Happy Pentecost! Pentecost is the Church's Birthday, and it is a time of re-birth for our parish.
We have lived through a difficult and uncertain time in the last couple of months, but I think finally, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Lancaster County will move into the YELLOW PHASE of government reopening of Pennsylvania on June 4, 2020. In accord with Diocesan directives, our parish will SLOWLY transition to opening again, beginning with the weekend masses on June 6th and 7th, the Solemnity of the MOST HOLY TRINITY, the central mystery of our Christian Faith. I cannot express in words how much I look forward to seeing you all again; I have missed you greatly! I must be candid with you; it is the most trying time of my priesthood celebrating Mass before empty pews. I miss all your lovely faces and responses at Mass. I can assume the feelings are mutual, you too cannot wait to worship with your fellow parishioners in your beloved St. Peter Church.
During the YELLOW PHASE, St. Peter will once again celebrate public Sunday Masses as follows:
Sunday: 8:30 a.m. (Parish Hall) and 10:30 a.m. (Church)
Bishop Gainer's dispensation from attending Sunday Mass continues to hold. We will continue to Live-Stream the Sunday Mass. I recommend not to attend Mass if you:
*are sick in any way or have a compromised immune system
*have lung or breathing problems
*have neurological' neuro-development conditions (e.g., cerebral palsy, stroke, etc.)
*have any other risk factor for developing a more severe case of COVID-19.
I also urge parents to consider carefully whether your children should attend Mass at this time. Children are more likely to be asymptomatic carriers of the virus; they are likely to make frequent use of bathrooms; they would probably have more difficulty wearing masks for a sustained period and maintaining social distancing. If they have to be at Mass, you have the RESPONSIBILITY of keeping them safe.
All who are attending Mass are required to wear MASKS at all times except when receiving Holy Communion. To allow for better ventilation and sanitation, we will be celebrating 8:30 a.m. Mass in the Parish Hall and the 10:30 a.m. Mass in the Main Church. This arrangement or option gives us a better opportunity to attain our goal of maintaining social distancing and adequate sanitation. Before the celebration of Public Masses, we will get a professional cleaning company to disinfect and clean our Church pews, floor, wall, doors, and bathrooms. To further achieve this goal, we have marked and partitioned the Church and Hall space to allow for proper physical distancing. Your Mass experience will be different during this time. Please bear with us.
Doors will open half an hour before Mass starts. At this point, we can only seat 0ne-third at Mass per state and Diocesan directives. As a result, seating will be by reservation at this time. Please call the parish office (717-367-1255) from Monday-Thursday from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m to make a seat reservation. You can also make a reservation by email with a Thursday at 2:00 p.m. deadline. If needed, we will have sits arranged in the Narthex area for Mass in the main Church and the lobby leading to the Parish Hall for Mass holding there. When walking to the Church or the Parish Hall, follow any signs, tape, and direction provided by USHERS. It is essential to follow Ushers' instruction for seating order. Ushers will seat you according to distancing directives. You will NOT be permitted to sit wherever you prefer. There will be signs to indicate pews that will remain VACANT, and NO ONE will be allowed in those pews. Families are expected to sit together in the same pew while SINGLE or COUPLE will be directed to places designated for them.
NOTE: Members of the clergy are NOT to wear masks or gloves during Mass. The sign of peace during Mass continues to be omitted. There will be a COLLECTION BOX at the entrance. You are welcome to drop your weekend offerings (first and second collection) BEFORE the start of Mass. There will be NO collection taken up during the Mass. You can mail your offering, drop it off at the parish during business hours, or send it ONLINE. THANK YOU for your offerings during this time of the pandemic.
At the Diocesan recommendations, we will be distributing Holy Communion after Mass to minimize the movement of people during Mass and to create opportunities for adequate sanitation. After the dismissal, the priest will wear a face mask, get the ciborium, and go to a location in the Narthex where will distribute Communion. Do not leave your row until instructed by ushers to do so. Once in the designated area for reception of Communion, use hand sanitizer and maintain six feet of distance between you and others. The communicant receives while still wearing his or her mask, then moves away, lowers the mask, and consume the Host. I recommend you receive Holy Communion in hand at this time. After receiving Communion, we ask that you proceed to your vehicle immediately and refrain from congregating in the parking lot.
We would like to offer the opportunity to receive Holy Communion to our parishioners who are in "at-risk "categories. To enable them to remain safe and still receive Communion, I recommend they follow Parish Live-Stream mass at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday from home or their vehicles in the parking lot. I will begin distributing Holy Communion to those who watched Parish Live -Streamed Mass from 12: 00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. This will allow parishioners adequate time to drive to the Church and maintain social distancing. A drive-through loop will be formed, and I will be standing outside the Church's main entrance door to give them Communion. People will pull up at Church's main entrance, wear their mask (s), leave their car to receive Holy Communion, lower mask(s) to consume the Host, and then return to their vehicle and exit. Each car will follow the same protocol.
WEEKDAY MASSES will resume on Monday, June 15th at 8:00 a.m. in the Parish Hall. There will be NO DAILY MASS on Saturdays. Upon entering the Historic Church, self-sanitize your hands and practice social distancing when choosing a seat. You may be asked to move if you are too close to others. After Mass, you will be required to clean the area in which you sat with the provided cleaning materials in the Narthex.
CONFESSION will be available on Saturday, June 6, from 10–11:30 a.m. and 4:00-5:00 p.m. in the Church's main entrance door. Please look for and follow signs the moment you drive into the Church grounds. NO confession will take place in the Church. There is NO FACE TO FACE confession at this time. You are to wear a face mask. Kneel or stand behind the screen and kneeler provided. Please, drive up only when the penitent before you exit. Please keep your confession brief and straight to the point. Please note that missing Mass these past Sundays and Days of Obligations during the pandemic is not a sin and should not be confessed.
Sacraments of Baptism, Anointing of the Sick, Marriage and Funeral Masses are to be celebrated in line with Diocesan directives and with direction from the Pastor, who is to utilize discretion and prudential judgment in regard to these Sacraments.
First Holy Communion, Confirmation, Christian Initiations, and Memorial Funeral Masses are to be celebrated at the discretion of the Pastor and in accord with Diocesan directives.
Though I started by acknowledging that we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I must admit we still live in an uncertain and unusual time. We are not back to "normal" time and maybe in a "new normal" for a long while. In all this, you have demonstrated great patience and faith. Please keep in mind that this is a learning curve for all of us. We are going to find things awkward and not entirely smooth. We are going to make mistakes and make changes from time to time. Please be adaptive to the fluidity of the moment as we try to adjust and stabilize. Be patient and understanding with us as we make a transition.
Please keep praying for our world and our country to overcome this pandemic. Pray for health workers on the front line fighting this pandemic. Pray for families who have lost their loved ones to it. Pray for those who have lost their jobs as a result of it.
I look forward to the day when the pandemic is finally defeated; we will celebrate in full joy and offer thanksgiving to God.
May Mary, Our Blessed Mother, pray for us.
Fr. Bernard Oniwe, OP, Pastor.