United in Prayer

03-29-2020Letter from the PastorFr. Don Kline, V.F.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world."

This passage from the 11th chapter of the Gospel of St. John is from the 5th Sunday of Lent. As we began this year 2020, St. Bernadette and St. John XXIII were making plenty of plans. In the parish, we were anticipating the parish beautification project. Our various ministries were in full swing. Church attendance was increasing, Bible study groups were meeting, children were attending school, parish life was vibrant, and life seemed good. And then … the coronavirus happened seemingly overnight.

And so, these words of St. John seem appropriate as we seek to make sense of what we are to do as a people of faith who believe that Our Lord Jesus is truly Our Savior. I wanted to say a few words about the situation we're all facing with the coronavirus.

What kind of words can I offer to our amazing community? Well, words of hygienic instruction, of course. "Wash your hands often. Sneeze or cough into a handkerchief or Kleenex. Bump elbows, rather than shake hands."

But those were the easy words to say, the obvious ones. You've already heard those words many times the past few weeks.

More important to offer to you, the people of God, are words that you would likely not hear from the news reports or the never-ending, always-updated health bulletins. Words of comfort and reassurance. Words of perspective and hope. Perhaps even words of challenge. These words are important to share because our faith is being tested perhaps like never before in our lifetime.

This week on March 18, I posted a video concerning what we can do to remain faithful to Our Lord. I focused on participating in Holy Mass through the internet. There are some parishes offering Mass online through their website, including St. Bernadette. Know that the priests at St. Bernadette are offering daily Mass for your intentions.

I have received letters and emails from you expressing your gratitude and your prayers. It is truly amazing how much comfort and support we are able to offer one another – and from such a great distance – simply by continuing to do what we are called to do. Even though we're advised not to touch others directly, isn't it amazing how our prayer – even over the internet – can touch the hearts of so many and bring us together in spirit.

I take great comfort that we can still be instruments of God's grace for one another, even if we can't be together physically right now. Our Lord reminds us over and over again that our lives are always in God's hands, even though we aren't always as aware of that fact.

Recently, the priests of the Diocese of Phoenix participated in an online meeting with our bishop and some diocesan folks. We talked about procedures and protocols trying to figure out how are we going to get through this. They offered many ways of moving forward but another possible strategy would be to look at our past. History has shown people managed their way through the smallpox epidemic of 1881, the great influenza of 1918, two world wars, … and many other tragedies – personal, communal, national, international – that we have faced.

In more peaceful times, we would readily agree that our life is in God's hands. When times are difficult, such as now, it's all the more important for us to intentionally put ourselves in God's provident hands. We cannot do the impossible. But we can do what is possible. We can pray. We can support and comfort each other. We can be inspired by the heroic efforts of our caregivers. We can renew our faith in God. We can look for His blessings.

I can't predict how all this is going to turn out. I can say that, as most likely you are, we are preoccupied, anxious, and worried. And I can assure you of some things …. Most people I am talking to are exercising hygiene and taking the necessary precautions.

We have sent most of our staff home, but our office remains open for the time being. We are able to offer funerals for now but even that is limited to 10 family members or less. Several weddings have rescheduling to a later date.

Our school was well prepared for this because we have incredibly dedicated teachers and strong internet capabilities. Teachers have been able send schoolwork home via emails and internet. Parents have been able to stop by the school to pick up any necessary materials to assist their children with schoolwork. Our teachers have been there to greet them at the sidewalk. Their efforts have been amazing.

Our priests are doing their best to make all the emergency sick calls, but the hospitals are even now limiting our ability to visit those in need of the sacraments in hospitals and nursing homes.

Both our parish and school offices are coordinating plans for appropriate and fair "time-offs" from work due to the virus for our co-workers. Our office is shifting workloads and assignments to minimize contacts among the various communities, and so reduce chances for spreading of the virus.

I will close with this thought: I assure you that you continue to be in the prayers of the parish staff and our priests. Our daily prayers include thanksgiving for our co-workers and parishioners, both living and deceased, and that God protect us from all anxiety, and for those who care for our health and safety.

We intend to continue to offer daily Mass at the regular Mass times of 6:30am and 8:30am Monday – Friday and 8:30am on Saturday. We will continue "drive-thru confessions" in front of the church at 8:00am Monday – Saturday and again at 3:00pm Saturday afternoon. Sunday Mass will be live streamed from the Cathedral at 9:00am. Our Bishop also plans to live stream our celebrations of the Easter Triduum: our Holy Thursday Mass, our Good Friday service and our Easter Vigil from the Cathedral of Ss. Simon and Jude. We are considering offering a live stream Mass from our parish for these celebrations… so stay tuned!

Please pray with us! And let us remember in our prayers those who are especially vulnerable because of age or medical conditions – and those who make themselves vulnerable by caring for those who so need others to care for them.

Lastly, if you haven't yet signed up for online giving for our parish. Please do so here: https://saintbernadette.weshareonline.org. Your gifts are needed now more than ever so we can continue the mission of the Church of making more disciples.