May 20, 2021
A Note From Father Woods
Like many people I spent many months worrying about getting Covid 19, in particular because of my age and some health concerns. For many months, I tried to avoid giving out Holy Communion and I am so grateful for the many Eucharistic ministers who did serve in this important ministry. When I was vaccinated, I will say that I felt liberated. I trusted in the vaccine and left the rest in the hands of God. Now, with many norms changing about masks indoors and outdoors, I am sure you may feel a bit apprehensive about not wearing a mask. I think that is only natural. Our parish seeks to minister to both the vaccinated and non-vaccinated to the best of our abilities. Whatever you decide about masks is your personal choice, and I will respect that.
The announcement by the Center for Disease Control removing indoor social distancing from six feet to three feet as well as not requiring masks to be worn by those who have been vaccinated caught many off guard. Governor Hogan: Hogan’s order goes further and rescinds the mask order for all residents, regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated or not, but requires masks on public transit, in hospitals and in schools. "Unvaccinated residents are strongly encouraged to wear masks,” Hogan said, “but not required.” “Anne Arundel County will follow the State’s decision regarding the lifting of the mask order,” Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said. “If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, go get your shot. We need a summer surge in vaccinations to prevent a fall surge in cases.” We also heard from the Archdiocese this weekend: As a result of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s most recent announcement lifting the indoor mask requirement, the wearing of masks is no longer mandated on parish campuses in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, unless it is required by the local jurisdiction. This is effective immediately. Wearing masks is still strongly encouraged for those who are not vaccinated. Social distancing of 3 ft. is still required inside of buildings. Please note that Archdiocesan schools will be issuing separate guidance in the coming days.
As you can see, much has changed quite rapidly in the past few days. Last year on Pentecost Sunday was the day we officially opened the Church to public Masses. This coming Saturday and Sunday, the weekend of May 22nd- 23rd, will begin the implementation of the policies given to us by the CDC, The State of Maryland, Anne Arundel County, and the Archdiocese of Baltimore. I felt this day of the Holy Spirit is a perfect time to begin to move forward with these changes. Although at times there has been some frustration with the various decisions made by these state and church leaders, I think they have done well by us. I am most grateful for the cooperation of all our parishioners during this time of the pandemic. We have not had any reports of a person contracting the virus at church events; additionally, in spite of our limited space, we have not turned anyone away from any Masses. We as a parish can be proud of that.
Social distancing is now required at three feet. This new norms will actually double the number of seats available in our two churches. New outlines of open seats will be prepared by Pentecost. We will continue to ask for Mass reservations for St. Mary’s Church for weekends. If I see that is not needed, I will adjust that norm.
Some more good news:
It is my hope, with the approval of the Archdiocese, to continue to have outdoor Masses since God has blessed us with beautiful property and many people enjoy these celebrations of the Holy Mass. We will also continue to live stream our Masses. I know there are people who have health concerns and do not feel as of yet comfortable in a large group of people. I understand that and we are happy to try to have someone bring you Holy Communion if you wish.
The wearing and not wearing of masks in our society has become, as is now for many issues, a kind of political issue. The wearing and not wearing of masks is seen by some as a kind of statement. Some of this has led to arguments and nasty behaviors toward one another. Gratefully, there have been almost no such incidents in our parish family. We are all walking the line between public safety and personal freedom. As we have followed the recommended norms we have in place at our parish, I think that has helped us avoid such tensions. If people choose to wear a mask, that is fine. If they follow the new norms from the CDC, the Archdiocese, the Governor and the County, they are able to go without masks if they so choose and if they have been vaccinated. We at our parish will not now and I sure hope not in the future require people to prove they have been vaccinated. In my mind the matter of vaccination is a personal choice.
Now, on the day of the Holy Spirit, we continue to walk with more freedom in the face of the virus. We certainly remember all who have died from this horrible disease,and pray in gratitude to all have helped care for the sick and work for the health care of all. Spirit of God, breathe into us your spirit. Amen.
In the Redeemer,
Fr. Pat Woods, C.Ss.R.