Fr. Paul's Bulletin Articles

Written for the May 31st Bulletin

Dear Parish Family,

As I write this it is the evening of May 20 for the May 31 bulletin (due to early bulletin deadlines).  We have begun the process for opening up the parish for Mass.  We are starting out slowly, safely and within guidelines and requirements.  We are initially starting this process with two Masses on Sunday – 9am in Oak Park and 11am in Ferndale.  For those of you who are able to attend Mass it will be good to see you.  For those of you who are not able to attend Mass know that you are missed, in my prayers, and want you to take care of yourself.  Please remember, that if your age, health status, etc. (see list below) prevents you from coming to Mass you are not committing a sin by staying home. The Archbishop has given you a dispensation through September 6, 2020.

This slow and safe reopening of parish for Mass is both good news and bad news. 

After two months with great anticipation and joy some of us will be able to begin to come together in a very modified and limited way.  The community of God’s people joining in prayer trying in our own time and place to find the Lord and share the Eucharist.  This is the most important part of my life, ministry, and faith.  What a joy to resume a special prayerful moment to celebrate God’s gifts as we try in prayer to support one another.  This indeed is good news.

The bad news and the reality are the challenges of complying with the recommendations and guidelines of the local, state, and federal experts as well as the directives from the Archdiocese.  These are rigorous and difficult but especially important.

For the foreseeable future things will look and be vastly different as we adhere to the guidelines. 

Who should come to Mass?  For your safety and well-being as well as those of our parishioners and community if you are in any of the following categories (please, remember you do not have an obligation to attend Mass until September) you are strongly encouraged to stay home:

those older than 65 years of age

anyone with compromised health conditions

those caring for the sick in any way

anyone exhibiting any signs of illness

anyone exhibiting any signs/symptoms of Coronavirus/COVID-19

fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste of smell, diarrhea, and extreme fatigue

those who have travelled internationally or outside of the State of Michigan in the 14 days prior to possibly attending Mass

those who have been in close contact in the 14 days prior to possibly attending Mass with someone with a diagnosis of COVID-19

How will things be different?  Some of the ways are:

Face-coverings/masks are to be worn by everyone over the age of two (2) in and around the church (parking lot, vestibules, church).  We ask that you bring your own facemasks with you.  No one will be admitted without a face mask.

You will most likely encounter a line when you enter church.  We ask you to adhere to the 6-foot separation.

Physical/Social distancing (at least 6 feet away) is practiced in the church and on the church property.

Doors to be used for entry/exit will be clearly marked.

We will not exceed 75 people at a single mass. This limit should allow people to remain at least six feet apart. There will be clear markings indicating where you may sit.

We ask and strongly encourage you to wash your hands prior to arriving for Mass.  While we will have hand sanitizer available, we ask that you bring your own if you have it and use it right before you enter the church as well as before you approach to receive communion and when you return to your seat after receiving communion.

While the Eucharist will be shared it will be distributed in a vastly different way since social distancing must take place.  We will continue to explain and guide you through the process.

The church facilities will be cleaned and sanitized, using proper techniques, before and after Masses.

We are committed to doing everything we can to be safe and protect one another as we once again begin to gather at Mass.  As things evolve, we will keep you updated via the bulletin, website, and parish mobile app.  You may also receive a phone call from our office staff.  For the time being there will be no meetings or other events.  I ask for your cooperation as we move forward. Your cooperation will make all of this much easier.  Know that God will provide, and we will prevail.                              

Blessings,

Fr. Paul

 

May 16, 2020

Dear Parish Family,

I have spent much of the past week trying to unravel the guidelines and directives from the Archbishop on the resumption of Masses in the Archdiocese of Detroit and how we will proceed at Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish.  I have reviewed the information from the Archdiocese, what local, state and federal government officials and health experts are reporting, as well as thinking about our parish and its demographics.  Be assured that much time has been spent in prayer and discernment.

On May 12, 2020, we received guidelines and permission from the Archdiocese to begin celebrating Mass publicly as a community two hours before this information was released to the general public.  It did not give me a lot of time to digest the information before phone calls started rolling in.  I ask for your patience as we move forward.

