June 14, 2020

My friends, the last time we gathered for a public Mass on the Lord’s Day was Sunday, March 8. As we gather today, on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we are grateful - beyond words - for the Body of Christ. We are grateful for the Body of Christ that we can receive again. We are also grateful that we can once again gather as the Body of Christ.

As we gather again in limited numbers, we know that there are many of us who will still not feel comfortable coming together in a large group. I want to encourage those of you who feel this way and to let you know that not only do I support your decision to wait, but that as you wait, you are still part of us, still part of the Body of Christ here at St. Joseph.

I also want to reassure those who do not feel comfortable coming yet, and those who cannot come yet because we have reached our capacity of 50 people for indoor Mass or 100 people for outdoor Mass, that the obligation to celebrate Mass on Sunday has been dispensed by the Archbishop. So, please, if you do not feel comfortable coming to Mass yet, or if you cannot come this Sunday, know that you are still a vital part of the Body of Christ.

The limit on our seating capacity during this phase of the reopening also means that not everyone who wants to come to Mass will be able to come right now. We ask that you not sign up for multiple Sunday Masses. If you were able to come this Sunday, for example, I ask that you wait and not sign up for next Sunday in order to allow those who could not come this week to come next week.

You can sign up for the following week’s masses (Monday-Thursday daily Mass at 8:30 am, and Saturday, 5:00 pm Vigil Mass, Sunday 9:00 am, 11:30 am, and 5:00 pm) beginning each Thursday at noon. You can sign up on our website, or by calling 360-823-2843.

Mass will not be the same during this time. In order to gather and to stay safe, there are a number of sacrifices we are going to have to make. I’ve already mentioned one - the limited number of people we can accommodate. We will also have to sacrifice seeing each other’s whole face (face coverings are required); sitting together and shaking hands or hugging each other (physical distancing will be required for those who do not share a home); we will not be able to sing during Mass (because we know that this is very risky, given how the virus is spread); we will not be able to receive communion at the regular time (rather it will be after Mass is over so that the priest can put on a face covering); and we will not linger, we will not take our time with the liturgy, but will say shorter prayers and give shorter homilies, so that we are not in the space too long (we know that the longer we are together as a group, the more risky it is to spread the virus).

These elements, and others, we will have to sacrifice right now so that we can gather to celebrate as the Body of Christ and to receive the Body of Christ. But, even with all of these sacrifices, WE WILL BE TOGETHER AGAIN, and I am so grateful!

This past week our school year at St. Joseph came to a conclusion. The previous week, on Sunday, May 31, many of our teachers and Mrs. LaRose, our Principal, drove to each eighth-graders home and, from their cars, greeted and celebrated them. There has been much sacrifice on the part of students, parents, teachers, and administration during these months of distance learning. At the same time, learning has continued and I am so grateful for the community coming together to support each other during this challenging time.

We are also saying good-bye to Mary Ellen LaRose, and it is hard to put into words what a gift she has been for me, for our families and students, and for our teachers. She is an incredible woman of strength and faith and love. She has led us through this time with amazing poise and care. We pray God’s blessings on her as she closes this chapter with us and begins a new chapter in her life and ministry.

I am also deeply grateful for the way Mary Ellen has collaborated with our new Principal, Kathy Lundy, in making the transition during these past weeks. Their work together has been a labor of love for both of them and they have shared that love and care with our community. Our sadness at saying good-bye to Mary Ellen, and our joy at welcoming Kathy, is balanced by our deep gratitude for both of them.

It is with that same gratitude that I wish our families a good summer and welcome you back to public Masses. May God be praised in the Body of Christ we have been and continue to be together!

Fr. Gary Lazzeroni