October 13, 2020
The diocese has sent me several hundred Increased Offertory Collection (IOC) envelopes to hand out at mass, for the purpose of inviting parishioners to make a commitment to a specific increase in their weekly donation. With only 33 to 40 people attending each weekend mass, this will be a challenge. This is what we will do: If you have already increased your weekly offering since the pandemic began (as many have), just call the rectory and give us your name so that we can communicate to the diocese that we had so many individuals who responded positively to the IOC. We will fill out an envelope on your behalf. Just let us know the amount by which you increased your weekly donation since the beginning of the pandemic (e.g. $2, $5, etc.). If you have not been to mass because of the pandemic, but would like to increase your weekly donation, just call the rectory. We will fill out an envelope on your behalf. Thank you to those who handed in their IOC envelope after last weekend’s masses.
As I have written previously, our financial position is very secure, due to your generosity. However, I am deeply concerned about some of our local outreach programs assisting the underserved in our community. Therefore, whatever increase is realized in this campaign, will give us the opportunity to reinforce these local charities. We did this a year ago in honor of our 125th anniversary. We are very fortunate that we are in a position to do so again. I will be more specific in future FlockNotes. In the meantime, appended to this FlockNote is an increased giving guide provided by the diocese.
- In response to your observations about the distribution of communion, and due to the fact that our mass attendance numbers are light, we will suspend the use of Eucharistic ministers until such time as the number of attendees justifies their return. I will distribute the Eucharist alone (do I get a salary increase?}. I will reduce my homily by one minute to make up the time! Come up the center aisle, keep 6 feet or more distant from each other, return by the side aisle. This is as simple as it gets.
- We will be offering the families of First Communicants the opportunity to have their children make First Communion at one of our weekend masses, rather than wait until next spring. However, we will continue to offer a group First Communion next spring for those families who would prefer a more traditional setting. We congratulate Ryan Murphy and Kam Ho Santana who made their First Communion in the last two weekends.
- We are still waiting for the installation of our live streaming camera. The suggestion has been made that those who watch our live streaming on our Facebook page note how many people in each household are watching (in the comment section on Facebook). Roughly 65 households watch live. Many more watch later. Unless everyone who watches mass on our live stream reports the exact number of people watching, it would be hard to fix an exact number. Last weekend’s attendance: 5pm, 38; 9am, 55; 11am, 45. This is 39% of our normal attendance.
- It was brought to my attention that a neighbor, who abhors gas powered leaf blowers (I am not a fan either), placed a pair of black ear muffs on our statue of the Virgin Mary. I get the message. Fortunately, the muffs were a lot easier to remove than the trash that was left previously by someone else. By the way, the BVM, being the Lady that she is, had no comment.
- While these FlockNotes are posted on our website the following weekend, if you know of someone who wishes to receive them on the prior Tuesday, all we need is their email address. Please contact the rectory.
- I am still notarizing documents for parishioners. Just call to make an appointment.
- Please remember that next weekend the diocese is requesting that all parishes take a census of the number of people attending mass. Doing so in the middle of a pandemic makes no sense to me, since it will not reflect our normal weekend numbers.
October 6, 2020
The Increased Offertory Campaign (IOC) for our parish has started. You should be receiving a letter this week over my signature seeking your support and cooperation. I know this is a very difficult time, but the diocese is requesting all parishes to participate either in the IOC or continue with the Cardinal’s Appeal. Since we exceeded our goal in the Cardinal’s Appeal, there was only one choice for us. Please keep in mind, that in less than two years, the diocese will accelerate its decision-making about the survivability of parishes, including the Magdalene.
During this pandemic our Easter collection was down about 15% and our weekly collection is down roughly 5-10%. The IOC is an opportunity to ensure the vitality of our parish and its future. While there has never been a question of not meeting our financial obligations (both parish and diocesan), a strong parish response to the IOC can only enhance our profile.
1. Dot Meehan and I have come to the regrettable decision to postpone both First Communion and Confirmation to next spring 2021. In the midst of this pandemic the safety of our children and our families comes first. It is obvious that we, as a nation, have yet to contain the spread of this virus. Hypothetically, if only ONE attendee at First Communion or Confirmation tests positive within two weeks of either event, contact tracing of everyone present at these events would be required. In addition, the parish would be forced to suspend all masses for two weeks. I would need to quarantine for two weeks and be unable to officiate at funerals and previously scheduled baptisms and weddings. Keep in mind that our children are back in school, an environment that may prove risky in the next month (as the Pleasantville Middle School has learned), making them potential asymptomatic carriers of the virus. First Communion and Confirmation will bring more people together in our church than any other service since the beginning of the pandemic last March. My concern
is the possible long-term damage to the confidence in our protocols that our parishioners have the right to expect before they return to mass. Also, a mistake in judgement on our part will put us on the diocesan radar screen, to say nothing of the local press, and not in a positive way. As some of you may know, Holy Innocents in Pleasantville and Holy Rosary in Hawthorne have had issues with someone testing positive at their First Communion and Confirmation ceremonies, disrupting their normal operations. The benefits of going forward with First Communion and Confirmation at this time, do not outweigh the risks. In sum, we will work out multiple services next spring to accommodate the sacramental needs of our children. More specific plans and options will be communicated to parents of First Communion children by next week.
