Suspension of public Masses to continue through April 24

Father Mark Sappenfield celebrates Mass alone except for an iPad, broadcasting to Facebook in the chapel at St. Matthew Parish in Franklin, Friday, March 20. All public celebrations of the Mass have been suspended in the Diocese of Nashville until April 24 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of parishes in the diocese are sharing Mass online. A list of online Masses are posted to www.watchmass.com, and  Bishop Spalding’s Sunday Masses can be found at www.dioceseofnashville.com.
Photo by Rick Musacchio
Yellow ribbons will be sign of faith, solidarity
 
From staff reports
 
Bishop J. Mark Spalding and the Diocese of Nashville are using prayer to strengthen the solidarity of the people whose lives have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, all under the banner of a yellow ribbon.
The bishop on Tuesday, March 31, announced that the suspension of the public celebration of Masses would continue through April 24, which will mean that Masses on Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter will not be public celebrations this year.

The bishop has asked all pastors to make blessed palms available to parishioners to pick up so they will have them in hand by Palm Sunday, April 5, and for Holy Week.

At the same time, the diocese will provide parishes yellow ribbons with a prayer attached that they can distribute to parishioners.

“With these ribbons you will be able to take a moment of prayer with your family while tying a ribbon to a tree in your yard or some other suitable place, a moment to pray together within the context of your family, praying for yourselves, for our church, and for all those suffering and in fear at this time,” Bishop Spalding explained in a letter to the faithful of the diocese.

The ribbons, which will be provided to parishes by Thursday, April 2, can be tied to a tree in a person’s yard or displayed in another appropriate place in their home. Some might be displayed at parishes.

The yellow ribbon campaign follows in the footsteps of Pope Francis who has led several prayer services for the world, people suffering from the COVID-19 virus, and those caring for the stricken, including an extraordinary “Urbi et Orbi” blessing that was livestreamed worldwide from St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on Friday, March 27.

During the blessing, the pope reminded the world that the pandemic is not God’s judgment on humanity, but God’s call on people to judge what is most important to them and resolve to act accordingly from now on.

Due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Bishop J. Mark Spalding has announced that the suspension of the public celebration of Mass and other gatherings at parishes throughout the Diocese of Nashville has been extended through April 24.

Bishop Spalding also issued a decree extending the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays through April 24.

“It is heartbreaking for me and for your priests that this situation will disrupt the most sacred celebrations of the year, Holy Week, the Sacred Paschal Triduum, and Easter, which must be celebrated by our priests in solitude and with minimal solemnity this year,” Bishop Spalding wrote in a letter to the faithful of the diocese.

“Please continue to tune in to the Masses available to you online, to pray regularly and fervently, and to continue to grow in your Faith using the many resources that can be found at dioceseofnashville.com, watchmass.com, and other online and print sources,” he added.

Although there will not be a public celebration of Mass on Easter, Bishop Spalding will celebrate a Mass at the Cathedral of the Incarnation that will be broadcast on WZTV, Fox 17 Nashville, at 11 a.m. Easter Sunday, April 12.

In his letter, Bishop Spalding invited all the faithful of the diocese to tune in to the broadcast.

“My prayer is that this extraordinary celebration of Easter Mass together, tuning in from our homes across the diocese, will be a moment of great joy, hope, and peace for our entire community,” he wrote.

Public celebrations of Mass on Palm Sunday, April 5, will not be possible, but Bishop Spalding has encouraged all pastors in the diocese to have blessed palms available for their parishioners to pick up so they might have them in hand by the weekend.

Pastors have also been asked to make available for parishioners yellow ribbons that they can “pick up to use in prayer and solidarity,” Bishop Spalding wrote. “With these ribbons you will be able to take a moment of prayer with your family while tying a ribbon to a tree in your yard or some other suitable place, a moment to pray together within the context of your family, praying for yourselves, for our Church, and for all those suffering and in fear at this time.”

The celebration of the other Holy Week liturgies will also be private and the diocese is sharing with pastors the guidelines for how those liturgies should be celebrated.

One of those Masses that will be slightly altered will be the Easter Vigil Mass, when participants in the Rite of Christian Initiation typically are brought into full communion with the Church.

Because the public will not be there to celebrate the Easter Vigil Mass, the initiations of the new Catholics will have to be rescheduled for later. “Your pastor will be in contact with you about rescheduling the Christian Initiation of those to be received into the Church, as well as confirmations and first communions that have been postponed during this time,” Bishop Spalding wrote in his letter to the faithful.

Also, the annual Chrism Mass, which was scheduled to be celebrated on Tuesday, April 7, has been postponed indefinitely.

“As before, weddings, funerals, and baptisms may proceed in consultation with your pastors, but you will be asked to limit attendance to immediate family only,” Bishop Spalding added.

The bishop’s announcement follows a similar announcement on March 26 that the Catholic schools in the diocese also will remain closed through April 24, as requested by Gov. Bill Lee under the advisement of public health officials.

In a letter to Catholic school families, Superintendent of Schools Rebecca Hammel outlined the Catholic Schools Office’s plan for extended learning at home and keeping students, families, and teachers connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. (To see the letter, visit the Schools page of the diocesan website: www.dioceseofnashville.com.)

“Our diocesan Catholic schools remain committed to the mission shared with you when you enrolled your child(ren): to nurture their growth of mind, body, and soul in a Christ-centric environment,” Hammel wrote.

“While recent developments challenge our traditional delivery, our ‘learning from home plans’ provide as much normalcy as current conditions allow and they also reunite classmates and teachers, even if only digitally,” she said.

In his letter to the faithful announcing the extension of the suspension of the public celebration of Masses, Bishop Spalding said, “We will continue to monitor the situation and may modify this timeframe if necessary.”

“I have rejoiced in the faithfulness that you have shown in continuing to foster your relationship with Christ and his Church during these unprecedented times,” the bishop wrote.

A copy of the bishop’s letter to the faithful and his decree extending the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday has been posted on the diocesan website: www.dioceseofnashville.com.