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Dear Padre Serra Parishioners,
I have both deeply saddening news about the coronavirus, and challenging and hopeful news about our parish reopening.
As you may have heard, our beloved country passed the 100,000 count today for those who have died of the coronavirus. The parish bells tolled for them today at 4:05 pm after I heard that announcement. I ask you to pray with me now:
Gracious and merciful God, look with kindness on all who have died of this scourge throughout the world. Give them your forbearance, and grant them a place in your eternal kingdom, where Lazarus, who once was poor, suffers no more. Comfort the hearts of all who have lost a loved family member or friend.
May they find themselves strengthened by belief in your eternal plan for us. Help us to find a cure or vaccine, quickly, that will lift the weight of this virus from all our shoulders. We ask everything in the name of Jesus, our Lord, may he live and reign, forever, in our hearts. Amen.
Reopening of churches: With the governor’s announcement, allowing the re-opening of churches, Archbishop Gomez has given us a number of guidelines and steps to achieve before we can begin having Mass again at Padre Serra. I will be sending an update this next week. There are too many questions left unanswered to be certain when Mass will begin, but it will certainly be within the next month. The archbishop is not permitting Masses this weekend.
Live-streaming: The archbishop is continuing to lift the obligation on attending Mass, with no end date. We will continue to broadcast a live, on-line Mass for all those who need or choose to maintain their distance. In fact, it is our intention to keep on live-streaming the parish liturgy after the crisis passes as a continuous service to our home-bound parishioners.
We need volunteers: The new guidelines require volunteers for some of the new safety and health requirements. In the words of the archbishop, “High risk individuals (e.g., people who are 65 and older, who are immunocompromised or who have underlying health conditions) should be discouraged from serving in any capacity that brings them into contact with others.” With that in mind I ask any parishioner of high school age or older, who is not health compromised, to consider assisting us in one of the following ways:
If you can assist in any of these tasks, please email Jane, our receptionist, at email@example.com, and be as specific as you are able with your availability, contact information, concerns and which tasks you are open to undertaking.
Reconciliation / confessions are immediately permitted: I am happy to say that I will be available for drop by confessions this Friday and Saturday, May 29th and 30th, from 3:00 to 6:00 pm with the following guidelines:
Parishioners may also schedule confessions with my assistant, Barbara (firstname.lastname@example.org).
These times are challenging, but I am very hopeful for the future. Please, please, please – as our community opens up, maintain all the healthy protocols to maintain your health!
Also visit: Regarding COVID-19 at Padre Serra
Pope Francis invites Catholic communities around the world to celebrate Laudato Si’ week from May 16 to May 24, 2020. At noon, your local time, on 24 May, say this prayer.
Also visit: laudatosiweek.org
Some of you have asked how to enter the moment of Communion, when our current circumstances make it impossible for you to receive. The centuries-long practice of making a spiritual, rather than physical, communion while sick certainly applies here. The essence of it, as St. Thomas Aquinas puts it, is to express “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in communion at Mass, and to lovingly embrace him as if we had actually received him” I have a few options for you to consider. The first, which allows you a lot of freedom to say what you need to the Lord, is good for those whose words come easy to them. Some more traditional versions give a tried and true approach for those for whom that’s helpful. Be free to do what you want here…so long as you do something at that moment.
Four worthy steps for a deep spiritual communion, to do in your own words:
A traditional spiritual communion suggested by Pope Francis (only slightly altered by me):
My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love you above all things and I desire you with all my heart. Since I cannot receive you now sacramentally, I ask you to come into my heart spiritually. I embrace you as if you were already in my heart, and unite myself to you completely. Please do not ever let me be far from you. (St. Alphonse Liguori, (1696-1787)
A spiritual communion suggested by Archbishop Gomez:
I wish, my Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility, and devotion with which your most holy Mother received you, with the spirit and fervor of the saints.
The prayer (taken from Matt 8:6) in the Mass just before Communion can be enough:
“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
A final suggestion from me is to pray Psalm 63, vv. 2-9:
O God, you are my God — it is you I seek!
For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts,
In a land parched, lifeless, and without water.
I look to you in the sanctuary to see your power and glory.
For your love is better than life, my lips shall ever praise you!
I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands, calling on your name.
My soul shall be sated, as with choice food, with joyous lips my mouth shall praise you!
I think of you upon my bed, I remember you through the watches of the night
You indeed are my savior and, in the shadow of your wings, I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me.
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The Elect are those who are very near to being initiated into the Catholic Church through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. The current social distancing due to COVID-19 has prevented them from being initiated at the usual time during the Easter Vigil. Please pray for our 16 Elect, and for all the Elect of the world, as they patiently await the day when they will join us fully as members of the Body of Christ.
