COVID-19 restrictions heighten awareness of love, need for Church
April 28, 2020
Daniel Cardinal DiNardo delivers the homily during the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday, April 9, at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. The Mass was livestreamed online to thousands of viewers. (Photo by James Ramos/Herald)
HOUSTON — Since March 18, Catholics living in the Galveston-Houston area have joined millions around the world celebrating livestreamed Masses at home to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. This unprecedented moment in history when public Masses have been suspended has heightened a new awareness about the love of and need for the Sacraments of the Church.
“The global COVID-19 Pandemic is reminding us all of what is important in our lives, as evidenced by the phone calls and e-mails the Office of Worship has received from individuals who long for the reception of Sacraments,” said Sandra Higgins, director of the Office of Worship of the Archdiocese.
Higgins and her staff work closely with the Office of the Cardinal and Bishop to monitor and manage how the evolving COVID-19 civil directives impact all liturgies celebrated in Catholic churches in 10 counties in the Archdiocese. It is one of 60 ministries supported by the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF).
Higgins said Holy Week earlier this month was the perfect example of the tremendous impact the COVID-19 restrictions have made to date.
“This year’s Holy Week was familiar and yet different, with certain elements of the Liturgies each day adapted to respect the civil mandates,” said Higgins. “Cardinal DiNardo consulted with the Office of Worship to prepare guidance to parishes on how to celebrate the Liturgies. This was indeed a Holy Week we will long remember.”
The Office of Worship advised pastors and Liturgy directors on how to adapt to livestream Mass and particularly Holy Week Liturgies. The office worked with parishes on how to celebrate the intricate Triduum Liturgies when only a limited number of ministers are allowed. Even small details assist the faithful online, such as reminding lectors to look at the camera instead of across the church as they proclaim the readings.
For the faithful, the Easter Vigil was a time of rejoicing blended with sadness.
“Unlike years past, our Elect and Candidates in the RCIA program could not receive the Sacraments at the Easter Vigil due to the COVID-19 restrictions,” said Higgins. “As a community, we continue to pray for them and eagerly await the day when we can rejoice in their initiation and reception into the Catholic faith.”
In addition, all Confirmation Masses originally scheduled for March and April have been postponed. The Office of Worship has received many calls and e-mails from parents of Confirmation students with questions about these Masses, including those currently scheduled for May and June.
“In all cases, we have no answer until we know when the restriction to celebrate public Masses will be lifted and under what new restrictions we will operate,” said Higgins. “We assure the parents that they will be notified as soon as we have sufficient information to collaborate on a new date with the pastor and the bishop’s office.”
The Office of Worship staff, while working from home, is still available via e-mail and phone for priests, Liturgy and music personnel that have questions and concerns regarding their parish Liturgies.
On the Archdiocesan website, the office has posted prayer and spiritual resources as well as updates about the impact of the COVID-19 restrictions on Liturgical celebrations.
Higgins said the Office of Worship is thankful for the continued support of the faithful each year through the DSF fund. The ministry’s mission is to help ensure the Liturgy remains the source of spiritual growth and development in Catholic churches across the Archdiocese.
“I believe people will reevaluate how they spend their time, talent and treasure as a result of COVID-19,” said Higgins. “Our parishes and Archdiocese rely on the support of the faithful through the DSF to continue to serve their needs, and I am hopeful that, even in this difficult time, all will prioritize their support of their parishes and DSF.”
As part of its responsibilities, the office oversees all Archdiocesan Liturgies and parish Masses at which a bishop presides to ensure the Liturgy is well prepared. The office also hosts workshops to provide formation and continuing educational opportunities to parish ministers in both English and Spanish. In addition, support is provided to those who lead the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in their parish.
For more information about the impact of the COVID-19 restrictions on Liturgical celebrations held in the Archdiocese and access to the spiritual and prayer resources, go to archgh.org/healthupdates.