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Bishop Barres' Message to the Faithful

 
Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 24, 2020
 
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
 
In Saint John’s Gospel this weekend, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, we proclaim that “Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you...’.”
 
In reflecting on this passage, I immediately began to think about our priests in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, who glorify the Father by serving the faithful daily. These are enormously trying times for all of us, but our priests and pastors have risen to the occasion in so many creative ways. They serve the people of God through on-line Masses, blessing homes in their parishes, curbside adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and much more.
 
I am so grateful to each and every one of our priests who are working tirelessly to serve the people in their parishes while they are helping grieving families and tending to the sick. However, as they are doing all of this, we are not able to gather our congregations on weekends and therefore, are not receiving the offertory collections that are so very important to the financial health of our parishes.
 
Appreciating the anxieties you are facing, we urge you to please continue supporting your parish with weekly offertory donations. These funds are critical for the continued operation of your parish. Every day, your parish provides for the pastoral and spiritual care of its parishioners. It is there in the happiest moments in your life - weddings, baptisms, first Communions - and is a source of comfort during the most challenging times such as our current crisis or the death of a loved one. There are senior services, food pantries, youth ministries, schools, and on-going religious education. All of this depends on you!
 
We must also prepare to fully reemerge when the crisis is over and we are able to join together again as the Body of Christ. We ask that you please consider making the sacrifice, at a minimum, to continue your current weekly level of support.
 
One easy way to do so is through your parish's online giving provider. Your parish may have an online giving account that can be accessed through the parish website. We have also developed a “Text to Give” option for each of our parishes enabling you to make a weekly donation on your smart phone. To access information regarding this innovative form of giving, please go to the following website https://www.drvcmissionarygrowth.org/text2give. I know that the faithful on Long Island understand this and will and respond as you always do in times of crisis.
 
Please know that you and your family are remembered in my daily prayers and Masses.
 
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend John O. Barres
Bishop of Rockville Centre
 
 
 
Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 17, 2020
 
Celebration of a Special White Mass for Healthcare Workers
 
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
 
On this Sixth Sunday of Easter, St. Peter proclaims in his first letter (3: 15-18):
“Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence…”
 
This Sunday at St. Agnes Cathedral, we celebrate a special White Mass (named for the white uniforms often worn by doctors and nurses) and we pray for all healthcare workers on Long Island. Every day, they exude hope as they imitate the healing compassion of Jesus Christ.
 
Over the last few months, Catholic Health Services (CHS) of Long Island has mobilized at every level to respond to this unprecedented health crisis and meet the needs of our community. These are only a few examples of what CHS has been providing:
 
• Since March 1, 2020, over 13,000 individuals have been seen at CHS hospitals for suspected and confirmed cases of coronavirus. Of those, approximately 9,200 patients were successfully discharged and sent home to recuperate and nearly 4,000 were admitted to be cared for by our frontline healthcare professionals.
 
• Two of our hospitals – Good Samaritan Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital, The Heart Center – were designated by New York State as COVID-19 hotspots. Together, the two hospitals have cared for nearly 2,000 COVID+ inpatients since the crisis began.
 
• As patient cases rose, so did the need to increase staffing levels to ensure that all patients –especially the very sickest – would have the best around-the-clock care available.
We could not have met this challenge head-on without the courage and steadfast dedication of our Catholic Health Services frontline healthcare professionals.
 
There are so many individuals whose physical and emotional efforts have been the deciding factor in our fight against COVID-19. From the housekeeping and environmental safety staff who diligently maintained the highest standards of sanitizing and rigorous protection against the spread of the virus in our facilities; to the nurses and physician assistants who not only provided world-class bedside care but oftentimes were called to act as family intermediaries and proxies for patients in COVID-19 isolation units; to the physicians and clinical researchers who directed the clinical care plans and have begun to launch and lead clinical trials to identify possible therapies for the virus; and the home healthcare professionals, hospice care workers and grief counselors who even now are working tirelessly to ease the pain and suffering of those affected - all made invaluable contributions toward the health and welfare of our community during this time of crisis.
 
With enormous pride in the outstanding work of our Catholic Health Services system, I extend my personal thanks – and that of everyone in the Diocese – to the extraordinary women and men who have sacrificed so much to ensure the health and security of so many. We owe them our deepest gratitude and admiration.
 
