Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Over these two months of “safer at home,” I have been continually inspired by the innovation and creativity I have seen from our priests, pastoral leaders and parish and school staffs as they have ministered to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the faithful throughout the Diocese of Green Bay. It is during these challenging times that our Lord walks with us to be bolder and better. Now is our time to “love all God’s people, all the time!” I extend my most heartfelt thanks to everyone in the parishes and schools for rising in the days of Easter to serve those who are just looking to find some normalcy in this time of the coronavirus pandemic.
I also want to share I too, have been hard at work with my brother bishops throughout the state, curia leadership and with the Regional Vicars and Presbyteral Council to bring our church and her members back to the source and summit of our faith, which has been missing for so many during these two months. The health and safety of the faithful is our number one priority. And, I want to be clear we will continue to comply with the safer-at-home policies as long as they are in place.
As we issue this plan, we see the diocese as being in the pre-phase of the “Bounce Back Plan.” As you may know, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee issued their plan for returning to Mass several weeks ago. Our plan is different and takes into account the particular circumstances of our diocese. Because of concern for those living in the northern counties of the diocese, who are not projected to see spikes in the virus until perhaps mid-July, we will remain vigilant in our observance of our plan and our monitoring and measuring of data.
Last week, I shared with priests and pastoral leaders our plan for the “Distribution of Holy Communion” outside the Mass on Sundays during the coronavirus pandemic. The solution the church has provided, and which we are implementing beginning Pentecost weekend, May 30-31, is a simple Communion service. Parishioners who are able are strongly encouraged to participate spiritually at Mass by means of television, online or radio before coming to a parish Communion service. Those who are unable to do so are encouraged to read the Scriptures for the day or pray a rosary or in some other way prepare to receive holy Communion. The Communion service will include reading briefly from the Word of God, praying the Lord’s Prayer together, and receiving the Eucharist, providing an opportunity for the faithful to be sacramentally nourished.
Naturally, holy Communion is usually received during the celebration of the Mass. This is most fitting since the celebration of the Mass is intimately directed to the nourishment of God’s people with the Word of God and holy Communion. Communion services are never an alternative to the celebration of the Mass and must only be used for serious reasons. And again, the time in which we live, with a global pandemic which has led to thousands of deaths in our country, is a serious reason. Please know this is our first step at a return to the celebration of Mass at a later time.
We are called now to find the balance between bold faith and prudent safety. We are keenly aware of the need for communion and community, in that order, and this plan addresses those realities. Please also remember, no Catholic is required to attend Mass and to receive holy Communion during the pandemic. The permission to do so in our plan is for those who desire to receive holy Communion, and can do so safely.
Your priest, pastoral leader and the parish staff are preparing a plan to bring the distribution of holy Communion to your community. What this will look like is completely up to their leadership after all, they know the needs of your faith community best. Please be patient with them as they work through the logistics of this process. The goal is to find a method for your individual parish that will meet the needs of those who are able to attend the service.
May the peace of Christ and guidance of the Holy Spirit be with us all as we boldly and prudently reintroduce the bread of life to all the faithful at this moment of our journey.
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.