I want to begin with a note of gratitude. Thank you for your patience! I know that for many of you, Sunday Mass is the highpoint of your week. It gives you a chance to connect with God and with your church family and focus on the things that matter. You leave with a renewed sense of your identity as a child of God the Father, a member of the Body of Christ, and a temple of the Holy Spirit. Since restrictions first began on March 20, you have eagerly awaited in exile for the day that you could come "home".
You have experienced a little taste of the Babylonian Captivity. For over 50 years, the Jews waited to return to their homeland. When they did, they found a lot of rebuilding was necessary. In a similar way, the return to church will be a gradual and perhaps challenging process of rebuilding. We will begin with a return to Communion on May 30-31. It won't quite yet be the Mass that we know and love, but it will be an opportunity to receive Communion.
When and Where
Communion will be offered at Holy Trinity in Oconto on Saturday, May 30 and June 6, from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. Communicants will enter through the main doors that face Arbutus Street and leave through the side doors on Jefferson Street.
Communion will be offered at St. Anthony in Oconto Falls on Sunday, May 31 and June 7, from 10:00 to 11:00 AM. Communicants will enter through the doors that face the playground and exit through the main doors of church.
How to Receive
Communicants should be free from communicable diseases and flu-like symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, fever over 100.4ºF, loss of taste or smell). You are encouraged to wear masks but not gloves. A total of 16 people will enter at a time, 8 in church and 8 in the gathering space, social distanced 6 feet apart. We will do a short prayer and the Our Father together and then you will have a chance to receive Communion. You will not be able to stop and pray in the pews. We also ask that you not congregate in church or in the parking lot before or after, for your own safety and the safety of others. Those age 65 or above and those with compromised immunity are encouraged to stay home.
In order to receive Communion, you should be in the state of grace (free from mortal sin), having fasted from foods for 1 hour, and having prepared yourself by some kind of participation in the Mass. You should watch our live stream at https://Facebook.com/HolyTrinityOconto/Live, listen to a radio Mass, or at the very least read and pray with the scripture readings for the day as a family. After receiving Communion you are encouraged to spend some time in prayer. Prayer cards and bulletins will be available as you leave.
Thank You For Your Kindness
It all sounds very cold, I know. These guidelines came directly from the Diocese of Green Bay. It is pretty much exactly all the things I feared that "return to church" might look like. But we are being obedient to Bishop Ricken. In doing so, I believe that this moment can be an experience profound Communion with God and with each other. Many of us haven't fasted this long from the Eucharist since our First Communion. Your patience, love, and obedience will be rewarded with blessings beyond your wildest dreams. I look forward to seeing you in person, even if briefly, and to hearing about the blessings God gives you through this encounter with our Eucharistic Lord.
When Can We Get Back to Mass?
I expect that these mini Communion services will last just two weeks and then we will be able to offer public Masses with some restrictions on attendance. Thank you for your patience. The best is yet to come.
Peace and joy,
Fr. Joel Sember