Although the initial surge of COVID-19 cases seems to be behind us, there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done to prepare our Catholic Health Services of Long Island system to weather the months ahead. You can play a role in these preparations by making a gift to one of our frontline hospitals or healthcare service providers. For those who may wish to assist the coming effort by making a gift of financial support, please visit www.chsli.org/ways-to-give where you can choose to allocate your gift to any of our hospitals or patient care units.
 
The occasion of this year’s White Mass has special significance for the entire Catholic community of Long Island, as we have all been touched in many ways by the global pandemic. If you are able, please consider adding your support to aid the remarkable work of our Catholic Health Services staff.
 
Please know that you and your family are remembered in my daily prayers and Masses.
 
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend John O. Barres
Bishop of Rockville Centre
 
 
MAY 12, 2020
 
Preparation for the Reopening of Public Mass
 
May 12, 2020
 
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
 
The Coronavirus has affected society and the Church in ways unlike anything we have experienced
in our lifetimes. None of us could have imagined the impact on our families, our livelihoods, and our
practice of the Faith. As treatments for the sick and potential vaccines are developed, it is important that
we act prudently for everyone’s wellbeing, body and soul.
 
What has the Church been doing?
Hospital chaplains have heroically ministered to the sick throughout this crisis and parish food
pantries continue to support those most in need. Your priests have adapted as best they can to the limits of “distance ministry” while struggling to manage the devastating impact on our parishes and schools.
Catholic school teachers, administrators and Faith Formation volunteers are admirably upholding standards of excellence while keeping our children engaged online. Catholic Charities is addressing the physical and emotional needs of people around the clock.
 
We know that there is a hunger to return to public Mass and the celebration of the Sacraments. Pray
that this hunger spreads among active and inactive Catholics, so that our Churches may soon be filled and experience a lasting renewal when we reemerge.
 
The challenges facing us:
Much is still unknown about the virus and how best to deal with it. As a result, many decisions are
actually judgment-calls based on a review of the information available. What is known is that the virus is
deadly, particularly for the elderly and vulnerable. As of this writing, nearly 75,000 have contracted the
virus and over 3,500 souls have returned to God, just within the territory of our Diocese. May our Heavenly Father welcome them and comfort their families. Our hospital systems, front-line doctors, nurses and support staffs were very nearly overrun.
 
All of this leaves us with an enormous challenge: when and how to reestablish public liturgies
in a way that does not irresponsibly place the common good and the health of our people in grave
danger. These are serious moral issues. If we can protect the sanctity of human life and the stability of
our healthcare system by cooperating with sensible limitations and safety practices, then we have a moral obligation to do so. This is not a surrendering of our right to practice our Faith. It is an exercise of our moral responsibility for the common good. Therefore, we are carefully forming our plan for the reopening of public Mass in consultation with medical experts and civil authorities who share in our responsibility for the common good.
 
The Holy Mass
The Holy Mass is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our Salvation (Catechism of the Catholic Church –
Article 3, Paragraphs 1322 – 1419). The Mass unites us to the sacrifice of Christ, the gift of himself to the Father for us. Spiritual Communion, which has been a continual part of the Church’s theology through Saints Augustine, Aquinas, John Vianney, John Paul II and others, has allowed us to remain united to the Lord’s Body and Blood, offered daily by our priests, even when we are not physically present or do not physically receive Holy Communion.
 
Considerations for Reopening
The conditions on Long Island are being carefully monitored and preparations are being made.
However, we do not yet have a date for reopening public Masses. Medical experts and civil authorities
have urgently asked that congregate gatherings of any size remain suspended until we better understand the risks and how they are managed.
 
When it is determined that we can gather for Mass with reasonable safety, it will likely involve
precautions that will require everyone to make sacrifices. However, the Mass is not our “personal
possession”. It is a gift from God entrusted to the Church. Therefore, the dignity of the Mass and the
Church’s liturgical laws must be respected and observed. Certain elements of the Mass can be adapted
while others cannot because we do not have the authority to alter them.
 