While we look forward to being able to celebrate together, we must also prepare ourselves for the reality that our return will look much different than what we have known in the past. Again, after much review of information, prayer, and discernment I have determined that it is best for our parish community to begin the resumption of the 9am (in Oak Park) and 11am (in Ferndale) Sunday Masses on the Pentecost May 31.  This will give us time to prepare safely and slowly for the resumption of Masses.  I am still discerning how and when to add any additional masses. While the Sunday 9 am and 11 am Masses will resume all non-liturgical events are still cancelled for the foreseeable future.

With that in mind please note the following:

First and foremost, Archbishop Vigneron stated that the faithful of the Archdiocese of Detroit are dispensed from their Sunday obligation to attend Mass through Sunday, September 6, 2020.  If you do not feel safe returning to public Mass, please note that you are dispensed. You will not be committing a sin if you do not attend Mass.  There are many avenues available to watch Mass on TV or online.

Additionally, there will be guidelines and standards to which you must adhere if you attend Mass.

Please keep the following in mind in your prayerful discernment about your possible attendance at Mass:

For the safety and the well-being of the physical and spiritual health of Our Mother of Perpetual Help parishioners, our families, our neighbors, our state, our country, and the world if you are in any of the following categories you are encouraged to stay home:

  • those older than 65 years of age

  • anyone with compromised health conditions

  • those caring for the sick in any way

  • anyone exhibiting any signs of illness

  • anyone exhibiting any signs/symptoms of Coronavirus/COVID-19

  • fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, sore throat, new loss of taste of smell, diarrhea, and extreme fatigue

  • those who have travelled internationally or outside of the State of Michigan in the 14 days prior to possibly attending Mass

  • those who have been in close contact in the 14 days prior to possibly attending Mass with someone with a diagnosis of COVID-19

Additionally, in Archbishop Vigneron's recent letter addressed to the faithful within the Archdiocese of Detroit directives were issued regarding safety protocol during this time.

Per the Directives for Resumption of Public Mass, for those of you who can safely return, Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish will observe the following:

    • Face-coverings/masks are to be worn by everyone over the age of two (2) in and around the church (parking lot, vestibules, church).  We ask that you bring your own facemasks with you.  No one will be admitted without a face mask.

    • Cleaning and sanitizing of church facilities using proper techniques before and after Masses.

    • Physical/Social distancing is practiced in the church and on the church property.

    • We will not exceed 75 people at a single mass. This limit should allow people to remain at least six feet apart. There will be clear markings indicating where you may sit.

    • We strongly encourage you to wash your hands prior to arriving for Mass.  While we will have hand sanitizer available, we ask that you bring your own if you have it and use it right before you enter the church as well as before you approach to receive communion and after you return to your seat after receiving communion.

    • Doors to be used for entry will be clearly marked.

More details will be shared as they are finalized.  Please continue to visit the parish website.  If you have not downloaded the parish mobile app, I am asking you to do so as soon as possible.  The website and mobile app are the best avenues for us to communicate updates to you.

We are so thankful to begin seeing you again in person. Thank you for being mindful of the fact that as we care for the spiritual needs of our community, we do so while implementing new social norms for the physical and spiritual safety and well-being of each parishioner and visitor.

 

 

11 May 2020

Dear Parish Family,

I have the feeling that this pandemic has us all looking over our shoulders.  For me, the insulation and isolation are increasing debilitating.  Will things ever return to normal?

I never as clearly realized how important and life-giving investment in the community is.  Some things that we so easily take for granted like going to the store, visiting friends, just going for a ride to get out of the house are suddenly taken from us.  It is simply not pleasant.  It seems we have to keep reminding ourselves that “this too will pass”.  This temporary inconvenience will be short lived is a quote that doesn’t really satisfy.

I want to share some recent experiences with you:

I called a longtime friend and co-worker.  We did a lot of projects in and around the church.  Now he is in assisted living.  His wife died five years ago.  He was pretty consistently at daily Mass.  He sorely misses his many church friends.  He was so very sad to admit that in his memory he never missed the Easter church celebrations.  He felt the disconnect as did I.  There are so many unable to celebrate because of current restrictions.

I received a call about a parishioner with serious heart problems who needed to be hospitalized.  He was taken in but without his hearing aid.  Though telephone interaction was helpful being alone without his wife of 68 years is an overwhelming sadness for both of them.  It’s hard to image the level of pain and challenges of that reality.  We need to pray for those afflicted and their families.  To be powerless and without redress is humbling.

On a happy note I went over to Ferndale to celebrate Mass with Fr. Prus.  This scriptures after Easter and powerful, hopeful and life giving.  The Acts of the Apostles reminds us again and again of the healing power of Jesus through his disciples.  We try to remember we are among them.

The Gospel records the journey to Emmaus.  They came to know Jesus in the breaking of the bread.  Despite their inability to initially recognize him, the veil was lifted, and his presence was affirmed.  God was with them.

God is with us on our journey.  Nothing can keep us from the love of God.

I am so very greatly appreciative of the many phone calls and notes.  Your cards and greetings are the source of real endearment and joy.  Thank you.

It’s not the health challenge that controls the advent of a different life but lives of generosity and selflessness and faith that will light our way.

Blessings,

Fr. Paul

 

April 12, 2020

Dear Parish Family,

It is hard to get a handle on the full impact of this Coronavirus pandemic.  Cleary, it is a real challenge.  In our lifetime there has been nothing similar.  We are all vulnerable.

As I look back on my upbringing there were certain fundamental things reinforced by my loving parents—you have to eat, you have to sleep, you have to go to school (how, I hated that one), and you have to go to church.  The last of these fundamental things reinforced by my parents have stuck with me throughout my life as important and not negotiable.

As I sit at my desk to write this letter to you it is 11 days before Easter.  The most important feast in the church calendar.  By the time you read this letter the Holy Week and Easter celebrations will have been conducted largely in private.  What a tremendous sadness.  I am sure you are feeling a sense of loss.

It is in this spirit that I assure you that while our church and office are closed each and every day, I say Mass for you and the intentions of the church.

Two recent scripture passages I have been reflecting on offer great solace and hope.  The Prophet Micah offers, “Though I sit in darkness the Lord is my light” and from Isaiah “I will never forget you”.

Though by necessity we are physically separated we are joined in faith.  Perhaps we were caught off guard by this unexpected storm.  Many are fragile and disoriented.  This storm exposes our fears, sensitivities and needs.  Practically, many projects and priorities are compromised.  We are called to row together through this storm.  Each of us must comfort the other.

We are not alone.  We are in this together.  We are part of the Communion of Saints which is an affirmation of the empowering, unifying and healing work of the Holy Spirit among all God’s people and creation.  All the faithful, scattered though we may be throughout the world, are in communion with each other in the Holy Spirit.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit our parish website.  I was really impressed and touch by the whole effort to connect us to the season.  If you are technically able, I highly recommend visiting our website our website often.

On this Easter I hope you find moments of love, joy and happiness.  On this Easter more than ever we must trust in Christ’s promises to us, his love and care for each of us.  He will not abandon us.  Christ is risen, Alleluia. He is truly risen, Alleluia.

In the spirit of this holy season I wish you well.

God’s blessings and peace,

Fr. Paul

 

April 4, 2020

Dear Parish Family,

Yesterday I received word that following the most recent guidelines from government officials and healthcare experts to extend the time period for social distancing the directives, issued by Archbishop Vigneron on March 23, 2020, are to remain in place through April 30, 2020. This is not a surprise.  Nor, is this easy.  However, Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish will continue to follow the Archbishop’s directives as well as those of local, state and federal officials.

