Coronavirus Update #6: General Dispensation from Sunday obligation is no longer in effect
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
Every Tuesday, I am on a conference call with the Bishops of Region XII, Northwest Region of USA, and I am amazed at how many parishes in the more populated areas are limited to 25 people for Mass attendance. We are very blessed to have many of our churches open to celebrate the sacraments. However, not all churches in the Diocese of Fairbanks are open due to varying guidelines from community to community. We need to continue to work within these guidelines as we provide sacraments, and outreach ministry.
As the State of Alaska has moved fully into Phase IV of re-opening, COVID-19 has not left the state. The State of Alaska reported 165 cases for the 3-day period of July 2-4. With this increase, we still need to follow hygiene protocols when attending Mass. Many of the priests have commented that most individuals are expressing a care and concern regarding the potential transference of COVID-19. Please take seriously these continuing protocols.
On 24 May 2020, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the encyclical Laudato si', Pope Francis announced a Special Laudato Si ' Anniversary Year which runs from 24 May this year until 24 May next year. The Holy Father invited "all people of good will to adhere to it, to take care of our common home and our more fragile brothers and sisters". We are pleased to bring to your kind attention the program drawn up by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development for the celebration of this special anniversary year. This program is available in various languages on the Dicastery's website and on the website dedicated to the Laudato Si ' Anniversary Year (www.laudatosiyear.org). It is an open-ended program that will be constantly updated. We also plan to consolidate our collaboration with various partners in order to realize this program.
La semana pasada tuve una entrevista de radio con Relevant Radio, y la primera pregunta que me hizó el entrevistador, fue la siguiente: “¿cómo fue para tí tener que tomar la decisión de cerrar los edificios de la Iglesia durante esta pandemia? Mi respuesta inmediata fue: “Fue orrible, lo hicé con gran angustia”. Recé, recé y recé, y mi decision vino con profunda tristeza y vacío". He predicado apasionadamente sobre la presencia real de Cristo en la Eucaristía, que es la “fuente y cumbre de nuestra fe”. Creo esto con todo mi corazón, mente y alma. Al ofrecer el sacrificio de la Santa Misa, creo que estoy sosteniendo al mismo Jesús que María sostuvo en sus brazos al nacer. Tener que cerrar las puertas de la casa de Dios, donde las personas son alimentadas con su Cuerpo y Sangre en su caminar, causó en mí un sentimiento horrible.
En la primera lectura de hoy del Deuteronomio, Moisés está hablando a la gente indicando que Dios dirigió su viaje en el desierto, "Él te dejó afligido por el hambre, y luego te alimentó con maná". Esta aflicción con el hambre es algo que muchos han compartido y que experimentaron en el período de “cuarentena" durante la pandemia. Esta aflicción causó una sed y un hambre mayor por el Cuerpo y la Sangre de Cristo con gran fervor.
Moisés recuerda a la gente que fueron conducidos y alimentados por la mano de Dios fuera de un lugar de esclavitud. Sin embargo, cuando las cosas no iban como ellos querían, comenzaron a quejarse con Moisés, lo que indicaba que estaban mejor en Egipto, allá sabían lo que recibirían a pesar de estar esclavizados. Esta es la naturaleza del pecado. Hay algo acerca de la condición humana, que fácilmente nos trasladamos a algo que nos es familiar a pesar de que no es saludable para nuestro cuerpo, mente y alma. Esto sucede con el comportamiento adictivo y abusivo. Es por eso que cada uno de nosotros lucha con el pecado habitual. Moisés le recuerda a la gente que es el Señor, tu Dios, quien te sacó de esta esclavitud. ¡Recuerdalo! Además, lo que Moisés está haciendo es recordarles el Pacto que Dios hizó con el pueblo. Hoy, al celebrar la solemnidad del Cuerpo Sagrado y la Sangre de Jesús o “Corpus Christi,”reflexionemos sobre el movimiento litúrgico de la Iglesia. Cada año, la temporada de Pascua termina con la celebración del domingo de Pentecostés, seguido del domingo de la Santísima Trinidad y el domingo de “Corpus Christi”. Estas liturgias especiales se colocan intencionalmente en el calendario litúrgico, ya que reflejan nuestra teología católica.