Limitations may involve facial coverings or masks, limits on seating capacity to maintain social
distancing, changes to the Mass schedule to allow for cleaning, modified procedures for the distribution of Holy Communion, etc. This will involve tremendous coordination between clergy, parish staffs and
volunteers, as well as training and preparation. Guidelines and protocols are being developed that will be shared with pastors. The dispensation from the obligation to physically attend Mass will likely remain in place for a time, especially to protect the elderly and most vulnerable among us.
 
Other Sacraments
The period of isolation has delayed celebrations of Baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations and
Weddings. Funeral Masses for loved ones have also been postponed. We understand the sorrow and
sacrifice of those awaiting the celebration of Holy Sacraments. Please understand the enormous stress that this will place upon your very limited number of priests, some of whom are older and particularly vulnerable because of health concerns. We ask for your patience, understanding and compassion as your clergy serves you as best we can through these complex and very challenging times.
 
Our Prayers and our Gratitude
Dear friends, thank you for your prayers and support throughout this crisis. Your parish Church
depends on weekly contributions in order to survive and carry on Christ’s saving mission. The loss of Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday collections is a serious hardship for the functioning of a parish. Likewise, Catholic Charities, our Catholic Schools, and the Catholic Ministries Appeal all rely on support from the Faithful to carry out their missions. We are so grateful for your dedication, especially during these most challenging times. Please know that you are remembered in my prayers and daily Masses.
The risen Christ has won the victory over death. His grace will strengthen us to carry this cross so
as to share in his resurrection.
 
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Most Reverend John O. Barres
Bishop of Rockville Centre
 
Fifth Sunday of Easter
 
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
 
In Saint John’s Gospel this weekend, the Fifth Sunday of Easter, (14:1–12), the Blessed Trinity
is revealed to the disciples. Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes
to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father.”
 
This weekend, I want you to know that in addition to our parishes and the many vital ministries
of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, the COVID-19 pandemic is greatly testing Catholic
education and the Tomorrow’s Hope Foundation.
 
I am so grateful to each and every one of our dedicated teachers working from home and
teaching their students remotely. I am heartened to see the creativity of our principals, who are
creating new ways to acknowledge the accomplishments of our graduating elementary and
high school seniors.
 
Since its inception in 2005, Tomorrow’s Hope Foundation has raised millions of dollars for
needs-based partial tuition scholarships to thousands of deserving students. Each year, most of
the scholarship funds are raised through several annual events including the annual Stars for
Students Gala. Yet, the Gala that would usually take place this month, will instead become a
virtual fundraising event. You will hear more details in the near future.
 
This year, due to the financial and economic effects of the pandemic, Tomorrow’s Hope
anticipates a large increase in the number of families who will apply for tuition scholarships.
Therefore, if your means allow, please consider making a donation to Tomorrow’s Hope
Foundation. Your gift will help fund a vitally important Catholic elementary school education
for a student with financial need. Visit www.tomorrowshopefoundation.org and click on the
“Donate Now” button to make a secure online donation or call Tomorrow’s Hope Foundation
at (516) 745-7639.
 
Please know that you and your family are remembered in my daily prayers and Masses.
Sincerely in Christ,
 
Most Reverend John O. Barres
Bishop of Rockville Centre
 
Good Sheperd Sunday
 
Good Shepherd Sunday, May 3, 2020
 
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
 
On this Good Shepherd Sunday, we are reassured in the Gospel of Saint John (10:1-10) that Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd and that He has come so we can "have life and have it more abundantly." During this uncertain time, I invite you to join me in meditating on this image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd caring for us and carrying us on his shoulders.
 
As we endure the cross of COVID-19, I want to thank you for your continued support of your parish and the Catholic Ministries Appeal. I know by virtue of the mail we continue to receive each day that so many of you are, in your own way, placing the vital ministries supported by the Appeal on your shoulders. On behalf of the countless people who have benefited from your support, I am most grateful. I also pray for those whose present circumstances prohibit ongoing support of the Appeal.
 
The Catholic Ministries Appeal (CMA) is an opportunity to support the ministries that help us as we build up the Body of Christ. Your support keeps the foundation of our Catholic Church alive as we evangelize and carry out the Gospel message. Your commitment, during these most difficult of times, is extraordinary and a blessing to our entire community of faith.
 
We are blessed that our parish outreach operations are robust and able to serve many additional families who find themselves, some for the first time, struggling in their respective communities. However, these outreach programs are straining to fulfill the growing demand and are in need of additional financial support. Catholic Charities continues to provide expanded homecare services, expanded Meals-On-Wheels programs and shopping services to those most vulnerable. They too are under great strain to meet the growing needs across the Diocese. If you or a family member is ever in need of assistance, please contact the Catholic Charities helpline at (516) 733-7045.
 
We have also been working together with our Catholic schools to assist the underserved to get much needed internet service so that children can continue their education and parents can safely work from home.
 
During this unique time, there are so many ways to care for others and God's Church. One way, if you are able, is to provide assistance by making a special gift to the 2020 Catholic Ministries Appeal, if you have not already done so. Your continued support is critical at this time. Please visit https://www.drvc.org/donate/cma/ to make a secured online contribution. We are so grateful for your generosity and commitment.
 
On this Good Shepherd Sunday, I ask that you especially pray for a rich harvest of new vocations to the priesthood. Please know that you and your family are remembered in my daily prayers and Masses.
 
Sincerely in Christ,
 
Most Reverend John O. Barres
Bishop of Rockville Centre
 
 
 
Third Sunday of Easter
 
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
 

As we celebrate the Third Sunday of Easter, the spread of COVID-19, in our Diocese is touching every one of you in one way or another.  Nearly everyone has lost a loved one or a friend and it is certainly affecting how we go about our daily lives.  I am particularly moved by a brief passage from the first reading this Sunday, from the Acts of the Apostles (2:14, 22-33):

“I saw the Lord ever before me,

with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted;

my flesh, too, will dwell in hope,

because you will not abandon my soul…”

The Diocese of Rockville Centre is responding to the needs of Long Islanders both physically and spiritually, in a multitude of ways.  One important element I would like to highlight in our Catholic community’s frontline response to the coronavirus pandemic is our Catholic Home Care. 

Part of the Catholic Health Services of Long Island, Catholic Home Care is working harder than ever during this crisis.  On most days, it now serves more than 3,000 patients in their own homes. 

An increasing percentage of these visits are related to COVID-19 illness.  As you can imagine, Catholic Home Care clinicians are operating under extraordinary circumstances as they perform the necessary visiting nurse calls; physical and occupational therapy visits; medical social services counseling sessions; and home health aide services in patients’ homes.

Despite the challenges, the 650 dedicated professionals and support staff of the Catholic Home Care team are working seven days a week to ensure every patient’s home care needs are met.

Moreover, Catholic Home Care is innovating through the pandemic crisis to expand care through its Telehealth Program.  Telehealth services are staffed by specially-trained clinicians, and patients are provided with telemonitoring devices to monitor their health multiple times each day. 

Through Telehealth services, Catholic Home Care professionals partner with patients and their caregivers to take vitals such as a patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, weight and oxygen saturation levels.  This data is shared in real time with Catholic Home Care so that clinicians can provide enhanced feedback and services that meet the patient’s day-to-day needs.

Catholic Home Care’s Telehealth Program increases communication between patients, caregivers and clinicians.  Telehealth keeps physicians better informed about patient progress and also educates patients to better understand and self-manage their health and wellness.  It is just one of the ways Catholic Home Care is evolving to better meet patient needs in the home.

Donor support helps enable Catholic Home Care to perform the essential work of visiting and communicating with increasing numbers of patients, whether on site in the home or through expanding Telehealth services.  If you would like to make a contribution of any size to support this work, please visit the Catholic Home Care giving page.  If you think home care services could benefit you or a loved one please contact (631) 465-6830.

You are invited to participate in the daily Mass and other spiritual programing on the Catholic Faith Network (CFN), the national television network based here in our own Diocese. A complete programming schedule is available at www.CFNtv.org.  Many parishes are also offering video streamed Masses and other devotions online.  Check your parish web site for availability.   

Our prayer for you this week is that the risen Lord will watch over all of us during these challenging times and protect the clinicians and support staff of Catholic Home Care as they care for their patients.  If you are able, I implore you to support Catholic Home Care and your parish with your prayers and with your philanthropic gifts.  Please know that you and your family are remembered in my daily prayers and Masses. 

                                                                       

Sincerely in Christ,

 Reverend John O. Barres

Bishop of Rockville Centre