New public health comments about masks
Ventura County Public Health Press Release
Contact: Ashley Bautista, Public Information Officer, (805) 654·2640
Ventura, CA – Ventura County Public Health Officer changes position on face masks, no longer advising against wearing them in public. Instead, he supports those residents who wish to cover their nose and mouth when leaving home for essential travel to doctor appointments, grocery shopping or pharmacy visits. The face coverings should not be hospital grade at this time because there is a shortage and our health professionals need them. Masks should be homemade and cover the nose and mouth. There are numerous sites online which demonstrate or give patterns for how to make fabric masks. The Camarillo Sewing Brigade provides video instruction at the following link. Additional instruction at the following link. Fabric masks can be washed and used again.
For decades, Public Health officials nationwide and locally have said that wearing a mask for protection against the flu is unnecessary for the general public. Now, Ventura County Public Health Officer Doctor Robert Levin says circumstances have changed. “There is growing evidence that people can have COVID-19 without any symptoms and that they can pass it to others at this stage. Many people wear masks thinking it will protect them from a virus, and in certain cases it may. That may also be true for COVID-19 especially if accompanied by good hand hygiene and social distancing, but now there may be a better reason to wear a mask; it will decrease the chance of you spreading it to someone else if you have the infection asymptomatically.”
This is particularly important if decreasing spread means not infecting a senior or someone with other chronic conditions. “In light of building evidence, I support those who wish to wear a mask in public. I don’t think everyone must do so, but I look upon those who do as making a responsible decision. I never thought I’d say that.” It is imperative though, that the use of masks by members of the public not contribute to the shortage of personal protective equipment needed by first responders like health care workers. If someone chooses to wear a mask in public, it should be home made, at least until there is no more shortage. “I’m not ready to wear a mask yet but I will respect those who do. It’s going to be hard for me to not start wearing one,” said Doctor Levin. “Covering your face doesn’t change the orders everyone must abide by to stay home as much as possible and maintain social distancing, but it’s an extra layer of protection that I think is reasonable to add.”
The rationale for covering one’s face comes from the belief that transmission occurs primarily through droplets from an infected individual, which fabrics may filter. This not only helps to reduce the risk a well person can breathe those droplets in, but also protects others around someone with mild or no symptoms who may not yet realize they have the COVID-19 infection. Face coverings may be worn anytime a person is outside of their home, even in offices of essential businesses.
“We must work together to stop the spread and save lives in our County,” said Doctor Levin. “That means that flattening the curve may benefit from another layer of protection against the virus. Consider the additional step to cover your face.” Health officials continue to stress that frequent hand washing, social distancing and staying home are the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Stay in your place, maintain your space and cover your face.
Public Information Officer
County of Ventura, CEO
Office: (805) 654·2640
Mobile: (805) 212·9484
We were asked not to distribute palms to you, as always for health reasons. But...
I have it on good authority that in Russia, Poland, Ukraine and Austria, where there are no palm trees, willow branches are used instead of palms. So I invite you, go into your yard, or with your neighbor’s permission their yard, and find your own worthy substitutes for the palm branches we would have distributed. Bring them to wherever you are going to watch Mass this coming Sunday, 10:00 am. Together, we’ll recall our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the royal city, before we
experience the spiritual whiplash, from praise and glory to deep suffering, proclaimed in the two Gospel readings of the day.
If you happen to have a palm tree in your yard, all the better.
Also, consider wearing red, even at home (and yes, if you’ve been wearing your pajamas to Mass these last weeks, let them be red jammies), as an outward sign of our identification with Jesus, as his disciples, in his greatest act of fidelity and selflessness.
I’ll be with you at 10:00 am.
Love from your priest,
County of Ventura Doctors:
Daniel Cox, MD, Palliative Care
Nessa Meshkaty, MD, Infectious Disease
Melissa Barger, MD, Infectious Disease
In the near future, we are going to experience a coronavirus surge here in Ventura County. We don’t know exactly what it will look like or feel like, but it will affect all of us.
Here’s what we all need to understand: this virus is dangerous. For many of us – including younger people who are indeed contracting the virus at a high rate – coronavirus will feel like a bad flu. With luck, rest, and fluids, one could ride out the fever, cough, and body aches and start to improve over a period of weeks. However, if our experience in Ventura County is similar to other areas, up to twenty percent of confirmed cases will have a different experience.