Message from Sister Marian To: Communities of Aniak, Kalskag, Holy Cross and Russian Mission
It is with a sad and heavy heart that I share with all of you that I will be leaving Aniak and the Y-K Region to return to the Philadelphia area, closer to our Congregational mother house and my family. I leave Aniak on June 29th for Bethel and to Anchorage and onward to Philly on the 30th.
Earlier this year, sisters in my community asked me to consider some ministerial positions within the Congregation itself. This coincided with the annual request from the Diocese for renewal of my contract. With prayerful reflection and discernment, especially on my Vow of Obedience and The Third Order Rule of St. Francis, I wanted to be generous in my response to my community. This situation and my decision to move came up very unexpectedly, as most of God’s plans and movements in my life seem to happen, so I am confident that God’s hand is guiding this transition.
I leave with a grateful heart, filled to overflowing, for the gift and privilege of calling Aniak my home since 2006 and the honor of serving our parish community, as well as the communities of Kalskag, Holy Cross, Russian Mission and Bethel (an in my early years, Pilot Station, Mountain Village and Kotlik!) I am humbled by God’s tremendous blessing to me for allowing me to ministry among the people of the Y-K region. I have learned much for the Native Alaskan people and I treasure the so many different ways you have shaped my growth and my heart over the years. As I walk the dike and beach during this time of year, I see the same Source of beauty of the mountains, hills and river reflected in all of you. The people and parishes of western Alaska have left their mark on me and they will always be held in prayer and deep in my heart.
So I will leave with part of my heart missing, so as to make room for all the people I will carry in there when I go. I am a better person because I came and stayed awhile and, in honor of all those who have been a part of my life here and all that has happened throughout the years, I will bring that ‘better self’ to whatever and wherever God chooses to plant my feet. I wish for you the realization of how much God loves, delights, cherishes and holds you, close to his heart and tucked within his arms! May God bless and keep you! May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you! May God look upon you with kindness and give you peace! Marian, your sister
The following sermon was delivered by Bishop Chad Zielinski on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ on June 14, 2020.
During a recent interview with Relevant Radio, the host asked, “What was it like for you to close churches during the pandemic?” I told him the decision “came with a horrible angst.” I shared that before and after the decision, I prayed and prayed, that I was doing the right thing and that God would forgive me if I wasn’t. I prayed for God’s people, that they would understand I was making the decision out of love not just for them, but to protect the wider community, for whose welfare I am also responsible as a bishop. I prayed for the Lord to sustain the faithful, whom I knew yearned for him in the Eucharist. It was horrible to go through this and I experienced a profound sadness and emptiness during the shutdown.
The decision was so difficult because I believe with all my heart, mind, and soul that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Holy Eucharist. I know that in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, I hold the same Jesus that Mary held in her arms at his birth. I believe all that--and then I had to shut the doors to God’s house where people are fed with his Body and Blood for the journey. It was an unimaginable anguish for me, as it was for every faithful priest across the world whose parish was temporarily shuttered.
With a world struggling to stay together as a family of God because of the impact of COVID-19, we have witnessed the Evil One at work causing further division in God’s plan that “they all may be one.” It is horrifying and saddening to see the impact of racism, hatred, division and violence disrupting our nation. I urge the Church to turn to God, the Father of all, with increased fervor to bring to an end to this horrible hatred, division and violence. Also, please pray for our first responders who continue, with the utmost professionalism, to daily risk their lives as they respond to safeguard the common good for greater protection and respect of the human family. God truly desires that we all live in peace and safety united in His name as one family.
I ask that each parish add a special petition during the General Intercessions praying for an end to racism, hatred, division and violence. Praying that the Holy Spirit bring forth justice founded in peace and unity.
The following is an Opening Prayer for a Votive Mass #30 “For The Preservation of Peace and Justice.” Please feel free to use this in your bulletin and pray it at home.
