Bishop allows limited return to public worship
A Message from Bishop Wall
May 23, 2020
Dear Faithful and Clergy of the Diocese of Gallup,
“The Eucharist is the highway to heaven” – (Ven. Carlo Acutis)
With much prayer for guidance from God, my staff and I have followed and assessed the information coming from many sources to include the recommendations of the civil authorities (the U.S. President, governors, mayors, etc.), statistics from the national, state, tribal and local health authorities, and opinions from clergy, medical experts, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Center for Disease Control, universities and laity. It is our attempt to balance our desire and right to worship against the undesired effect to harm others by communal activity that could exacerbate the spread of the virus. We must always keep in mind that our God given individual rights are accompanied by the responsibility to exercise them in view of the common good and the good of our neighbor. As you know, the feeding of the soul through prayer is essential to the human person, as we are both flesh and spirit. Dorothy Day reminds us “Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul”. Fortunately, we are afforded many ways to feed our spirits, and, in response to the current pandemic, we have had to exercise our spiritual life in a different manner. I hope it will be a comfort to all the priests and the faithful the diocese to know that I have been praying and offering Mass daily for your spiritual well-being in this difficult time.
The area of our diocese is unique in many ways, and we are not consistent in characteristics. As we look to ways to lessen our restrictions on public worship, it makes it difficult to establish uniform policies. Based on the total information applicable to our area, it is my decision to begin restoring the celebration of the Mass with assembly, Holy Communion and reception of other sacraments in a staged manner. This will begin Friday, May 29, 2020. There will remain some need to limit the number of persons gathered at one time and to practice physical distancing until we see that the improvements in the disease intensity continue. The time between now and that date will be needed for each parish to assess its options, make plans, assemble required materials, and to organize the staff & volunteers to assist in the process of gathering the faithful in a safe and healthy manner. The policy will allow for a step-by-step resumption of activity that can be adjusted to the prevalence of the disease in a local area. The parish priests are to exercise pastoral judgement in these matters and will rely on the assistance of the faithful, especially those who have knowledge of the health status of the local community. If, for reasons of their own health, or the health of their parishioners, a pastor feels the need to postpone opening the Mass to the public a while longer, they should feel free to do so. I ask that in this case, the pastor inform me briefly of the reasons for this delay, for our information. Although we are praying that there will be no future surges of the virus, it is essential we do our best to stay safe and healthy. In order to stay safe, it’s important to err on the side of caution. This is an act of charity and will assist everyone in this time of pandemic. Those who have access to social media should continue to stream the Mass for those who choose to remain at home, especially those ill or in a high-risk category.
The decisions over the past weeks, although difficult at times, were made with the common good in mind. It’s easy to politicize some of these decisions- please try to avoid this, as it has never been a factor in the decision-making process. I ask for your prayers for the priests, deacons and religious of our diocese and for me that we may wisely discern the best course of action for the well-being of all the faithful. I also ask for your prayers for those who are ill with this disease and for those struggling with the secondary effects, both mental and economic. Please remember the repose of the souls of the many who have died from the coronavirus. May the Lord welcome them to the heavenly banquet.
As we prepare to celebrate the Ascension of our Lord, we remember that He departed so that the Holy Spirit would be given to us. We rejoice in the Holy Spirit, who is with us always, leading and strengthening us. In response to the love of the Holy Spirit that unites us wherever we are, let us seize every opportunity to reach out to others in need. Let us be doers of the Word while we look forward to a return to the public reception of our beloved Sacraments and worship as assembled faithful.
Blessings to all in Christ,
+ James Seán Wall
Bishop of Gallup