Update to Safety Procedures: In light of the announcement made by Governor Cooper on May 14, 2021, and in accordance with the guidance offered by Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama, Immaculate Conception Church will amend its COVID-19 protocols beginning June 5, 2021 as directed by Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM in the letter below:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am so grateful to God, medical personnel, and to those of you who have received COVID-19 vaccines. The diminishing rates of new COVID infections can be directly attributed to the recent gains in vaccination rates. I join Bishop Zarama and my brother priests in continuing to urge all those who are eligible to get vaccinated.
While it is now safe for fully vaccinated people to be unmasked, NC State Health Department Secretary Mandy Cohen asserts that wearing a mask at a large, crowded indoor event is still highly recommended. As pastor of a diverse parish highly committed to respect for human life and justice, I choose to err on the side of extra caution while keeping families together and safe. Therefore, we will continue to require that all parishioners wear facemasks during liturgies inside our Church.
The blue tape blocking off every other pew will be removed starting June 5th. Everyone will be able to sit freely without observing social distancing protocols. The only exception will be a designated area on the side of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Bishop Zarama wants to ensure that every church in the Diocese of Raleigh can provide space for those who still require – or choose to abide by - strict social distancing requirements.
Distribution of the Precious Blood from the chalice will remain suspended, as will physical contact in extending the Sign of Peace.
- Hymnals will be returned to the pews.
- Congregational singing will be allowed.
- We will continue to ventilate the church for a half-hour after each of the Sunday Masses.
- The Daily Mass Chapel and Blessed Sacrament Chapel will be available for worship and other appropriate use but, again, facemasks will be required.
- COVID-19 procedures for distributing Holy Communion will remain in place:
- Ministers of Holy Communion will continue to wear facemasks and sanitize their hands prior to distributing.
- Communicants will receive the consecrated host only in the hand and not on the tongue.
- In the central nave of the church and the section on the side of the choir, we will have two simultaneous Communion lines served by two Eucharistic Ministers. On the side of Our Lady of Guadalupe there will only be one Eucharistic Minister.
- We will continue to make an outdoor Sunday 9:30 am Mass available, in the playground across the street from our school - weather permitting. Masks will be optional, (for outdoor Mass ONLY, please remember that masks MUST be worn in the Church) but we ask that families continue to social distance from those they don’t live with.
Beginning July 1st, our daily Mass schedule will change. The 9:30 am weekday Masses will be moved to 8:15 am and we are adding an 8:15 am Mass in English on Saturdays. Also, on Thursdays, the 8:15 am Mass will be in English and the 7:00 pm Spanish Mass will be re-introduced.
These changes have been made following the recommendations of our Bishop, expert advice from the IC Re-Opening Committee, and after receiving input from our parishioners, friars, and parish staff. I hope you will prayerfully consider that, in addition to acting on the best scientific advice, I aim to foster the spirit of mutual understanding and love. St. Paul in his letter to Ephesians (4:2) instructs us to bear with one another in love as each one strives to do one’s best, acting out of compassion, with humility, gentleness, and patience, seeking the common good of all.
From the great goodness and generosity that I have witnessed, I have no doubt that our collective response to the pandemic will redound to a revitalization of the parish life and mission at Immaculate Conception Church.
Peace and all good,
-Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM