunity to return to God.
God bless you all
Most Rev Gerard J Holohan
Bishop of Bunbury