September 5, 2020
Good morning everyone.
Leo Tolstoy in his novel War and Peace has a wonderful observation about time: “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” How true. For weeks we have seen the battle for time and patience being played out daily as almost everyone has found something to say about the return to school, university and college. Suddenly, time was running out and everyone seems to have found a challenge with patience.
Here we are, the final holiday weekend of the summer, school is just around the corner and we stand on the threshold of a new pastoral year. It’s not going to be the same as last year because our situation has changed but that does not mean that there isn’t a hint of excitement in the air. I have run into some of our children as I am out and about modelling snazzy sport team masks and masks with face and nose profiles of movie heroes and Disney princesses. Most seem to be happy about catching up with friends after the longest March Break in history. I enjoy hearing about all of the ways they have entertained themselves and marvel at the creativity and ability to adapt to the unusual “new normal” that we find ourselves in.
Schools in our community will begin to receive students at different stages beginning next week. Last weekend we got to say goodbye to a number of young parishioners who begin their university studies here in Ontario and at universities throughout Canada. All of our students, their parents, teachers, administrators and support staff are in our prayers that all will be well. If we all “pull together” to find creative and successful ways to navigate these first weeks of school, we are on our way to rise to the challenge not to be overwhelmed by fear. The blessing for the new Academic Year that we prayed last weekend is attached to this letter. Lynette and I are recording greetings for the schools this evening (we will post this next week). Bishop Crosby has recorded a special message for the new academic year which you will find on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXsKXhN47y4&feature=youtu.be In it he speaks about time as a gift and patience as an opportunity to grow in wisdom.
In the parish we are off and running with our plans for the new pastoral year. Our first exciting project is the preparation for our yearlong opportunity as a whole parish community to grow our faith with Bishop Robert Barron and the Word on Fire Institute as our guide. The first email will go out during the week of September 21 with an introduction and invitation to catch Bishop Barron’s journey through the history of the Catholic church. Catholicism is an astonishing sweep down through the centuries to modern times with stops at key moments and an opportunity to meet friends old and new along the way. Tony Cestra is going to manage all of this for us and I am grateful for his time and patience as Sharon and I have worked on updating a more accurate email list. Now and then, one of us will insert ourselves briefly to introduce each new section or draw your attention to other talks, articles or reviews that you will have complete access to as a parishioner of St. Andrews.
Lynette and I have completed the schedule for the Confirmation, First Reconciliation and First Communion celebrations that were missed in the spring and will confirm the dates with parents after we have had the opportunity to speak with our school principals later next week. We have decided that children and parents who wish to prepare to celebrate the sacraments during 2021 will begin their immediate preparation when we come back from the Christmas break in January. The Parish Program for sacramental preparation will begin a little later also this year. Lynette is the go to person for more information and is happy to help. We will be catching up with the Parish Catechists later in the month. All sacramental preparation will be taking place using Zoom and we will offer training on it for our volunteers in early October.
Marriage Preparation for couples planning to be married during the next few months, is scheduled for the weekend of September 25-26 also using Zoom. Please pray that it works well for the team and the participants. We have celebrated three weddings in the last few weeks and everything went well despite the restrictions on the number of guests and the wearing of masks. Baptism for children continues with one family at a time on Saturday and Sunday but the backlog and new requests from parishioners means that as of this week, the schedule is full until November. It is a good sign for the parish that so many parents are requesting baptism for their children. Families requesting baptism from outside of the parish are referred back to the parish that they live in as we cannot offer them what they need at the present time. Our backlog of funerals is going down slowly. On Thursday we will have reduced the list from seventeen to nine. Of all of the experiences coming out of the Covid 19 lockdown, this is one of the toughest to deal with. Adult children, brothers and sisters, friends, carry grief that a loved one died and add to the grief the disappointment, anger and sorrow that death came in isolation. Its residue will take a lot of time to heal and be put to rest.
During August, Charles, our music director, Sarah, director of the Children’s Choir and I had a few short conversations about the possibility of opening the door to expanding our music program with smaller choirs after Thanksgiving. That door was firmly closed on Thursday after a conversation with the diocese. We need to wait until further instruction and the all-clear has been given by the Office of the Medical Officer for Health and the Ontario Conference of Bishops committee on Covid 19 response. Our parish is one of many Catholic and Protestant churches that have requested some clarification on this question. Charles and Sara are looking at some possibilities for smaller groups to gather for an adapted practice in the church after Thanksgiving and we are looking at the possibility of recording some music for upcoming celebrations during November. We will keep you posted.
I got myself into trouble a few weeks ago for my remarks on seniors and persons with health issues attending Mass. I thought I was clear that all are welcome to the church and to Mass but for the few weeks after the opening of the schools, those who have health issues and seniors might consider praying with us at home until we are sure that we are not seeing an increase in Covid cases locally. I am very aware that we live in a community where (thank God) the number of infections has been very low but, it is important to remember that every week we have liturgical events in the church where family and friends come from many areas in the province including communities where infection rates are much higher. Geronimo follows a rigorous cleaning protocol after each event. We continue to encourage hand sanitizing, safe distancing and insist on the wearing of a mask. However, we must be vigilant and always err on the side of caution. I had hoped that my remarks were going to be heard as words of concern but instead caused offense to some. For that I am sorry.
On the theme of attending Mass, we seem to have found a comfortable rhythm for being seated and the flow of people to communion and leaving the church. The Mass at noon has the highest attendance and sometimes we have had to pause for a moment while everyone finds a seat. We have added some chairs to the side entrance that are spaced out and have begun to use the sacristy/family room for overflow for the noon Mass. We can accommodate some families in the balcony on one side only to allow space for the cantor and organist. Having everyone leave at the same time is very helpful as we need the time for the church to be sanitized and for the mist on the fabric to dry properly.
Finally, I will be away for a few days beginning next Saturday afternoon until the following Wednesday. Fr. Felix is pumped and ready to be in charge. The next letter will come on September 19th and will have more information on our Bishop Barron and Word on Fire program.
I hope that you will find time to enjoy these last weeks of summer and that the gift of patience will hover over our community as we test the waters of new beginnings.
Below is a blessing for the new year:
A Blessing for the New Academic Year
your wisdom is beyond our understanding,
yet it is revealed to us in the life and love of Jesus,
Bless these daughters and sons of yours
who have answered your call to grow in faith.
Enlighten them with your Word and fill them with your Spirit that they may follow the path that leads to your wisdom.
Open their eyes that they may see your presence each day,
open their ears that they may hear your voice in unexpected places,
open their minds that they may understand
the mystery of your love,
and open their hearts that they may be joyful companions with us as we continue to grow in likeness to the mind of Christ.
Bless our students.
Let them enjoy their learning and take delight in new discoveries.
Help them to persevere in their studies and give them the desire to learn all things well.
Bless our teachers.
Let them strive to share their knowledge with gentle patience and endeavor always to bring the truth to eager minds.
Bless our schools, universities and colleges.
May they be lively centers for sound learning,
new discovery, and the pursuit of wisdom.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.