Deacon Lincoln’s Log 6-14-2020

 

Rebooting the Parish in Phases

“Jesus said, ‘This is how it is with the kingdom of God: it is as if a man went to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once for the harvest has come.”
Mk. 4:26-29

““To live is to change, and to change often is to become more perfect.”
Cardinal Newman

The church is a living thing. It is easy to forget that fact. Right now, the church is experiencing profound change. Like a plant that has been re-potted, the church finds itself in a radically changed and changing world. Nearly five years ago, Pope Francis said that the church needed to realize that, “We are not living an era of change but a change of era.”

This insight from our Pope is clear today. Our pastoral and finance councils continue to pray and reflect on the next step we should take to continue the mission that Jesus has given us to make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:19-20). We are all reflecting on the question, “What is God asking St. Thomas More to do today and in the months to come?” This moment is important. Please join us in prayer and reflection as we move forward. Share your prayerful insights with me and other parish leadership.

One of the insights our Bishop has given us is to move forward with bold faith and prudent safety, using a phased approach based deeply rooted in the reality of our current situation. Along with other parishes in the diocese we are preparing to enter Phase 2 soon.

Rebooting Phase 1

This past weekend we began Phase 1 of the St. Thomas More reboot of our sacramental life.We were offered the opportunity to encounter Jesus in Holy Communion Outside of Mass. We served about 100 people the Body of the Lord (see the May 28 Lincoln’s Log for what to expect during Phase 1). Things went very smoothly and we could easily serve more people if you are called to attend. Right now, the projections are that we will be in Phase 1 until June 14, one more weekend. We continue to have limited office staff and hours. The church remains open from 7:30 am to 4 pm.

Phase 2 is coming

As early as June 14, we may begin Phase 2 and will be celebrating Mass with extra precautions taken to mitigate the spread of COVID 19. These precautions include continued social distancing and the use of masks during the liturgy. Our singing will be limited and we will not have our choirs. We will be allowing 25% of the occupancy limit for our worship space (and may live stream to other rooms in the building to allow more people to attend). We are optimistic that we will not need to turn many people away. Right now we believe that we will be able to safely celebrate Mass with 219 people in attendance spaced throughout the worship space, the gathering space, and the fellowship hall. Stay tuned for further details. You can view the diocesan guidelines attached as well.

There is the chance that if the virus projections change, we could remain in phase 1 or return to it in the future if prudent safety dictates, but we hope we will continue through phase 2 towards a full, safe gathering of the community.

Along with our sacramental life, other elements of our parish life are rebooting. Stay tuned as we live into this new era and discover God’s call to form disciples in new ways.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Phase 1 – What to expect when you come for communion outside of Mass

If you are called to receive communion this weekend (remember, the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday has been suspended during the pandemic), things will look very different than a normal Mass. The Diocese of Green Bay is taking a phased approach. The current phase is phase 1. This phase allows for the reception of Communion Outside of Mass. This short Rite allows Jesus’ disciples to receive communion in a way that is safe and responsibly prevents the spread of the virus. This phase will last at least until June 13.

Things that are new or different can be challenging. Knowing what to expect when you arrive will help you to encounter the peace of love of Jesus in Holy Communion. If you read this article and look at the attached map carefully, it will help put you at ease as you have a clearer idea of what to expect. Continue to be gentle with yourself and others as we walk through phase 1 of rebooting our sacramental life.

As disciples of Jesus, we trust in His promise to be with us always. Jesus promises, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (Jn. 14:18).

If you come to receive Holy Communion Outside of Mass during phase 1 here is what you can expect:

  • First, prepare yourself to receive communion before you come to church by watching a live streamed Mass or reading the scriptures for the day or praying a rosary or some other way to prepare to encounter Jesus in Holy Communion.
  • Holy Communion will be available at St. Thomas More from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm.
  • Wear a mask when you are at church.
  • When you arrive at church, you will be waiting outside, social distanced, until it is your turn to enter the church building. Please be prepared to wait outside if needed and follow the markings on the ground to keep proper social distance (households that live together can stay together outside). There will be greeters to help make this a smooth process.
  • Your temperature will be taken before you enter church to ensure that you do not have a fever.
  • There will be two entrances used
    • If you have mobility issues, you are encouraged to use Door 1 (school entrance). At Door 1 you will enter and exit from opposite sides of this entrance.
    • If you enter from Door 2 (Church entrance), you will exit the church on the back (East) side and will need to walk around the church to the parking lot.
  • You will use hand sanitizer as you enter and leave the church building.
  • As your group of 8 or fewer enters the church, they will follow the paths marked out to their communion station (one in the fellowship hall, one in the gathering space, and one in the church near the altar). Please do not touch anything while you are in the church building.
  • Once you are at your communion station, there will be a short Rite of Reception of Holy Communion (about 5 minutes). You will stand around the deacon distributing communion on spots that are marked for you during the service to preserve social distancing.
    • The short liturgy of Communion Outside of Mass includes a greeting, the Lord’s prayer, communion, and a closing prayer
    • The deacon presiding will be wearing a mask
    • We are asking you to receive communion in the hand
    • You will remove your mask to receive communion and no one will be allowed to receive Holy Communion wearing gloves
    • No one will be allowed to take Holy Communion from the church for another person. If there is a need for this, please call the office.
  • After the Rite you will follow the marked path and return outside. You can then return to the parking lot. Please do not gather anywhere on the church grounds after receiving Holy Communion.

Many people have worked to make this safe process possible and have been involved in preparing and executing this plan, including medical personnel, law enforcement, and other experts. Be sure to thank them for all their dedication to this process and be kind to our volunteers.

As we travel this new territory of Phase 1 it is important to remember that we are encountering the Lord in Holy Communion. The Lord is walking with us through these phases of rebooting. He is revealing Himself to us in new ways and inviting us to deeper patience and love for one another. God is still God and we are His people.

My prayer is that we are called to be together soon. May God continue to bless us abundantly as we journey to the kingdom.

Peace,

Deacon Lincoln

Pastoral Leader

Discernment During the Pandemic

Am I called to go to church to receive communion next weekend?

One question that confronts all of us in the Diocese of Green Bay is, Am I called to go to church to receive Holy Communion next weekend? Depending on the course of the pandemic, this is a question we may be asking for a while.

Up until a few months ago, the answer to this question was clear. Yes! In fact, you are expected to go to Mass every weekend unless you are ill or have another serious reason. However, we are in a different situation now. No one is required to go to Mass or receive Holy Communion. In the serious situation we find ourselves in, the Church has suspended the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. In fact, public Masses are not taking place. Church authorities are allowing celebrations with very small groups but they are the exception. Slowing the pandemic is an important common good and has led our church authorities to act with wisdom and prudence. (As a side note, it is important to recognize that it is the church authorities, not political authorities, who are guiding our actions at St. Thomas More).

If you are reading this Log, I assume that you have the desire to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. That is wonderful! You know what a treasure the eucharist is and long to receive Jesus in this sacrament. But desire isn’t the only factor in discernment. We may have a strong desire for something good, but that does not mean that God is calling us to that good. We hear God’s call through our desires and through our entire situation in life.

For example, when I was in seminary I met many men who had a desire to be a priest. This was a good and holy desire. But the time in seminary helped them discern if they were in fact called to be a priest. Maybe the person didn’t have the abilities or skills a priest must have. Maybe it became clear they had other obligations and could not serve as a priest. Not everyone who attends seminary becomes a priest or is called to become a priest. There are some obvious cases where someone may desire the priesthood, but not be called. An example of an obvious case is a married man who has a desire to be a priest. His desire is for a wonderful gift, but it is not the only factor to consider. He is not called.

If it is about more than my desire to receive Jesus in the sacrament, how do I know if I am called to receive Holy Communion?

Here are some situational factors to consider regarding this calling:

  • Age – The church is encouraging anyone over the age of 65 to stay home.
  • Illness – If you are sick or exhibiting any symptoms of illness you should stay home. This is the obvious case.
  • Health – Am I in a high-risk group (e.g. Immunocompromised, diabetes, asthma, HIV, or liver, lung or heart disease)? – If you are at a higher risk, you are also being encouraged to stay home.
  • Work – Do I work in a field that puts me at risk of carrying the disease without being aware of it?
  • Past contacts – How likely is it that I have been in contact with someone who may have the disease?
  • Future contacts – Who am I likely to see in the next few weeks who would be at risk?
  • Behaviors – Have I been washing my hands, practicing social distancing, and following the other recommendations from health professionals?

Only you can discern if you are called to receive Communion. For many of us, the desire is great. We all long to encounter Jesus in the sacraments again. However, a risk factor or caring for another person may leave us short of being called to receive the eucharist this weekend. That’s okay.

Even if we are not called to receive communion this weekend, we are all called to encounter Jesus in some way (live stream Mass, praying with family, rosary, reading scripture… ). May the Holy Spirit guide each of us as we discern how we will encounter Christ during this time of pandemic. One day, we will be reunited and celebrate the liturgy with great joy.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 5-15-2020

“The Church is in history, but at the same time she transcends it. It is only ‘with the eyes of faith’ that one can see her in her visible reality and at the same time in her spiritual reality as bearer of divine life”
Catechism of the Catholic Church #770

“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.”
Jn. 14:20

Reopening vs. Rebooting

Whenever I hear someone talk about the church “reopening” my skin crawls. I don’t like the expression because it implies that the church has been closed. That is simply not the case. When I look around I see that the church has been operating differently; it has NOT been closed. There has been prayer going on, in and out of the church building. Funerals and burials are still happening. The Gospel is being proclaimed in all sorts of ways, many of them new. I even had a wedding a few weeks ago and have a few more coming up. People are still discerning what God wants them to do with their lives. Spiritual counsel is being given. Pastoral visits have changed but are continuing as Christians are reaching out to one another through phone calls and other media. The poor and most vulnerable are still being served by believers who are becoming even more creative in ways to reach out to people in need. As I look around ‘with the eyes of faith,’ I see that the church is clearly open.

I prefer the term, the church is rebooting. This sounds strange at first, but to me it makes sense. When we reboot something, it appears from the outside to be turned off. During the reboot, it doesn’t function normally. But as our phone or computer reboots, a lot is happening. It is being reorganized with conflicts between programs and protocols being resolved, the recent and unneeded stuff is discarded and the memory is restructured. If your computer locks up often all that is needed is a reboot.

Similarly, the church from the outside appears to be closed. But there has been a lot going on. It is a time to rethink what we’ve been doing and how we can do it better. New things are being tried. New relationships and ways of relating are being explored. During this reboot we can resolve invisible conflicts and come to a deeper clarity of our call to continue Jesus’s mission. Rebooting is a process of being renewed and that is something God is always doing in the church. “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behond, new things have come. And all this is from God…” (2 Cor. 5:17-18) Now it is happening in a dramatic way.

Rebooting also requires patience. When I reboot my computer the hardest part is waiting for everything to come back online. As I watch my phone reboot I see one app coming on at a time. There is a gradual rebuilding of what once was right there. The reboot of the church is the same. It requires patience as we wait together as we come back “online” with more normal, visible activity.

Sometimes a reboot allows my phone or computer to update. When this happens, my phone or computer screen looks different. Some apps are gone! There are some new features (some I like, some I don’t). It looks different. Some things have been moved around. I believe this “updating” is happening to our church as well. Along with all the grief, new features are being added, changes, or moved. God is showing us what is most important in our mission as disciples of Jesus.

We don’t need to reopen the church. It was never closed. But maybe God is rebooting the church for a new world!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

As we continue to wrestle with the current crisis, it is important that we continue to seek God’s guidance, rather than follow our own instincts or desires. Hearing God’s call in the midst of crisis is not easy, but the process of Communal Discernment is an important tool for us to use as we seek to follow God’s lead. William J. Byron, SJ, the former president of the Catholic University of America, has this helpful introduction to group discernment. I think every leader and member of a Pastoral Council, Finance Council, parish staff, or other parish team member should read this article as together we look for clarity in the midst of conflicting and confusing guidance.

Here is the link to the article:

via A Method of Group Decision Making – IgnatianSpirituality.com

A Method of Group Decision Making – IgnatianSpirituality.com

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 5-10-2020

“… parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of faith of which they are the ‘first heralds’ for their children.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church #2225

“[On the cross] When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he lived, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”
Jn. 19:26-27

  • God’s story for mothers (in five acts)
    • Creation – Mothers
      • Mothers are part of God’s plan from the beginning. They are created in God’s image and are part of the way God normally works. Mothers are present from the beginning, part of the “first grace” of creation. Mothers cooperate with God to bring life into the world and nurture it. Like God, they give and receive love perfectly (although in a limited way).
    • Fall – Mothers (Eve)
      • But our first parents (and our first mother, Eve), disobeyed God. Our relationship of perfect trust and love was broken. While mothers (and fathers, too) were still capable of giving and receiving love, that love was tainted with mistrust and selfishness. Division and rivalry enters the world. Violence and death began their reign. Mothers became enslaved and victimized by the powers of sin and death.
    • Redemption – Mothers (Mary)
      • God did not give up on mothers. In fact, he chose one woman to be his own mother. Mary said “yes” and, by the grace of her son, cooperated in redeeming the world. Her maternal love nurtured Jesus as he grew. On the cross, Jesus gave Mary, his own mother, to all of his disciples (Jn. 19:26-27). Jesus death and resurrection freed all mothers (and all of us) from slavery to sin and death.
    • Salvation – Mothers
      • All mothers are called to respond in faith to God’s invitation in Jesus, as Mary did. By this grace of redemption, the wounds from the fall can be healed and sin and death are conquered. All of us are called to surrender our lives in faith to Jesus.
    • Re-Creation – Mothers
      • Salvation in Jesus begins the new creation. At Pentecost, Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit on Mary, his mother, and continues to pour it out on all mothers so that they can continue the mission of giving and receiving love and proclaiming salvation in Jesus. A mother’s first mission is to her children by inviting them into the Kingdom of God by faith in Jesus.
    • Summary
      • Mothers are one of the very first gifts God gives us. They show us love and teach us how to love. For many of us, our mother was the first one to tell us about God and about the gift of Jesus. Mothers are a blessing to our world. Thank God for mothers!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 5-1-2020

“For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.”
Lk. 9:48

“”An exceptional divine mission calls for a corresponding degree of grace.”
– Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

Several parishioners and I celebrated (virtually) a consecration to St. Joseph on May 1, the Feast of St. Joseph the worker. We have been preparing for the last 33 days using the book “Consecration to St. Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father” by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC.

The key thread that I pulled out of our reading which seemed to be the center of St. Joseph’s greatness as a saint was his faithfulness to the mission he had been given. As the quote above states, “An exceptional divine mission calls for a corresponding degree of grace.”

St. Joseph had an exceptional mission. He was to be the head of the Holy Family and the protector of Jesus and Mary, especially during their flight into Egypt. Joseph’s mission was to teach Jesus what it meant to be a man. He taught him a trade and was one of the first people (along with Mary) to teach him to pray. Joseph also had the mission of protecting the Virgin Mary during uncertain and dangerous times. His mission was exceptional.

And God gave him what he needed to accomplish that mission. The Holy Spirit empowered Joseph to be gentle and strong. He was given the wisdom to follow God’s plan (even when it came to him in a dream) and the courage to take the risk of fleeing his homeland to protect his family. Joseph did not rely on his own strength, but trusted that God would give him what he needed to accomplish his mission.

As I ponder the insight: “”An exceptional divine mission calls for a corresponding degree of grace” I think about our parish. Things are not getting easier! We are separated from one another and distanced from the sacraments. But our mission is more important than ever. The world needs to know the love of God revealed in Jesus. Our own faith needs to sustain us and impact other people. Our mission is exceptional. Each one of us has been put here by God to bring His grace into this moment. As a parish, we are more important now than we were 2 months ago. The world needs us, missionary disciples who embody the love of Jesus.

St. Joseph’s mission wasn’t easy and neither is ours. But the good news is that there is a “corresponding degree of grace.” If we remain faithful to the mission God has given us,.he will give us what we need to accomplish it. God’s grace does not fail when we trust in Him.

Like St. Joseph, let’s be faithful to the mission God has given us. And, like St. Joseph, we will become holy, missionary disciples who bring God’s grace into a world in need.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln, Parish Pastoral Leader