Dear brothers and sisters,
Last Sunday, at the 5PM Mass, I had the difficult task of announcing to our brothers and sisters who attend that Mass about the possibility that our parish will no longer be able to offer Mass at that time starting next year. This announcement may surprise many people, but in reality, the matter has been brought up for serious discussions more than a year ago in my meetings with our Parish Trustees and the Parish Pastoral Council. As your canonical representatives who serve as my consultants, these leaders have diligently considered all the pros and cons of such a decision. At their recent recommendation, I have communicated the news to the 5PM Sunday congregation, and today I would like to present it to the entire parish for your understanding and kind support.
I am grateful that the faithful who attend the 5PM Sunday Mass have shown a great sense of understanding. Many of them affirmed that they already knew for a long time that such a day would necessarily come. Some expressed a sense of sadness. As a pastor, I share in the most personal way all the intense emotions that you may be experiencing in this situation. I have not made this decision lightly, but have spent many days and nights praying over it, pondering over my own ability to meet the increasing pastoral and administrative responsibilities of our large, multi-ethnic parish. No decision of this type is going to please everybody. I appeal to your sense of empathy in considering our parish’s situation that has led to this decision.
There are many reasons for this decision at this time. Most important among them, as you can understand, is the fact that our parish no longer has the number of active priests that we once had. Even with two parochial vicars who are assigned here to assist me as pastor, I still have to personally carry out most administrative, sacramental and pastoral duties in the parish. Out of respect for the health of our retired, elderly priests, I cannot depend on them to provide coverage when I am unable to attend to many tasks at the same time. Unlike most ordinary persons, we priests live and work in the same place, and are on call 24/7, especially from Friday through Monday when the parish is most busy. For me personally, celebrating a third or fourth Mass on Sunday, each in a different language, and meeting and addressing spiritual needs of hundreds of people in between, has proven to be a superhuman task. As a pastor, I desire to meet and greet all parishioners who come to our nine weekend Masses, at least before and after each Mass, but it has not been possible as often as I would like for the 5PM Sunday congregation. This is something that weighs heavily in my heart every week.
From our observations during the past year, attendance at the weekly 5PM Sunday Mass is sporatic, with numbers ranging from 30 to over 50 persons, most of whom come from the wider community beyond the confines of our parish. Bishop Ray Chapppetto, who has frequently come to assist with that Mass, observes that even the congregation there seems to change every week. Now that Bishop Ray is no longer able to come, I have had difficulty looking for a priest who can come to help us, not only with that Mass, but also with the Italian, Bilingual and Spanish Mass in the morning. In addition, there has been a frequent lack of Altar Servers, Lectors and Ushers at the 5PM Sunday Mass due to a general lack of commitment of volunteers. This has made it difficult for our young sacristan who at times is called upon at the last minute to be an emergency Altar Server, Lector or Usher. Our sacristan already puts in a 12 hour day from 7AM through 7PM which involves a lot of other duties that they are responsible for.
With a view towards pulling our resources together in a better way, and providing the best spiritual and pastoral services to you, I sincerely ask for your patience, understanding and support as we move forward with this plan. In the end, I believe this change will enable us to focus on uplifting liturgies, not keeping them merely for the sake of convenience. For the very few people who cannot attend the 5PM Vigil Mass on Saturday, or any other Mass on Sunday, I am happy to announce that there is still a 5PM English Mass that you can attend at Most Precious Blood parish which is nearby. It would be very encouraging to me if you would consider attending any of our eight other weekend Masses.
I will continue to keep you informed of the situation. This is a task that no pastor would want to undertake, but it is necessary for the good of the parish and her ministers. The upcoming 2023 Mass Book will reflect this change. Please keep me in your prayers as I continue to seek ways to serve you better.
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham