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COVID 19: update and resources

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Pastoral Letter From Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick
July 3, 2020
Feast of St Thomas the Apostle

With the June 26 COVID -19 Update, Premier McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Medical Officer of Health, changed their position from suggestion to recommendation that all residents of Nova Scotia should wear masks when physical distancing cannot be guaranteed.  It would be wise to recommend that all parishioners who want to attend a public indoor celebration of Mass wear a mask.  As noted in our Protocol for the Safe Re-Opening our Churches, that “in order to mitigate the potential spread of the virus, all those over the age of two are encouraged to wear a mask/face covering when physical distancing is not possible. While not mandatory, they are highly recommended for the congregation.”

It was also noted in the Protocol, Holy Communion is distributed by the priest, deacon and extraordinary minister of Communion and that all ministers of Holy Communion are to sanitize their hands before and after distributing the Eucharist.  The dialogue between the minister of Holy Communion and communicant occurs at 2 meters or 6 ft. physical distance. After the dialogue, the communicant approaches the minister who carefully places the Body of Christ in the communicant’s hand without touching the person. For the safety of the faithful and our clergy, as well as following the strong recommendation of medical authorities, Holy Communion is to be received only in the hand at this time. Since each communicant has the right to receive communion either on the tongue or in the hand, the traditional practice of the option of receiving on the tongue will be restored as soon as the public health situation allows for that.  It is noted that some may not agree with this position but I ask you to be mindful, this is indeed a pro-life issue and concerns the well-being of all people.

Communicants are recommended to wear a mask as they line up for Holy Communion, 2 meters (6 ft.) apart from others. They are to leave their mask on when they reply “Amen” (physically distanced) and during the period when the Host is placed in their hand. They step to one side, and at that point remove the mask in order to consume the Holy Eucharist, affixing the mask after consumption and returning to their place. It is desirable that the priest remind the people that they are to place one open hand upon the other to reverently receive the Sacred Host.  

I hope that this follow-up helps to clarify our pastoral directive.

Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick
Bishop of Antigonish

From Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick:
June 26, 2020

In providing a COVID -19 update today, Premier McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Medical Officer of Health announced that effective July 3, the allowable numbers for gatherings at faith services will be increased from 50 people to 50% of the church’s seating capacity up to a maximum of 200 people, with physical distancing.  They have also changed their position from a suggestion to a recommendation that all residents of Nova Scotia should wear masks when physical distancing cannot be guaranteed. 

This news comes as we prepare to re-open our churches for the July 4/5 weekend. As Bishop, I support this directive that allows for more people to attend our churches. Our main concern is to continue to allow for 2 meters or 6 feet physical distancing at all times while also following our diocesan protocols that require cleaning and disinfecting.
Parishes are working individually to implement protocols for reopening.
Please check with your parish for times and procedures for attending Mass in person.

As a Diocese, we must continue to work together and assume the responsibility for re-opening our churches for the public celebration of Mass and the sacraments. We continue to ask for your full co-operation and patience as we do our very best to welcome back the faithful. At the core of who we are, as disciples of Christ is our love for God and love of our neighbour. Our hunger to return to our place of worship reveals our love for God. In the midst of this pandemic, we must absolutely be mindful of the safety of our neighbours. The risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread is still with us. While celebrations will be adapted to minimize this risk, it is hoped that our worship experience remains life-giving as we break open the Word of God and are fed by the Body of Christ.

Those who may not be able to attend church for health reasons or due to capacity restrictions are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. I encourage parishes to continue to livestream, video or provide radio coverage of Masses.

May God bless each of you and those that you love. Welcome home.

Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick
Bishop of Antigonish

 

Questions and Answers

 

 

From Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick
June 19, 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

On Thursday, June 18, we received word from Dr. Robert Strang, the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Nova Scotia that effective immediately there are changes to gathering limits in the province due to the lower rates of COVID -19.  The number increases from 10 to 50 people that can gather while maintaining 6 feet of physical distance; this includes those who gather for religious/faith services.

This is good news for all places of worship. We need time now to plan and prepare for safe re-opening. As Bishop, I am prepared to allow that, in a few week’s time, our churches may re-open for public worship with no more than 50 people PROVIDED we can follow our forthcoming diocesan protocols which will require cleaning and disinfecting, as well as ensuring the required physical distancing at all times. If we are successful in taking these small steps forward, we anticipate approval for larger gatherings in the near future.

