As faith communities across the State of Wisconsin adapted to the “safer-at-home” directive to help stop the spread of coronavirus, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has decided to cancel public Masses in what the Catholic Church deems its most important time of the year.
Archbishop Jerome Listecki sent a letter to fellow clergy and other church workers to let them know numerous steps that he felt must be taken in the interest of safety.
We continue to see our archdiocese and our country and our world impacted by the CoVID- 19/Coronavirus. Please know of my prayers for you and the people entrusted to your care at this very difficult time. Also, know of my pastoral concern for each of you as you experience a sense of reduction in your capability to minister to your people. This is a genuine and real feeling, and an unprecedented one.
I have heard from so many of you regarding decisions I have made or decisions I need to make going forward. My goal in making decisions has been the safety of our people and our responsibility to be good citizens as part of the larger community.
It’s easy to say we should keep public Masses and other sacramental and devotional practices, but at what cost? We have free will, but our choices impact many others. Some have said we should be willing to die to celebrate the Eucharist. I agree. But as I heard one Relevant Radio commentator state, we shouldn’t be willing to kill to celebrate the Eucharist, meaning, what happens if we contract the virus? How many others do we put at risk, from caregivers and medical personnel to family, friends and others we would come into contact with before we even knew we were infected.
Let’s also not forget that many of our priests, both active and senior, who provide the Sacraments, are in the high-risk category. Let’s also remember how incredibly difficult this is, especially for our younger priests and lay parish directors, who have never experienced their ability to pastor their people so severely diminished. There are times I wish I was still a simple, unknown, professor at Mundelein.
We cannot make decisions out of fear and we must use common sense in making decisions for the pastoral care of our people without taking unnecessary risk. So, after consultation with my Executive Council and the College of Consultors – both by teleconference – and my own deep reflection and prayer, I have come to some additional decisions about our liturgical and pastoral practices during this time of this pandemic. I know that you want information sooner rather than later, even though some of the following information will not be applicable for a few weeks, and much could change.
The Archbishop also outlined different directives pertaining to the postponed Holy Week worship events and church procedures.
Holy Week and the Triduum are the most solemn time of our liturgical year. Public celebrations for Holy Week, Holy Thursday and Good Friday are canceled in all of our parishes. I will celebrate both days from the Cathedral and those services will be live- streamed. The modifications in the liturgical celebrations decreed by the Vatican will be observed. Instructions for accessing the live-stream will be posted. I will also offer the celebration of the Easter Vigil, as accommodated in the same Vatican decree, from the Cathedral. That Mass will be live-streamed.
He offered encouragement to Catholics to continue the habit of watching streamed Masses from home, a trend that has been rapidly adopted other religious faiths and individuals wanted to maintain a social connection while keeping a social distance.