Let’s put this in perspective for our county, population ~850,000. In a worst-case scenario, 1 in 5 confirmed cases of COVID-19 will progress to serious illness requiring hospitalization. One quarter of those hospitalized patients with COVID-19 will further decline to the point where they need a ventilator and life support to survive. Using an epidemiologic model recommended by the California Department of Public Health, we find that without strict social distancing, we will need 18,000 ventilators to take care of the sickest patients at the peak of the surge on day 58 of the outbreak. Yet we have only an estimated 180 ventilators across the 8 hospitals in Ventura County. Hospitals in Italy, Iran, and now New York City have been overwhelmed when the infection rate spiked, and many have died that would otherwise have had a chance at surviving.
We realize that what we are saying is difficult to hear, but we also want to be very clear. These patients are not going to remain abstract statistics. This may well be someone you love, someone you know. Nonetheless, as your community health care providers, we wish to share this message: we are here for you. We are preparing for the surge every second of every day. We will care for you. We take our responsibility to the community seriously. But you have a responsibility to our community as well. Ultimately, despite our best efforts, we cannot adequately care for a sick population that exceeds our capacity. If the rates of coronavirus spike and our county residents all need acute care simultaneously – there will not be enough beds, and many will be denied the care that we would all expect to receive, leading to loss of life.
We understand why most people struggle with the idea of sheltering in place. It imposes limits on our basic freedoms. We are social animals by nature and our joy is tied to our interpersonal connections. Layer on top of that the real need to earn a living to support our families and it can feel like an impossible ask to stay at home. And yet human interaction is the fuel that spreads this virus. Everything we do and everywhere we go – the sum of our normal activities – are like dry brush in a forest fire for coronavirus. But by staying home – when we deny the virus pathways and carriers to spread – the virus starves. Ironically, after weeks of sheltering in place, if we see that nothing much has happened – that’s when we’ll know that our sacrifice made all the difference.
So here is the good news. If we are able to sustainably reduce social contact by 60%-70% and improve testing and treatment, the aforementioned epidemiologic model suggests we could improve from that worst-case scenario of 18,000 ventilators needed on day 58 to a much more manageable peak of 475 ventilators on day 170 of the outbreak. That extra time is critical for our hospitals to build ventilator capacity and allow for the development of novel treatments. Thousands of lives would be saved. The key is sustaining the recommended reduction in social contact for that prolonged period of time.
As your physicians in Ventura County, we care deeply about our community and providing the best care possible to our patients. That is why we are asking you to honor Governor Newsom’s order to stay home. Each week that we shelter in place gives our health care system a chance to adapt and build our defenses to better prepare for the coronavirus surge. Your efforts and sacrifice now will save lives of people you know and love in the future. We thank you.
Public Information Officer
County of Ventura, CEO
This is a long one, but I have a number of important items to pass on to you. The first is that I am praying for you, for your patience, for your confidence and fearlessness, for your generosity of spirit, and for your health and safety.
The second is that I and the parish pastoral team and staff are fine. The seniors have all gone home to work from a safe place, and most of the staff do as much from home as possible, which is quite a lot. We had some confusion as our first round of responses, limiting exposure, have all been undone by subsequent instructions, eliminating exposure. Sigh.
Dominic MacAller and I are working on next week’s liturgy. Be there at 10:00 am on Sunday.
Brett Becker, our youth minister, is doing amazing things online in Zoom meetings and the like with the teens. If you have a lonely teenager twiddling her thumbs, suggest she look in on Brett’s online gatherings (email@example.com). Guys too!
Tere Delgado is working with her lovely team to get lessons home to all the children in faith formation, to do with their parents. This will be a team effort, parents. Do your best!
Among Teresa’s goals at this time is to keep people in ministry connected to each other. If you belong to a parish ministry that needs to meet, please contact her (firstname.lastname@example.org) and ask how we can help set up a Zoom meeting. It’s fairly easy, even for this 60 year old who never attended a Zoom meeting until this last week.
Among the parish ministries that deserve particular praise is St. Vincent de Paul and members of the Young Adult Ministry, who are working very creatively to take care of households in financial crisis. Now would be a very good time to consider a donation to St. Vincent de Paul!
On that point, the parish collection this last weekend was under 1/5th of what we would normally receive. I know that many people have financial stresses. If you can contribute to your parish, now would be a very good time. Checks can be mailed or online offerings can be made at: www.osvonlinegiving.com/4191
Appointments with me:
The sacrament of reconciliation / confession:
Pastoral care of the sick
(Please read even if no one in the household is sick yet)
Sunday and weekday Mass
Stations of the Cross
Holy Week and Easter
Baptisms, weddings and funerals
If you have general questions, email the parish (email@example.com) or call the parish number (805) 482·6417 and Jane will direct your question to the right person.
In everything, we have to keep seeking those ways in which we can experience Jesus, even in a more constrained environment, and be His disciples in these troubled times.
Love from your priest,