ARCHBISHOP OF DETROIT
June 2, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I write to share some measure of hope during this difficult time of pandemic and social distancing. In recent weeks, we have watched with relief as the Government of the Cayman Islands has gradually allowed select businesses and activities to resume with prudent precautions in place. In the ensuing weeks through June 21, there will be even more social and business activities resuming on the islands. With these recent announcements, government leaders continue to enforce restrictions on religious gatherings, which has delayed the resumption of the public celebration of Mass.
I want to begin by expressing my sincere thanks to Father Theodore D’Cunha and Father Naveen D’Souza for their faithful spiritual and material care not only of the parishioners of St. Ignatius Parish, but of the wider community. I have been following developments in the Cayman Islands since March 12, when the government first placed restrictions on business and social activity for the good of the people of the Islands. During that time, the pastoral leadership of the parish has been innovative in meeting the spiritual needs of your community. Through the use of digital communications and other creative efforts, Fathers D’Cunha and D’Souza have continued to journey with you during this time of social distancing.
Your parish community also has continued its outreach ministry in these challenging times, ministering both to local and expatriate parishioners who have suffered economic hardships. I am grateful for the support of those who have donated money or food items as a very strong sign of solidarity with your brothers and sisters who are in need, including generous benefactors who have made donations that have been used to purchase additional basic food items and food vouchers to assist the families and individuals in the parish. I express my sincere gratitude to parishioners who are Honorary Consuls representing different nationalities on the Islands and others who are taking the lead in working tirelessly to assist fellow nationals with the necessities of life and have coordinated with the Governor of the Cayman Islands to arrange repatriation flights to leave the Islands.
Fathers D’Cunha and D’Souza along with the administrators and teachers of St. Ignatius Catholic School have excellently planned for the continuing education of students. It is my hope that the work of the school staff and our children will bear great fruit as they draw closer to the end of the school year and as they continue to make preparations for the new school year in September.
I wish to assure the 14 men and women who have been preparing for the reception of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion this year of my continued prayers. While you were not able to celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation at Easter, arrangements will be made for this to take place individually or in small groups when it is safe to do so. I also remember prayerfully the 61 First Communicants whose First Holy Communion was scheduled for Sunday, June 7. We will continue to pray for you, that the Lord will continue to prepare your hearts to receive him later this year.
In keeping with the measured reopening of our society, it is necessary that we make similar arrangements for the communal celebration of Holy Mass, which at its core is the most “essential” activity known to the world. I recently prepared a set of directives and guidelines that were intended to assist Archdiocese of Detroit pastors and parishioners in this task. These guidelines have taken into account expert advice from the medical community, liturgical experts, and public health leaders. They are meant to assist pastors and the faithful in safely participating in Holy Mass while maintaining the sound health precautions counseled by health and government officials. Through it all, we must remember that this virus does not discriminate between gatherings; a group gathered for sacred worship is not immune by the merits of its gathering. It is only through our careful observance of these precautions that we make it possible to resume public Mass.
Fathers D’Cunha and D’Souza are working with the parish staff to adapt these directives and guidelines to the unique situations of the Cayman Islands. The attention and cooperation of all the faithful in this preparation process will bear fruit for the parish and allow us collectively to do our part to avoid a “second wave” of the virus. Prior to the anticipated public celebration of Masses, the adapted guidelines will be published so parishioners are aware of these expectations. It is important to note that parishioners who are sick are asked to stay home. Those who are 65 years and older and those who have health issues are encouraged to exercise caution in attending public Masses at their resumption.
As we prepare to begin having public Masses, all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Detroit are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass through Sunday, September 06, 2020. Although the faithful are dispensed from their Sunday obligation to attend Mass, they must observe the Lord’s Day and are encouraged to spend time in prayer on Sunday, meditating on the Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection – an excellent way is through participating in a broadcast of the Sunday Mass – or by participating in a spiritual or corporal act of mercy.
When this pandemic began, I directed all priests of the Archdiocese of Detroit to suspend all public Masses as we assessed the situation and explored a safe way to bring Christ to the people, both through the Word of God and the Sacraments. This was an unfortunate but necessary decision in light of the severity of the pandemic and the number of unknowns associated with this new and deadly virus. Know that I have prayed during this time for you, the faithful of the Mission of the Cayman Islands, especially during my private and live streamed Masses. I pray you have felt the loving comfort of Christ as you await the day you return to his Real Presence in the Eucharist.
Asking the continued intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit