IMPORTANT: MASS SCHEDULE CHANGE. For the first 5 years of my tenure at St. Raymond’s I was blessed to have the help of 2 to 3 other priests living here. Although they were sometimes limited in the help they could give, either because of studies or illness (Fr. Pilon), they were all available to say Mass and hear Confessions, so I was able to maintain a pretty full schedule for these sacraments.
But, as you know, things changed in January of last year, when our last resident student-priest (Fr. Nguyen) left us to return to his home Diocese, leaving us since then with only two priests to serve your needs. It is true that Fr. Daly is still very helpful in taking one Mass for us every week, and Fr. Scalia also often takes a Mass, but both of them are usually only available on Sunday mornings. So, although I’ve resisted making any changes in our Mass and Confession schedule, I have, reluctantly, had to admit that some change is necessary.
You have already seen a small occasional change in our morning Mass schedule, as when one of the priests is out of town we use a “modified weekday Mass schedule.” But now I think it’s necessary to make a change to our weekend schedule: I have decided to permanently cancel the 7pm Saturday Vigil Mass, effective November 27.
This Mass was originally added to our schedule back in the “fire hall days,” in order to accommodate the requests of several of our parishioners who lived at Greenspring retirement community. Now, only 5 or 6 Greenspring residents attend the Mass, but is has about 200-250 folks attending every week, many non-parishioners. Although many parishioners do attend this Mass every week, the large majority, from what I can tell, use this as a convenient “back up” time when they are unable to attend Mass at their “regularly” preferred time.
I’ve been happy to accommodate all that—for me, the more Masses the merrier, as long as they are well attended and I have a priest and other ministers/volunteers are available. The problem is, priests and other ministers/volunteers are sometimes hard to find: besides the priests, we often scramble to find enough servers, ushers, lectors and extraordinary ministers.
The fact is, Saturday evenings are often very busy for all of us, as it is the one evening when many special activities are scheduled that won’t fit on any other night of the week. This is the case for priests as well. Sometimes, I am called on to attend Saturday evening events that, although not essential, are still important in the life of the parish and diocese, for example, charity banquets (e.g., Galas for Angelus, Divine Mercy Gala, Catholic Charities, etc.), parish dinners/activities (Oktoberfest, St. Patrick’s Day Dinner, etc.), parish group activities (Confirmation retreat), etc. These, combined with vacations and illness, make it sometimes very difficult to schedule a priest for the 7pm Mass: bringing in a good priest from outside the parish is sometimes next to impossible.
I have sought the advice of several of my brother pastors, and they are unanimous in advising me to cancel this Mass. A few months ago I broached this question to my staff and finance council (a small group of parishioners, all of them here since the fire hall days, that officially advises me on parish finance and unofficially advises me on pastor matters). They were also unanimous in agreeing with the cancellation.
Then I sent the word out to the heads of all the parish committees, and asked them to poll their membership (hundreds of parishioners). The responses from this were almost unanimously supportive of canceling, but a handful of people expressed a few concerns. Let me address two of these.
1) Concern: This would cause hardship for our parishioners at Greenspring. This worries me also, but it’s difficult to justify retaining a Mass to serve the 5 to 6 Greenspring residents who attend this Mass. I am hopeful that these folks may be able to attend another Mass, though I realize that might not be possible since they currently ride the Greenspring bus to Mass, and no bus runs on Sunday. (Our parish staff tried diligently, though unsuccessfully, for weeks to negotiate with Greenspring management to provide a bus for an alternative Mass time.) Finally, while I am honored and happy to have about 40 Greenspring residents registered here, Greenspring is actually in St. Bernadette’s parish, which is one reason why St. B’s has an extra (third) priest assigned to it.
2) Concern: This would eliminate an important “back up” Mass for parishioners. I understand this, but with a six other Masses scheduled every weekend, including two other evening Masses, it would seem we provide adequate opportunities for Mass attendance. Moreover, in a true emergency, Our Lady of Angels and Nativity both offer Saturday evening Masses at 6:30pm and 7pm respectively (albeit in Spanish).
From this long explanation you might detect that this was not an easy decision for me to make. To be frank, part of me feels that I have failed my children, but rationally and spiritually I am convinced it is the right and prudent choice for a good Father to make. I’m truly sorry for any hardship or inconvenience this may cause, but I hope you understand and try your best to support my decision.
Other Notes… Last Saturday we had great Oktoberfest, thanks to the large turnout and hard work by the Knights of Columbus and members of our Youth Group. Thanks to all! A quick apology, though, that we ran out of some food—we were a little underprepared for the much larger than usual crowd. Next year we promise we’ll fix that problem.
I also want to inform you of my plans to make some small changes to our parish office. We’ll be spending between $30,000 and $40,000 mainly to move some walls around in order to give us a more efficient working space and a little more privacy for some of the staff and especially the priests’ offices (Sometimes I have to tell visitors in my office to lower their voices, lest the staff hear what they are saying.) I don’t like construction and I don’t like spending parish money on the rectory, but, this work is long overdue. The work should take about one month (probably a little longer) and we hope to begin work in early January.
Finally, a word about our unfinished confessionals. Argh. Long story short, we ran into some problems early on, and we’ve been playing catch up ever since. Moreover, I began the work during the interim between our old and new plant managers—big mistake. But, now that Tom Browne (our new-ish plant manager) is on board I’m confident we won’t have the same problems with the new office construction.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles