Rev. Thomas J. Serafin, KCHS
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the SEAS Parish family,
How I sorely miss all of you! You are in my prayers; please pray for me. Years ago, in an Epiphany homily, I told how – in some countries, Christmastime ended with a special blessing for all who, due to the brutal winter, would not gather as ‘church’ nor receive Holy Communion until Easter! In our wildest dreams, who ever imagined we’d face the same fate because of a pandemic virus. I SO MISS: celebrating Mass with you; greeting and chatting with you; fist-bumping kids; sharing your joys and sorrows; tormenting you with puns, bad jokes, and an alarming abundance of annoying alliterations; etc. Once we get back together again, I promise to ‘make it up’ to you!
While we will not gather in our ‘parish home’ for Holy Week this year, make every effort to ‘tune in’ to every Rite you can – especially Sunday Mass – via the blessing of modern communication. SEAS can only broadcast recorded, not ‘live’ events, as required for Holy Week Services, and honestly, it would be even more painful for me to ‘half-celebrate’ them with all the restrictions placed on our annual spectacular communal events, but I do hope to tape an Easter Sunday Mass! So join in the Services offered on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website: www.usccb.org or the Diocese of Metuchen’s website: www.diometuchen.org. Log on to – for FREE – easeton.formed.org – which SEAS pays for; it offers a treasure trove of Catholic movies, talks, and other programs for all ages. Our computer server crashed last week; the new server should be running by now … so keep abreast via our website: www.easeton.net of Parish events and timetables. Our main form to communicate is ‘blast emails,’ so email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name so we can add you to our list … but give us time to update our records!
This horrific pandemic has given an interesting twist to the Scriptures proclaimed on Good Friday: “Who would believe what we have heard?” [First Reading: Isaiah 53:1a] and “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” [Second Reading: Hebrews 5:8-9] Who would believe that we’d have no public Holy Week events? That so many special events would be cancelled or postponed? That our economy, our everyday life, our EVERYTHING, would be turned upside down? That a Pope would offer prayers in an empty Saint Peter Square? That religious activities would be limited and churches closed to protect lives, while the State allows abortion clinics, which destroy lives, to remain open? Should not our limited medical facilities, overworked personnel and scarce supplies be used to combat Coronavirus and save lives – rather than to destroy life?
Our Christian Faith assures us: God always wins in the end, and that every discipline – even being ‘quarantined’ – can be grace-filled – if we seek God’s presence, even in what seems so ungodly. This is the joy-filled, hope-filled message of Easter! And while every cross we carry has its pains and sorrows, we, as an Easter people, can bring light into darkness and joy into sorrow! For Jesus “who died, rather, was raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us” [Romans 8:34] is rooting for us, along with His Mother, and our Patroness, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, and all the Angels and Saints! So, while it may be premature, I’ll say it anyway: “alleluia, Alleluia, ALLELUIA!” [There; I broke a rubric and said the “A” word in Lent!]
In all seriousness: these are challenging times for all of us. May God bless all who have continued to mail or drop off their weekly offerings so we can pay all bills on time and not dismiss any Parish staff members. And thanks to all who pledge or make payments to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal. We are looking for an economical way to offer ‘online’ giving, which maintains a steady flow of cash but can be costly. Envelope and credit card companies and banks charge a fee to those who make ‘online’ offerings and/or the Parish for ‘online’ donations. The enclosed letter from Jim Letchford, our Finance Committee Chairman, addresses this and other financial issues. [Although I tease Jim every year when he makes his ‘most exciting’ financial report, I am grateful for all he and the members of the Finance Committee do for our Parish.]
As of now, our church will be open on Saturday: 4 PM – 6 PM; Sunday: 8:00 AM – 12:30 PM; Monday-Thursday: 8:00 AM – 5 PM; and Friday: 8 AM – 12:00 NOON [check the website for special Good Friday times] for you to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, light a candle, walk the Stations, etc.; please limit your visit so others can enter the church, as no more than 10 people are permitted in a room at the same time. [Official mandates from the State or Bishop could change all this.]
Our Bishop has permitted Priests to offer one private Mass each day for that day’s requested Mass intention[s], which I faithfully offer. Blessed palm branches, refrigerated in sealed bags, will be available at a future date, as will blessed Easter water. Baptisms will be rescheduled at a mutually agreeable time with each family. As of now, the dates and times for First Holy Communions and Confirmation remain unchanged, and the preparation for these special Sacraments is complete; the Funeral Practices & Planning Workshop [April 28] and the Open Forum with the Pastor [May 26] are also, as of now, unchanged.
A modified weekly bulletin is available on our website: www.easeton.net; follow the link on the top of the opening page; the date for the resumption of the Sacrament of Reconciliation [Penance or Confession] will be announced when known; if the opportunity to attend holy Mass and/or receive Holy Communion arises before you can get to Confession, the Church permits those normally able to receive Eucharist to do so by first making an Act of Contrition and then going to Confession as soon as humanly possible.
Like the women at the tomb on that first Easter morning, many are wondering, “Who will roll back the stone for us …? [Cf. Mark 16:3] and when will we, like Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, be unbound and set free? [Cf. John 11: 44] May we have the faith, hope and love to patiently await that glorious day when we will be gathered together again in one place: our beloved ‘parish home.’ And let us persist in the most powerful weapon at our disposal: prayer! Pray for all who have died; pray for all who are sick; pray for the medical professionals and first responders who risk their lives to save others; pray for all who suffer in any way from this crisis; and pray for each other. On Good Friday, at 3:00 PM, remember to pause in silence, to genuflect before and kiss a Cross or Crucifix, to thank the Lord Jesus for offering His life for us! Amen.
In His holy Name,
Rev. Thomas J. Serafin, KCHS