Not all of our parishes will be prepared to re-open so soon and that is fine.  We need to be confident that we have enough volunteers, cleaning supplies, and instructional information in place to ensure the safety of all, including our clergy.

Those who may not be able to attend church for health reasons or due to capacity restrictions are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.  I encourage our parishes to continue to livestream, video or provide radio coverage of Masses.

Yours in Christ,

Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick
Bishop of Antigonish

 

 

June 11, 2020

In the Diocese of Antigonish, as of June 11, 2020, the following regulations adopted entirely from the Archdiocese of Halifax are updated and in effect in the Diocese of Antigonish until further direction is provided:

  1. Churches will remain closed to the public for private prayer, devotions, and the celebration of Mass (livestream and video Mass can continue)
  2. By way of exception, the church may be used for funerals and weddings, following the new “10-person rule.”
  3. If the church is used for a funeral, the following is to be observed:
    1. The funeral home staff, with the pallbearers (wearing masks) will bring in the remains to the front of the church.  They would leave the church and then the mourners would enter wearing face-masks.
    2. The prescribed Catholic ritual will be the Funeral Liturgy Outside Mass.
    3. When the liturgy ends, the mourners leave the church and the pallbearers and funeral staff return and take the remains to the hearse.
    4. In the event of a cremation, with the family bringing the urn, there would be no need for the family to wait to enter the church.
    5. Live streaming of the service is permitted.
  4. During the internment at the cemetery, the funeral home staff, and pallbearers (wearing masks) would bring the remains to the graveside and leave the area.  The priest or deacon would arrive with the mourners (because this is outside, there can be 15 mourners).  Following the prayers, the mourners leave and then the cemetery staff complete their work.
  5. For weddings, the priest or deacon together with the couple, two witnesses and 6 more people can gather at the Church (photographers, cantor, any musicians make up part of the 10).  The prescribed Catholic ritual will be the Order of Celebrating Matrimony without Mass.  Live steaming of the service is permitted.
  6. The Sacrament of Baptism is to be delayed; if this is not possible, then the 10-person rule is to apply.
  7. Sacrament of Penance may be arranged through appointment.
  8. In all these circumstances, the rules of social distancing must be observed, as well as hygiene protocols such as ensuring that the church is cleaned and made safe.

We do not know how long these protocols will be in place. We only know these directives are designed to keep our communities and ourselves healthy and safe from this global pandemic. Until we can again celebrate Mass in person, we are invited to:

  • Offer a Prayer of Spiritual Communion and join in a Mass via Facebook, YouTube, radio or television
  • Offer a Prayer and Act of Contrition as Reconciliation
  • Read Bishop Kirkpatrick’s letters and updates. As he said in his Easter message:
    “As a people of faith with the help of the Holy Spirit we will get through this together.”

 

Bishop Kirkpatrick’s Pastoral Letter
Pentecost 2020

Dear Clergy, Religious and Faithful of the Diocese of Antigonish,

In my Lenten Letter, I spoke of the need to have an attitude of gratitude, remembering where we have come from, and where we are going with Christ and most importantly because of Christ. The sacrificial offering of Lent is ongoing as we endure this COVID -19 pandemic, and our faith continues to sustain us. In addition to the suffering and deaths from this pandemic, we have witnessed wave upon wave of tragedy in our province. We have been isolating and we have felt isolated especially from our families and church communities.

I know it is a great sacrifice not to be able to receive Holy Communion. Social distancing has caused a kind of involuntary fasting from sacramental reception of the Eucharist, and like all fasting, it should increase our desire for its return. This time of fasting also provides an opportunity to understand the Eucharist more fully as an act of self-offering joined to the perfect offering of Christ, the immaculate Victim. The Mass is much more than just celebrating a ritual in order to receive Holy Communion; it is our participation in Christ’s perfect offering of himself and all of creation to the Father, and culminates in our reception of Holy Communion.

While we cannot now gather publicly, our priests continue to celebrate daily Masses, and I am grateful that so many pastors have been offering Mass through social media. We continue to pray for an end to the pandemic, as Pope Francis has encouraged. On May 1st, our clergy gathered in solidarity through social media with clergy from every other diocese in Canada to consecrate our country to Mary.

The doors of our churches are closed, but much has been happening in our Diocese and in the whole church. Since my Installation as Bishop in early February, we have had four Council of Priests Meetings through Zoom technology. I am pleased to announce the appointment of our new Vicar General, Father Thomas MacNeil who will assist in serving the Diocese. We have a new webmaster, Deacon Shawn Bigley and within a few weeks, we will launch a new, more user-friendly website. I have expressed our thanks to our retirees, our former Vicar General, Father Paul Abbass and our former webmaster, Deacon Art Riley. I have also written several pastoral letters, mostly informing and encouraging our clergy.

I have participated in six Zoom meetings with the Atlantic Bishops including our Spring Plenary on May 29. We have discussed common issues, including protocols for re-opening our churches. I want to assure you that we are getting closer to re-opening our churches. Our public celebrations of the sacraments were suspended, not out of fear, but out of the deepest respect for human life and health. We are a pro-life church and this pandemic is a pro-life issue. I participated in a Zoom meeting with Doctor Robert Strang, our Provincial Medical Officer of Health, the two archbishops of Halifax, and several members of other religious traditions to share our concerns and ideas for moving forward; we plan to meet again on June 15. As a Diocese, we are currently working on a plan to establish safety guidelines and protocols when we re-open our churches. All of our parishes will follow a common plan of action. We will wait to open our churches when it is safe and when we are prepared to do so.

Unfortunately, this will not happen on Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is an important feast day and I have learned that the Mi’kmaq people especially were saddened to cancel their Pentecost celebrations. They have a special affinity to the gift of Holy Spirit at work in our lives. I hope that we can all celebrate the gift of Holy Spirit.

As we know, Jesus had promised his Apostles that “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (John 14:26). That promise was fulfilled when the Spirit of God came down on that first Pentecost in wind and fire (cf. Acts 2:14). We should remember though, that what happened on that first Pentecost was not a one-time event. That was only the beginning. This mystery, the coming of the Holy Spirit, continues in our own day because, while the Spirit does not always come in great signs and wonders as it did for Mary and the Apostles, the Holy Spirit is always present and active in our hearts and in the life of the church.

We may struggle to understand the gift of the Holy Spirit. We cannot see wind. We can only see or feel or hear the effects that tell us the wind is there, all around us. We know the wind by its effects that sometimes comfort and at other times, refresh and still other times, destroy. Like the wind, fire can comfort, or refresh, or destroy. Wind and fire are sensual reminders of the power behind and beyond them, like the Spirit of God that we celebrate on Pentecost. The Holy Spirit transforms our minds, hearts and beings.

The coming of the Holy Spirit provided the apostles with the energy, momentum, enthusiasm, courage, and passion to get on with the task Christ had given them. The Holy Spirit would help them, but not do it for them. The change in them did not come about in an instant. It had to be a gradual thing. It had to be a growth process. As we know, growth can be slow and painful. We do not easily let go of our old ways, old habits, old attitudes.

We know people can change when they are given hope, when someone believes in them and gives them a task to do. Above all, people can change when they know they are loved. They come out of their shells and hidden energies are released in them. We too need someone to empower us so that we are able to take charge of our lives, and live them responsibly. This means being willing to change what needs to be changed in our lives. We need empowerment in order to witness to our Christian faith. The power that changed the apostles is available to us too. We need the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit energizes and strengthens our spirits and purifies our hearts. The Holy Spirit helps us to change our ways and we will need to change our ways as we move through this pandemic. It will not be back to normal but forward to normal.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, may we become more Christ-like and continue to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we pray: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love to renew the face of the earth. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide and direct us during these difficult days.

(Most Rev.) Wayne Kirkpatrick
Bishop of the Diocese of Antigonish

 

Bishop's Previous Letters and Updates

Annunciation of the Lord
March 25, 2020

My Dear People,

I am grateful to our Clergy, as well as our diocesan and parish staff and to all the people of our Diocese who are working together. It is clear that our response to this coronavirus certainly brings out the best in people. We are blessed with such dedicated people who continue to minister to the people of our Diocese.

Following a Decree issued on March 19 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Father Conrad Edwards, Chair of our Diocesan Liturgical Commission has assisted in the preparation of an update to our Pastors concerning Holy Week. We will postpone the Mass of Chrism but the Easter Triduum cannot be postponed. Pastors will celebrate Holy Week privately since we still cannot offer any public Masses and liturgies during this time.

Cathy Farrow, our Managing Director / Diocesan Financial Administrator has been in communication with other Financial Administrators from across the Atlantic Provinces. She has prepared a document to inform and assist our Pastors with financial impacts given the provincial state of emergency regulations.

It is clear that we need to stay home following the directives and guidelines of the Premier and the Nova Scotia Chief Medical Officer of Health, as well all official advisories from our federal and provincial governments.

While respecting the law and encouraging people not to gather, we are witnessing some novel ways to minister to people. We are so fortunate to have a Diocesan Mass for Shut Ins, those who are homebound. CTV has been hosting this Mass for 57 years now and currently Father Patrick O’Neil is the Director. We are likewise fortunate to participate in the National Catholic Broadcasting Council’s Daily and Sunday Televised Mass offered through Salt & Light which is now offered free until May 1st on all Canadian cable networks. A number of our parishes are also celebrating Mass through social media. Parishes are using creative ways to connect with the vulnerable to ensure that no one is completely isolated and alone. At various times, Pope Francis has asked us to offer prayers at the same time throughout the world.

This Season of Lent has been a world-wide time of Penance but we remain strong and determined through our common prayer. As a people of faith with the help of the Holy Spirit we will get through this together.

Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick
Diocese of Antigonish

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From Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick
March 17th, 2020

My dear people,

In facing the most serious health concerns of recent memory we are indeed living in troubled times but “Do not be afraid”.  We are not dealing with an unexpected tsunami but rather more with the rising waters of the coronavirus which threaten to overwhelm us and our well being if we do not take appropriate measures.  We need to flatten the wave and help slow the spread of this coronavirus called Covid-19.  If we have been following the news, we know the situation is very fluid with different rules across the country on different timetables. There have been a patchwork of policies and restrictions which seem to be changing on a daily basis with so many people looking for direction and reassurance.

What are we to do amid this turmoil?
We are all concerned about the most vulnerable, given their age and health concerns and this includes our clergy.  The medical advice we receive is to avoid gathering in large groups.  We do not want to overwhelm our health care system and so we must take all pre-cautions necessary.

We will follow the directives and guidelines of Nova Scotia Chief Medical Officer of Health. We will heed all official advisories, including the latest guidance from federal and provincial governments.

For this reason, as Diocesan Bishop, after having consulted our Council of Priests and College of Consultors and the Bishops of Atlantic Canada, I am directing that all Sunday and Weekday Masses be cancelled effective immediately until further notice.   We cannot put a time frame on when the situation will improve.

I ask each Pastor to celebrate privately Sunday Mass for intentions of their people.  I hereby dispense the faithful from the obligation to participate in the Sunday Mass until we are able to again assemble for the Lord’s Day in accord with directives from our health officials.  Daily televised Mass is offered as an alternative, as the faithful gather to pray in their homes.  Particular care should be given to ensure that the vulnerable are not alone. Parishes may explore creative ways to connect with the vulnerable through phone calls and visits where appropriate.

I do not believe it is prudent to keep our churches open since visitation by unknown people especially the ill and the vulnerable may also cause unnecessary risk of exposure since the churches are not cleaned daily.   All parish and diocesan meetings, events, celebrations, catechetical formation programmes and any other activities in the coming weeks should be cancelled until further notice.

In compliance with federal and provincial health directives regarding the size of the crowd and personal distance between individuals, I direct the following:

  • Baptisms may be celebrated privately with just immediate family members present.
  • Weddings may be celebrated privately outside of Mass with just immediate family members present.
  • Funerals may be celebrated privately outside of Mass with just immediate family members present.  There should be no public receptions permitted at the church during this time.
  • Mindful of good hygiene and hand washing, pastors are encouraged to reach out to the sick and elderly to ensure they receive the Sacrament of the Sick and pastoral care as needed.
  • The Sacrament of Penance may be celebrated at any time as scheduled or when the pastor is available.
  • Later on, we will address the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation with the Pastors.  We continue to pray together for those affected by this coronavirus as well as all healthcare providers, caregivers and researchers.  We pray especially to St. Joseph who is the patron saint and protector of the universal Church and the principal patron saint of Canada.

Life will be different for a while from the way we live and especially not being able to worship in our churches, such challenging days actually brings out the best in people.  We will weather this storm through our common prayer and by working together. “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

(Most Rev.) Wayne Kirkpatrick
Bishop of Antigonish

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From Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick
March 13, 2020

While our area is considered a low risk for the spread of the coronavirus, we should not be complacent. The province has recommended that public gatherings be less than 150 people and that anyone travelling from outside Canada should self-isolate for 14 days. We all need to be proactive and take responsible measures.