“O God, who show a father’s care for all, Grant, in your mercy, That the members of the human race, To whom you have given a single origin, May form in peace a single family And always be united by a fraternal spirit. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever.”
John 17:20-21: “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.“
Sincerely in the Peace of Christ, Bishop Chad Zielinski
Coronavirus Update #5: Opening Churches and Public Worship
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
This coming Sunday we celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven. We will listen to Christ’s command, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20). These powerful words to go forth as missionary disciples has continued to guide the Church victoriously for over 2000 years through natural disasters, several pandemics, world wars and other seemingly insurmountable challenges. Through the power of Christ’s words, the Catholic Church continues with the heart of her mission to announce the Good News of the Gospel and, through the sacraments, share intimately in the life of the Holy Trinity. Thank you for your flexibility, steadfast faith and continued “yes” to serve Christ and his Church as missionary disciples.
Coronavirus Update #4, Phase II of Opening of Churches and Public Worship
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
May we hold closely the words of Christ the Good Shepherd that we listen to on the 4th Sunday of Easter, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” This Gospel verse was the theme for World Youth Day in Denver, CO in 1993. I had the honor of being present and listen to St. John Paul II passionately preach about the sacredness of life at all stages, from conception to a natural death. During this current crisis, when life and health is threatened by a pandemic, may we unite together to promote and protect the sacredness of life especially among those groups of people that are most vulnerable.
As you are aware, on Wednesday, 6 May, Governor Dunleavy announced Phase II for re-opening the State of Alaska. New guidelines are coming out for various types of businesses and public gatherings of people. This good news is based upon data indicating a reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks. Phase II simply increases the number of people we can gather in a church building. Previous health protocols published in Alaska Health Mandate 16, Attachment N and can be found on the State of Alaska COVID-19 webpage.
Every year, the Church seeks the special intercession of the Mother of God during the month of May. This year we seek the assistance of Our Lady all the more earnestly as we face together the effects of the global pandemic. In that spirit, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has announced that the U.S. bishops will join the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on May 1 in renewing the consecrations of the two nations to the care of our Blessed Mother.
On that basis, I am pleased to invite you to join with me in spirit for the prayer of reconsecration of our nation to the protection of the Blessed Mother on May 1 at 11:00 am AKDT. If you would like to follow Archbishop Gomez during his service at 12pm PDT the link is https://lacatholics.org/consecration. The service will also be livestreamed via the USCCB’s website at http://www.usccb.org/consecration at 3:00pm EDT.
The consecration on May 1 follows a similar action of the bishops’ conference of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM) who consecrated their nations to Our Lady of Guadalupe on Easter Sunday. The renewal of consecration planned in this country for May 1 does not change the designation of Mary as the Patroness of the United States under the title of the Immaculate Conception. Rather, this prayer reaffirms and renews previous Marian entrustments, and unites us in solidarity with our Holy Father, who recently established the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, as a source of protection and strength.
The Order of Worship is attached in both English and Spanish.
Sincerely in Christ,
†Most Reverend Chad W. Zielinski Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska Diocese of Fairbanks
Coronavirus Update #3, Partial Opening of Churches and Public Worship
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,
Peace Be With You! This was the greeting the Risen Christ extended to His disciples who were gathered in a locked room out of fear. Jesus walked through the locked doors, breathed the Holy Spirit upon them and greeted them with peace.
Last week, I had the opportunity to join our young adults in an on-line faith formation discussion. I recall a few of them sharing, “I feel just like the disciples in the Gospel from Sunday. I know what it means to be filled with isolation, fear, and confusion in a locked-up room.” Many similar experiences were shared about being “locked-up at home” during Holy Week and the Octave of Easter. I was encouraged by their optimistic attitudes about growing in their faith in a way they never expected. They expressed an intense, growing thirst for the Eucharist. Several commented that they were starting to understand what our brothers and sisters in the villages experience regularly, only having access to the Sacraments about every 6-8 weeks. The young adults acknowledged a burning desire to be back to Church physically with their faith communities for the celebration of the Sacrifice of the Mass.