Lifting of Mass Dispensation
I am so grateful to God to see the average number of new cases of COVID-19 continue to decline due to all of you observing safety protocols and taking advantage of the vaccine. In response to the improving situation, I, along with many of the other bishops of the region, have decided to lift the dispensation and reinstate the Sunday and Holy Day Mass obligation, effective the weekend of June 19-20, 2021. Today, I issued this letter explaining the decision. We are distributing it to our parishes for sharing with parishioners and will be posting it on our media platforms.
On Pentecost weekend, I was happy to remove all restrictions and successfully re-open our parishes to full capacity. I now welcome and encourage the Faithful to return to full in-person participation in the Sunday Eucharist, the source and summit of our Catholic faith.
Please understand that the obligation to attend Mass in-person does not apply to those who are ill; those who have reason to believe that they were recently exposed to the coronavirus or another contagious illness; those who are confined to their home, a hospital, or nursing facility; or those with serious underlying health conditions. Please consult your local pastor if questions arise about the obligation to attend Mass.
After a month of praying the Rosary with Pope Francis for the end of the pandemic and acknowledging there remains suffering and recovery from this crisis, I cannot help but note the beautiful timing of this next step in our moving forward.
Celebrating an Ordination
The priesthood is not a career or profession one chooses for themselves— it is a response to a call from God to the service of His people. God saw in Fr. Peter Scheffer’s heart, mind, and soul, enough generosity to make him His faithful servant and shepherd of His people. Fr. Peter, and all the priests, are Apostles in a world hungry for God’s mercy and compassion. They are called to be like Christ in the world, shepherding all of God’s people entrusted to them and their pastoral care.
In his ordination to the transitional diaconate last year, upon receiving the Gospel, Fr. Peter heard the words, “Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” Now, as a priest, he must do so in his life, even more than his words, to follow the teaching credited to St. Francis, “Preach the Gospel always, when necessary, use words.”
To go forth and to do what Christ has done—a priest must be a man of God, and he can only do so by becoming a great man of prayer. To do what Christ did, walk the path He walked, proclaim the Gospel, forgive sins, and celebrate His Mysteries—all require a life of dedication to the service of the church and to profound and purposeful prayer.
We welcome Fr. Peter R. Scheffer Jr as a Priest of the Fall River Diocese. As Fr. Peter shares in his vocation story, he compares his journey to the priesthood to a “Long and Winding Road and A Road Less Traveled.” The final “nudge” came from his radio as he listened to EWTN radio and heard Ken Watts, Recruitment Coordinator at Pope St. John XXIII Seminary (PSJS) and speak about ‘late vocations’ and (PSJS). We are indeed blessed by his accepting God’s call to the priesthood and look forward to many years of his service to God and His people here in our diocese.
Yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha