Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The parish, and our diocese, has now been offering regular masses for three months without incident in respect of COVID-19. This is encouraging as we start into the new “pastoral” year, the September to May period when parish life is usually its busiest.
Of course, this year will be quite different as we work within provincially mandated restrictions to our community life. Indoor gatherings, aside from liturgy, must be no more than 50 people. Attendance at masses continue to be limited to 30 per cent of our seating capacity. More resources are being poured into sanitizing our worship space and Parish Centre as groups return to using it.
Costs have risen, but our income has not. In April, we received a $32,000 grant from the diocese to pay for unexpected building repairs and provide us with a modest financial cushion. The generosity of many has meant that we are paying our bills now. The Parish Advisory Council (PAC) is approaching the diocese for further assistance with badly needed repairs to our buildings.
The only means by which St. Augustine’s will increase its resources of time, talent and treasure will be through growth, engaging current mass-goers, by reclaiming Catholics who’ve drifted away from regular and active participation in parish life, and by attracting new people to the vibrancy that is the Apostolic Faith—a hard task ordinarily, made more difficult by our current situation.
The PAC has been discussing how best to fulfil our responsibilities of offering worship, building community and maintaining our facilities within the present restrictions. Our parish is small, with weekend attendance under normal conditions averaging 700 or so; now less than 300. With one full-time priest, a secretary in 3½ days per week and one part-time custodian, the hours available to accomplish administrative tasks and keep our buildings clean is limited. Custodial hours have been shifted to the weekend so that volunteer cleaning is properly supervised and additional cleaning is done. Private baptisms and weddings add to the demand for sanitizing.
With the retirement of Patricia Anderson, our parish minister, her duties have been redistributed between myself and our secretary, Cindy De Nobriga without increasing hours. Pat’s replacement will likely not be hired until the new year. This means more work for Cindy, and the need for me to find the extra hours to do the paper work that Pat so ably handled.
With adjustments, we are confident that we can keep administrative and custodial costs down and be able to offer the following as of the week of September 13, 2020:
- The Parish Centre will be open for bookings of established parish groups of less than 50 through to the end of December, Tuesday to Thursday. The One Heart, One Soul project committee anticipates the renovation work being done in January and February, 2021. So, no bookings then. COVID-19 protocols are to be observed: complete self-assessments, sign-ins, 2m distancing, etc. Cindy will review the requirements when booking.
- Masses: Wednesdays, 8 a.m. and Thursdays, 6:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 5 p.m.,
and Sundays, 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
- Reconciliation: Thursdays, 5:30 – 6:15 (last penitent, 6:10 p.m.); Saturdays, 4 – 4:45 p.m. (last penitent, 4:40 p.m.)
- The parish will book private baptisms, Wednesday to Saturday, and Sunday afternoons. We will book weddings Fridays and Saturdays.
We hope to return to four public weekday masses in 2021 should COVID-19 protocols be relaxed. Our Fridays and many of our evenings in the church will be taken up with private baptism preparation, actual baptisms, wedding rehearsals and on some Friday evenings, weddings.
No receptions (funeral, wedding, baptism, etc.) are permitted in the hall at this time.
A worship committee is being formed to consider opportunities for hours of Eucharistic adoration, youth masses, musical celebrations of the liturgy of the hours, etc. so as to enrich the spiritual life of the parish despite restrictions. We will also look at online resources for this, and for adult learning and other ministries, using our website, e-mail, streaming, webcasts, and so on.
The parish is investigating a projection system to compensate for the absence of hymnals and missals in the pews.
We are quickly developing a “virtual” bulletin to keep you informed. This will be available on the parish website and distributed via email. To this end, volunteers are helping update our parish list, ensuring we have working emails for all those who use email.
We will soon have an online system of registration for parish programs and liturgies to ensure that those who want to come can do so without being turned away.
Thank you to all for your continuing faithfulness through this extraordinarily difficult time in the life of our parish and Church. As St. Paul wrote,
“…we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” (Romans 5.3-4)
God bless and keep you this day and always.
Your servant in Christ,