I invite all parishes to adopt the following measures:

o Remove the Holy Water from the fonts.
o Refrain from shaking hands at the Sign of Peace.
o Refrain from distribution of Holy Communion from the Chalice to all people including lay ministers.
o People should also be encouraged to receive Holy Communion in their hand and not on the tongue.

Remind your people that they are excused from their Sunday obligation of attending Mass if they are unwell. This same principle applies to anyone with underlying medical conditions or compromised health issues who may be more vulnerable to illness if exposed to any virus.

Everyone is urged to practice good hygiene with proper hand-washing and sneezing or coughing into your sleeve and not your hands. Avoid touching your face. Avoid unnecessary contact with those who are ill.

While we continue to monitor the situation, and being attentive to the direction of our health care officials, we are not recommending any changes to the Mass schedules at this time.

We continue to pray for those affected by this coronavirus as well as all healthcare providers, caregivers and researchers.

Sincerely in Christ,

Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick
Bishop of Antigonish

 

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March 6, 2020
PASTORAL NOTE REGARDING CORONAVIRUS

As you are aware, active cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) worldwide have led to some understandable concern among the faithful.  As the local headlines indicate, testing is happening daily in Nova Scotia, but there are no positive caseshere.  As a local Church our goal is to act responsibly, based on credible information from reliable sources.

There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs. Take these everyday steps to reduce exposure to the virus and protect your health:

  • wash your hands often with soap and water 
  • sneeze and cough into your sleeve
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • avoid contact with people who are sick
  • stay home if you are sick

Regarding liturgical practices, local health officials have not indicated that it is necessary to alter current practices at this time. We can remind our people that receiving from the Cup is optional.  Parishes are encouraged to use the above information to remind parishioners about the importance of practicing healthy hygiene. Parishes should ensure that those distributing communion wash their hands before and after the distribution of communion (if you are able).  As we know exchanging a sign of peace may be done without shaking hands.

Please continue to pray for all those impacted by the coronavirus. Be assured that we will continue to monitor the situation as well as the advise of local health officials and keep you updated as appropriate.

Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick
Bishop of Antigonish

Churches Online

Link to Directory

Act of Spiritual Communion

An Act of Spiritual Communion

My Dearest Jesus,

I believe that You are present in the most Holy Sacrament.

I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot, at this moment, receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart.

I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.

Never permit me to be separated from you.

Amen.

Resources

Government updates re Covid-19:

Nova Scotia

Canada

 

Hope, Gratitude and Solidarity
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Comments (4)

  • Reply Nancy Forrest - June 16, 2020

    Dear Bishop Kirkpatrick when will our churches be opening? Ontario catholic churches are open and they have a lot more covid cases than us, it’s time for our churches to open too, if Bars and shopping malls etc etc can be open there is no excuse for our churches not to be open. Mass and the sacraments are an essential service. Please be our good shepherd and bring the lamb of God back to us, we need “Him”.

    • Reply Denisse - June 16, 2020

      Dear Bishop Kirkpatrick
      I am agree with Nancy Forrest and I am concerned that the church continues to remain closed than any virus cause many places are reopen already, with Jesus present in the sacraments are an essential service for the salvation of our souls, keeping the church closed is not giving salvation to anyone.

  • Reply Peggy MacKinnon - June 17, 2020

    Dear Bishop Kirkpatrick: I just read your e-mail from Nancy Forrest and it says exactly what I was going to ask of you. I also read your letter and now realize that you are having a meeting soon and are trying as much as possible to arrange for the opening of our churches. I also know that you realize how much we are missing our sacraments especially the Eucharist. I know we haven’t met yet but I look forward to it sometime.
    Sincerely, Peggy MacKinnon from St. Barra Parish including St. Columba Church. I also attend St. Michael’s Church in Baddeck.

  • Reply MALCOLM DP BROWN - June 18, 2020

    Nice web-site; good work! Am sure as time progresses it will be well used.
    As for “the church” reopening I agree with proceeding with the greatest of caution. They are not closed to deprive anyone of their spiritual devotions; they are closed to protect our health, and ultimately, our lives. As we’ve agreed for many years “the church” is the community/communion of people, not the building

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