November 7, 2021

Dear Parish Family and Friends,

Greetings and peace to you all.  November is a month of Thanksgiving. Regardless of how things develop with respect to the pandemic, winter weather, or end–of–the–year stress, this is the month in which our hearts naturally desire to give thanks to the Lord. We may not know what all the future holds, but we do know Who holds the future, and we trust and love Him.

Here in our parish, the beginning of this month has seen a slight but steady increase in Mass attendance, with many people and young families now returning to church. There are also some newcomers and we are eager to welcome them into the parish family. In light of this happy trend, I am asking all of you, especially our parish ushers, to be more attentive to your role as “ministers of hospitality” and seek to offer all who come through our doors a welcoming presence. Oftentimes, a cheerful greeting, an approving nod, a helpful hand can go a long way in making people feel at home.

These days many people are still having questions regarding the Covid protocols currently in force at our parish. As I have said publicly many times earlier, the Bishop’s recent directive has been very clear, namely, that there must be no large gatherings in any of our parish buildings, including the gym and rooms in the Institute, as well as the hall at St. Margaret Mary’s chapel. This means that there can be no indoor sporting events (including CYO); no parish receptions of any kind; and no large meetings of any group whatsoever. While I appreciate the need for meetings in our active parish, which is actually a blessing, I am also concerned that some groups have not been observing these policies and are causing many problems to me as the pastor, to our parish staff, and worst of all, to the unity of our parish family.

Specifically, it has been brought to my attention that food is still being served at certain gatherings, in direct violation of diocesan protocols right now. I am constantly approached by people who request that an exception be made for their group to hold a reception. Unfortunately, this puts me in a very difficult position as I cannot accede to one group and not the others, not to mention that I am ultimately held responsible for all activities that go on in our parish and this has both ecclesial and legal ramifications. Without diminishing the importance of fostering a welcoming atmosphere in our parish, I need to stress again that, until whenever the protocols are updated by the diocese, receptions in which food is served are not allowed in our parish buildings.

I ask for your patience, charity and understanding in this regard. It breaks my heart when I have to say No to anyone, but saying Yes in this and similar matters has always made life much more difficult for me as I have to deal with so many different people with different needs and concerns each day. I pray that everyone might see that it is not fair to give permission to one group, no matter how small, and not to another. We have been fortunate so far, but the danger of Covid infections is still very real and around us. Concern for one another’s health is not only a virtue, it is a Christian obligation.

Some of you have also asked me to address the issue of mask–wearing in the church since our children and some people are still unvaccinated. Please know that I do not have the authority to go beyond the current diocesan policy in mandating the universal use of masks in church. I can only say that masks are highly encouraged, even for those who are vaccinated. As your pastor, I am appealing to your sense of Christian charity in wearing masks as a sign of your concern for the well–being of others. Your sacrifice in this regard will help foster a spirit of unity in our parish, and will enable me and our priests to concentrate on other important spiritual and pastoral matters.

The end of the year has many occasions that bring people together in celebration. As we look towards Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year festivities, I will work with the leaders of our parish groups to find creative ways for people to meet and socialize without the need for sharing food. I promise that whenever the restriction is lifted, I will be the first to celebrate with you. For now, let us continue to proceed with caution and consideration for the good of all in our parish family.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham