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Diocese of Gaylord's Response to COVID-19

Letter from Bishop Raica Regarding the Coronavirus 5-12-20

May 12, 2020

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

Greetings in the Risen Lord!  The First Letter of St Peter exhorts us: “There is cause for rejoicing here. You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials: but this is so that your faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears.” These past few months, I pray, have helped us to realize and cherish our faith, family and friends with even greater intensity. 

It has been two months since we last celebrated public Masses together in our parishes, shrines and chapels across the Diocese of Gaylord. With this public statement I share with you the good news that we are at a stage of beginning to re-open our churches for public celebrations of the Eucharist beginning on Wednesday, May 20. Churches should not open, if they are not ready to do so. Parish opening information should occur through the parish website and on other social media. Each pastor or pastoral administrator, working with their pastoral council, should be sure they have the diocesan directives in place prior to opening for the public to attend Mass. 

As we open up our churches for public Mass, expect that these celebrations will not be exactly what we may be used to or expect. Even though the coronavirus curve is flattening, the pandemic is not over. We must take precautions that will keep our risk as reduced as possible. 

Protocols have been developed through a committee working with the Director of Worship, that have considered expert advice from the medical field and liturgical experts. The protocols are meant to complement the wise guidance of the federal, state and local health agencies for the sake of the common good. Below is a list of some things you can expect when you return to public worship.

  • Expect that you will not see everyone at Mass. In the Diocese of Gaylord, dispensation from your Sunday obligation is extended through Sunday, September 6, 2020. Not all will feel comfortable returning to public worship right away and some people should not return right away, including those over 65 years of age and those in a higher-risk category because of health issues and those who are currently ill. However, if you wish to return to Mass your Sunday obligation may be fulfilled at any Mass during the week.
  • Expect that not all parishioners will be able to attend Mass on a Sunday because of reduced capacity. Churches are not to exceed 25% capacity in order to maintain proper social distancing. It is possible that Masses may be held outside. 
  • Expect to see all people over the age of two wearing masks.
  • Expect that Communion distribution will be different to afford safe distancing between individuals.
  • Expect the music to be led only by the musician and cantor. Or, you may not have any music at all for a while.
  • There will be no hymn books or missals or worship aids in the pews.
  • Expect other directives that may affect your local community and expect differences between parishes. We are striving for unity in our celebrations from parish to parish, not uniformity. What works one way in one parish, might work differently in another. 
  • Expect that each parish may open on a different schedule. We need patience to guide us these next few months.

I ask for and beg your patience as we learn all over again what it means to gather together. This will take some getting used to. I believe it can be done – so that we will be respectful of each other and our desire to resume our public Masses with decorum and dignity.

During this time, let us pray for each other and support each other as we resume our public celebrations. May what we do in these next few weeks as we re-open, as St Peter urges, lead to “praise, glory and honor” when Jesus Christ appears in our midst. “We adore you O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.”

Invoking the prayerful embrace of our Lady of Mt Carmel, the patroness of our diocese, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,

 

+Most Reverend Steven J Raica

Bishop of Gaylord

 

 

 

 

Decree for Dispensation during Coronavirus 4-30-20

April 30, 2020

TO: Priests, Deacons, Religious, Seminarians, and Faithful of the Diocese of Gaylord

FROM: Most Reverend Steven J Raica

On April 24, 2020, Governor Whitmer extended the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order for the entire State of Michigan through Friday, May 15, 2020. Therefore, in cooperation with our local authorities in keeping the people of our diocese, parishes and institutions safe during this time of pandemic, I extend the validity of the decree issued on April 3, 2020, through Friday, May 15, 2020. This extension includes all dispensations previously granted. While suspension of public Masses will continue through Friday, May 15, I urge local parish leadership and communities to continue their use of social media as well as finding other creative ways to promote our Catholic faith and the bold proclamation of the Gospel of Christ. 

As a sign of hope, I have established an interdisciplinary working committee to help prepare principles, norms and guidelines to assist parish leaders and communities in opening our churches to public worship, celebration of the Sacraments, and parish activities when it becomes safe to do so. This step is a great indication that we are beginning to see some light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel. 

At the same time, I pray for the steadfast faith of the People of God throughout the Diocese of Gaylord. May this time of fasting from the things we hold dear be an occasion to recommit ourselves to Christ, Our Lord and become intentional disciples.

On Friday, May 1, at 12:00 Noon (EDT), I will be re-consecrating our Diocese to the loving embrace and protection of our Blessed Mother. This event will be live-streamed from St Mary Cathedral in Gaylord on social media platforms. Other dioceses throughout the United States, Canada and the world will be doing so jointly at 3:00 PM (EDT). This ceremony can be viewed on many familiar social media outlets and EWTN.

May we keep ourselves under the loving protection and embrace of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the patroness of our diocese.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

 

+Most Reverend Steven J Raica

Bishop of Gaylord

 

 

Decree for Dispensation during Coronavirus 4-3-20

Please find below a Dispensation Decree from Bishop Raica sharing updates on the suspension of public Masses through April 30, 2020, as well as details for this year’s Chrism Mass, Sacraments of Initiation for catechumens and candidates, and new dates for the Catholic Services Appeal kick-off.

With Holy Week liturgies to be celebrated with no assembly this year, please contact your parish website or office to see what remote viewing options may be available. In addition to what your local parish may be able to provide, the following private Masses from St Mary Cathedral will be available for remote viewing. The livestream option can be found at both www.stmarycathedral.org and here on the homepage of www.dioceseofgaylord.org.

 

Palm Sunday Vigil (April 4):  Livestream at 5:00 p.m. (and available for later viewing).

Palm Sunday (April 5):  Palm Sunday Vigil TV Broadcast at 8:00 a.m. on local FOX 32.  Also viewable online at www.stmarycathedral.org.

Holy Thursday (April 9):  Livestream at 5:00 p.m. (and available for later viewing).

Good Friday (April 10):  Livestream at 1:00 p.m. (and available for later viewing).

Easter Vigil (April 11):  Livestream at 7:00 p.m. (and available for later viewing).

Easter Sunday (April 12):  Easter Vigil TV Broadcast at 8:00 a.m. on local FOX 32.  Livestream at 9:00 a.m. of the Mass During the Day (also available for later viewing).

 

Click the link below to download the Bishop’s Decree.

 

 

 

 

 

Bishop Raica's Video Message for our Diocese

Bishop's video message of March 24, 2020

 

 

 

Letter from Bishop Raica Regarding the Coronavirus (03-19-20)

March 19, 2020 / 3:00 p.m.

Solemnity of St. Joseph

 

Dear Brother Priests, Deacons, Pastoral Administrators, Religious and Faithful:

 

I continue to pray for all those in our beloved Diocese of Gaylord, throughout our state and nation, and throughout the world. I recognize what a challenging time this is, as we are not able to publicly attend Mass for the time being, and that there are questions and concerns as to what this means for our journey of faith, both individually and as the Church. 

 

As I shared in my message on March 13, 2020, the novel coronavirus continues to ramp up with increasing health risks to the general population throughout our country and state. It has been necessary to make some difficult decisions to do our part in stemming the spread of this pernicious virus. Doing the difficult part now, I pray, will reduce the time and impact this virus will have on the vulnerable people in our congregations and communities; being concerned about the welfare of those who are sick and vulnerable is an act of charity that will not be forgotten. 

 

I am sincerely thankful for all concerns about this temporary measure, because it reflects our collective faith that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life — the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Additionally, it reflects our understanding that God desires us to be in relationship and communion with one another. Be assured—these beliefs are not weakened by these temporary measures. Christ is still among us, and we can, and should, still continue our journey of faith even during such times. 

 

Although public Mass is suspended for this time, please know that priests throughout our diocese are still privately celebrating the Mass each day, insofar as they are able, for the intentions already determined for your parish. Additionally, confession and anointing of the sick continue as we are able. In short, faith formation endures! 

 

During this season of Lent, we are invited to draw near to God through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, and although these acts of faith may look different this particular Lenten season, this is still our call. I remind you that there is a dispensation for not attending Mass during this time. However, it is highly encouraged that all would make a spiritual communion during this time, and if possible, do so while celebrating the Mass through resources such as television, social media, or listening via the radio. There is a developing list of such opportunities on our website, one that we are working diligently to update often. May these resources equip you to continue with faith formation within your homes and families. 

 

This is also an excellent time to engage with the Lord in different forms, perhaps even ones that are new for you. These acts of faith could include making a Holy Hour; praying the Rosary, the Magnificat or the Stations of the Cross; reflecting on the daily readings; finding time to spend at your parish praying before the Holy Eucharist; or utilizing programs such as FORMED. Prayers can be offered for those who are affected by the pandemic, for those in the medical community treating patients and for wisdom in our scientific community.

 

Today on this Solemnity of St. Joseph, the protector of families and the Church, Pope Francis invites each of us to accompany him and our brothers and sisters around the world in praying the Rosary (Luminous Mysteries) together at 4:00 p.m. (EDT). All of these forms of devotion and prayer will help us traverse this uncertain time together, as the Body of Christ. 

 

We remember Jesus’ trial in the desert for forty days, a time of fasting and spiritual communion with the Father. It was this wilderness time that, ultimately, led to His glorious resurrection and victory over death — the anchor of our hope! Likewise, let us not be disheartened during this temporary “desert,” but let us instead find renewed fervor in our faith and continued longing for the joy that is to come.

 

 

Sincerely yours in Christ,

 

+Most Reverend Steven J Raica

Bishop of Gaylord

Letter from Bishop Raica Regarding the Coronavirus (03-13-20)

March 13, 2020 / 8:00 p.m.

 

Dear Brother Priests, Deacons, Pastoral Administrators, Religious and Faithful:

 

When the disciples were walking to Emmaus, they met up with a stranger who shared the Scripture of the Law and Prophets. What started as a disappointment — uncertainty regarding the present and future — soon became the awareness that the Lord had been with them all along.  At table, they concluded so simply: “Stay with us Lord.”  

 

As the novel coronavirus ramps up with increasing health risks to the general population throughout our country and state, and especially to our faith communities, it is necessary to make some difficult decisions to do our part in stemming the spread of this pernicious virus. In order to do so, I have consulted with the Diocesan Consultors, and read the reports from medical and scientific experts about the impact of this virus. Doing the difficult part now, I pray, will reduce the time and impact this virus will have on the vulnerable people in our congregations and communities. Being concerned about the welfare of those who are sick and vulnerable is an act of charity that will not be forgotten. During this season of Lent, our prayer and penance is key as we approach a spiritual response to the pandemic sweeping our country and state.

 

From Saturday, March 14 through Monday, April 6, 2020, all Sunday and weekday public Masses are suspended throughout the Diocese of Gaylord. Although public Masses are temporarily suspended, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is available through the various media channels for television, radio, internet, and social media. An optimal moment to make a Spiritual Communion is at the time Mass is celebrated each day. The Sacrifice of the Mass remains efficacious and a grace-filled moment. I ask every priest to celebrate Mass in private for the intentions already determined for your parish, for those who are affected by the pandemic, for those in the medical community treating patients and for wisdom in our scientific community.

 

In his letter to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Detroit, Archbishop Allen Vigneron, our Metropolitan, suggested this prayer as a model to make a spiritual communion:

 

My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love you above all things and I desire to receive you in my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive you sacramentally,
Come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace you as if you were already there
And unite myself wholly to you.
Never permit me to be separated from you.
Amen.

 

Typically, in moments of crisis, our faithful look to their priests, their pastoral leaders, their faith and their church as an anchor of hope. To that end, I encourage churches to remain open during the day. Through private prayer and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (located to the main body of the church for social distancing) we can be reminded of the closeness of Christ and let “heart” speak to “heart.” The pastor or pastoral administrator should be mindful not to exceed the crowd size limitations and social distancing of those in attendance.

 

It is also our important duty to mourn with those who have passed away. Funerals may occur provided there are a limited number of persons present – immediate family and a few friends. People in attendance should sit in a way that respects the “social distancing” guidelines. If this is not possible, consider postponing the funeral or memorial Mass to a later date.  Weddings should observe the same protocols

 

In a similar way, Baptisms will occur outside of Mass for the time being with water blessed specifically for the rite.

 

As this is becoming a moment when we literally have a “field hospital,” the care for and anointing of the sick is a very important ministry for priests. Visiting the sick and health care facilities, with due regard to their safety procedures, should be viewed as an important part of our care. This allows us to be with those who are vulnerable, wounded, sick and the dying in order to provide solace, spiritual and sacramental care. 

 

With churches open for prayer and adoration, I would ask priests to increase their time hearing confessions in the Sacrament of Penance so we may experience the mercy of Christ. Communal celebrations of the Sacrament of Penance should also be suspended.  

 

As necessary, further updates will be provided as new issues emerge. I entrust each of you to the maternal care and protection of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the patroness of our diocese, each and every day.  

 

Sincerely yours in Christ,

 

+Most Reverend Steven J Raica

Bishop of Gaylord

 

 

Please click the link below to download Bishop Raica's letter, above.  

Letter from Bishop Raica Regarding the Coronavirus (03-05-20)

March 5, 2020

 

To the Priests, Deacons, Religious and Faithful of the Diocese of Gaylord:

 

As the concern over coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) continues to spread worldwide and now within the United States, it is necessary to be proactive in providing useful and practical measures of prevention within our parishes, schools and institutions within the Diocese of Gaylord.  Yesterday afternoon, I sent the Priests and Pastoral Administrators the following letter outlining the measures that are now in effect.  We are committed to monitoring the spread of coronavirus and, from time to time, may add, subtract or revise additional measures to protect the people who come to our parishes, schools and institutions by publishing timely updates on our website and social media platforms.

 

May we join together in prayer for those who are already adversely affected, invoking the divine protection and invoke the prayerful aid of Our Lady of Mt Carmel during this precarious moment in our history.

 

Sincerely yours in Christ,

 

+Most Reverend Steven J Raica

Bishop of Gaylord

 

Please click the link below to read Bishop Raica's message.  

 

Decree for Dispensation during Coronavirus