I have had some profound experiences in the past few weeks.  The phone calls and notes, with their outpouring of care and concern, that I have received have touched me deeply.  The moving phone calls I have received from people who are experiencing this pandemic in a very personal way.  I recently had a conversation with a man who has been diagnosed with COVID19.  His physician told him to get his affairs in order.  There were two calls he had to make.  One was to his attorney and the other was to me.  Through my years of ministry, I have walked with many people as they transition from this earthly life to the promise of the resurrection.  I always come back to one thing.  God forgives us and is ready to welcome us to the heavenly banquet when our earthly dwelling time done.

My all-time favorite musical is Les Mis.  There is a scene where a Marius comes returns from the barricade recovering from his wounds and imagines he is back at the ABC Cafe.  He sings Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. Some of the lyrics are: There's a grief that can't be spoken / There's a pain goes on and on / Empty chairs at empty tables … From the table in the corner / They could see a world reborn / And they rose with voices ringing / I can hear them now! 

My friends, please know that as Holy Week 2020 begins I hear you.

Holy week is always the busiest and most intense time in the Church year.  This year it is intense in a more difficult way.  It is not the Holy Week any of us expected or wants.  I will be celebrating these beautiful holy liturgies alone.  While I will be celebrating them away from you, you are still with me.  Thank you to those of you who emailed or mailed a photo of yourself to be placed in the church.  This year our entire community will be praying alone or with their loved ones keeping a safe social distance.  There are many options to watch Holy Week services on the internet.  Our website has and will have many resources to help you pray during this time.  Leonard Piasta, our Faith Formation Chairperson, has written some pieces for us to use for reflection and these are also on our website.

What will I miss as we celebrate the Paschal Mystery: the passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ – the work God the Father sent His Son to accomplish on earth during this Holy Week 2020?  I will miss the triumphant procession of the palms.  I will miss our penance service where we come together as a community of faith to seek forgiveness and healing.  I will miss the Triduum with it’s unique and special beauty.  I will miss the love that we share when we come together.  But we are together.  We are not alone.  Christ’s love binds us together.

We are all carrying crosses right now.  Crosses of fear, sadness, loneliness, grief.  This year, this week we are truly with Jesus on his journey to the cross.  We need to be like Simon of Cyrene for each other.  We need to help others bear their crosses when they feel too heavy, when they fall or when they are too weary.  We must trust in Christ’s love for us.  Trust that there is no pain that we have that He cannot bear and help us carry. 

As I prepare to celebrate Holy Week and the Triduum - the continuous liturgy from Holy Thursday through the Feast of the Resurrection - I’ll recall the Taize chant, taken from Luke 23:42 which we sing every year on Palm Sunday and Good Friday: 

“Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.” 

I will also be remembering Jesus’ answer: “Behold, this day you shall be with me in paradise.”

Wishing you a Blessed Holy Week.

Fr. Paul

 

March 23, 2020

Dear Parish Family,

This morning I watched Governor Whitmer detailing her executive order 2020-21 announcing a stay home order for the next three weeks in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  The impact of this pandemic is a serious challenge. 

When Masses were suspended, I initially thought this might be an opportunity to get a little more rest, take care of some projects that had been put on the back burner, and that projects at the church would continue.  The roof repairs at both worship locations began but we do not know what the next steps will be. 

The past few weeks have been very stressful for all of us.  The many stories of isolation, fear, and removal have a great impact on all of us.  In some ways we are like the disciples locked in the upper room.  We need to be supportive to one another but, unfortunately from a physical distance.  We need to keep in mind that, just as Jesus came to the disciples, Jesus is in our midst.  I appreciate our praying community.  The weekend and daily masses have been wonderful, supportive and uplifting moments. I truly miss our time together. 

As a parish we are trying to dutifully comply with all the rapid changing recommendations of health and civil authorities as well as Archdiocesan directives. 

As such the parish office will be closed for onsite business effective immediately.  If you have an emergency, please call 248-545-2310 or send an email to [email protected]  The phones and email account will be monitored.  The parish mobile app, website and bulletin have been a great source for communication of information and useful reflections.  Please visit our website on a regular basis for information as things continue to change very quickly.

This unprecedented public health crisis certainly reinforces our interdependence.  To withdraw from community for the sake of the community is the correct thing to do.  Yet, it is still painful.  This will pass.  This moment is a reminder of our dependence on God.  In so many ways we are powerless.  Yet our current situation is an opportunity to rise above ourselves.  Our Lenten Journey through Wilderness is made more real.  Please, pray for one another.  Each of you remain in my thoughts and prayers. 

Our Mother of Perpetual Help pray for us.

In Christ’s peace,

Fr. Paul

 

March 16, 2020

Dear Parish Family:

Our Lenten theme of Journey Through Wilderness almost seems prophetic.  We are truly in a wilderness.  But this wilderness is not a place any of us want to be.  I recognize the feelings of isolation, inconvenience, stress, anxiety are emotions you may have.  This is not an easy time.  Especially as it is occurring during this season of Lent, our Journey Through Wilderness, where we draw closer to our parish and Catholic Traditions. Know that you and your loved ones continue to remain in my thoughts and prayers.  We must remember that Our Mother of Perpetual Help is a community of faith built on prayer who support one another. Our best course of action is to try to remain calm and follow the guidelines and protocols given to us by those in authority.

The afternoon of Friday, March 13th was an unprecedented day in my life and I am sure in your lives as well.  After receiving the Archbishop’s directive on the suspension of all Masses and restrictions on all other parish events our Worship Commission and Communications consultant went into action to get the information out to as many parishioners as soon as possible.  I am extremely grateful to them for their efforts on behalf of the parishioners and their tireless efforts during this time of health concerns.

Over the weekend I sat down and prayerfully considered the implications of the Archbishop’s recent letter suspending all public Masses and restrictions on parish gatherings and tried to identify the ways we can support each other during the COVID-19 outbreak.  We do not know what the full impact of this outbreak will mean for us.  For the short term I offer the following:

Our parish office will remain open from 10am – 3pm Monday through Friday.  Our bulletin continues to be published and will include the intentions that would have been offered at Mass.  I ask that you personally pray for these intentions of our parishioners.  The bulletin is available on our website or you may stop by the parish office during business hours and pick one up.  Private church visits for prayer can be accommodated during office hours.  Please call the parish office before coming.  Also, please refrain from coming to the office if you are not feeling well or experiencing fevers, chills, sore throat, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, runny nose, or have travelled outside of the country in the past 14 days.

If you have not downloaded our parish mobile app this is the time to do it.  This is our best way of communicating important information to you.  iPhone users text:  ParishApp1 to 555888 and Android Users text: ParishApp2 to 555888.  More information is on our website.  Also, on our website there are many prayer resources, ways to watch Mass online or on TV as well as Lenten reflections, music, prayers, a way to pray the stations of the cross and more.

Parishioner funerals, Anointing of the Sick, and prayer requests will continue. Please, contact the parish office.

On a practical note we still need your support.  As you can imagine this temporary suspension of public Masses has a direct impact on our budget and ability to pay our monthly bills.  Contributions can be mailed in or made online via the website or parish mobile app. Know that we especially appreciate your support of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish during this time.

As we continue our Lenten Journey through Wilderness to being Renewed by His Spirit at Easter, where we celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death, let us not lose hope that Jesus has power in our current situation. Let us be a community that supports each other, most especially in prayer. In the scripture readings from March 15th from the Book of Exodus the Israelites tested the Lord saying, “Is the LORD in our midst or not?” In the Gospel Jesus tells the Samaritan woman, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” As a people of faith and prayer we must believe that God has not abandoned us.  He is in our midst and provides for our needs. 

Archbishop Vigneron offered this prayer in his letter to the faithful:

Let us entrust ourselves to Our Lady of Lourdes, patron for those who suffer illness. Through her intercession, may God grant healing and protection to the people of southeast Michigan and beyond. And let us, by the courageous hope with which we face the challenge of the virus’ spread, give witness to our confidence in the good news of the Lord’s victory over suffering and death.

Our Mother of Perpetual Help Pray for Us!

In Christ’s Peace,

Fr. Paul