2. As I observe the distribution of communion at our masses on the weekend, it seems we have a traffic jam at the side aisle, making social distancing impossible. Any suggestions? One possibility is to distribute communion at the back of the church and return by way of the side aisles. Thoughts? My concern is that as we enter fall and winter, with both flu and virus, we must strengthen our safety protocols. A reminder, if you are sick, please remain home. I will have my bi-monthly covid test tomorrow.
3. On the weekend of October 17-18 the diocese is requesting that we take a “count” of those who attend mass and provide other parish stats. The diocesan memorandum makes it clear that the diocese is in a “planning” stage regarding the future of parishes. However, I do not know of any parish that can provide accurate figures of communions, funerals, baptisms, etc. in the midst of a pandemic, when services were suspended for several months. How would we look if we stated that on that weekend only 120 people attended mass? It will give a false picture of our normal weekend attendance. In my opinion, this is not the right time for a census, but we will comply.
4. We have submitted to our envelop company, as requested, our Christmas schedule. Bear in mind, however, that there may be a need to alter our
schedule, depending on the status of the virus and social distancing requirements.
5. Last weekend’s mass attendance: 5pm, 39; 9am, 58; 11am, 33. This is 36% of our normal attendance.
6. On next Saturday, October 10th at 1pm there will be the public recitation of the rosary on our front lawn led by Rosemarie McManus. This year’s intention will be for our nation.
7. Fr. Dietz’s funeral mass has been archived at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Scarsdale. Go to the IHM website and look for mass streaming to call up the funeral mass.
8. A reminder: There will be no 8am mass on Columbus Day, October 12
September 29, 2020
This past week we received a nice donation from the mother of one of our parishioners who lives in Florida, but watches our live streaming mass on Sunday. She was very kind in her words of appreciation. She most especially appreciates the fact that my homilies are not 30 minutes long as in her home parish. That parish will remain unnamed! By the way, any priest who preaches for 30 minutes needs to be sentenced to 30 minutes of exposure to gas powered leaf blowers.
1. Speaking of the live streaming. If you tried to contact the rectory by email last Thursday and over the weekend, we had no internet access. Verizon was reconfiguring our internet service to add a new IP address for the live streaming camera. Representatives of LocalLive.Tv, the streaming company, were at the church today to survey the environment to ensure the best service. We hope to have the permanent installation up and running for First Communion and Confirmation. Of course, what we did not contemplate was that Verizon will be charging us an extra fee per month for the new IP address. As Gomer Pyle would say: “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!”
2. If any parents or grandparents in our parish have children or grandchildren in one of our Catholic high schools within the archdiocese (diocesan or private), please let me know.
3. During the past week two couples, who were scheduled to be married here last summer, and have rescheduled for next year, asked if a civil marriage now would jeopardize a future church wedding? The simple answer is “No.” While the church does not recognize a civil marriage between two Catholics as a valid marriage, the fact is that for legal reasons during this pandemic, couples want to settle certain legal issues now: wills, insurance, leases, deeds, bank accounts, etc. as married partners. Understandable. Preparing for marriage is difficult enough to begin with.
Preparing for marriage during a pandemic adds an extra level of complexity.
4. Many of our parishes in the archdiocese are under tremendous pressure (in finances and staffing) due to the pandemic and accumulated issues. In the past week alone two pastors took leaves of absence. I feel extremely fortunate to be here at the Magdalene. My sincere thanks to all our parishioners and our staff.
5. Last weekend’s attendance: 5pm, 42; 9am, 52; 11am, 43. The 9am was our highest attendance since the beginning of the pandemic. This weekend attendance was 39% of our normal pre-pandemic attendance.
6. Another reminder: if you receive an email or text message allegedly from me, be skeptical. If you have doubts, call the rectory.
7. Yesterday’s New York Times had a profile of students taking their SATs at Sleepy Hollow HS last Saturday. I thought the last line of the article was a perfect commentary on our times: “Proud parents greeted their children with hugs in the parking lot, brandishing doughnuts and Clorox wipes.”
8. I understand that the diocese has sent out postcards for the Increased Offertory Campaign. They didn’t waste any time! My gut tells me that the next few months will be a challenge for all of us. Do the best you can. Remember, family comes first.
9. The family of Fr. Dietz would like to share the following message to our parishioners:
“The family of Fr. Joe Dietz would like to thank everyone who sent a card, said a prayer, stopped by the viewing, or attended the funeral mass for our beloved brother and uncle. The outpouring of support that we received, and the stories you have shared with us about our uncle Joe, validated what we as a family already knew. He was wonderful, kind, generous man who always put others before self. He was our wounded healer, our patriarch and the rock of our family. We are happy to know that he was all of that, and more, to so many of you. He showed us how to
live with humility and to die with dignity, and for that we will always be grateful. His one song request for his funeral was “Only This I want.” The lyrics of that song sum up the last few weeks of his life as he battled cancer. ‘Only this I want: but to know the Lord, and to bear his cross so to wear the crown he wore. I will run the race, I will fight the good fight, so to win the prize of the kingdom of my Lord.’ He is home. May he rest in eternal peace.”
September 22, 2020
Our parish mourns the death of its former pastor, Fr. Joe Dietz.
Fr. Joe was buried today from Immaculate Heart of Mary in Scarsdale. Please continue to remember him in your prayers. Fr. Joe is fondly remembered here at the Magdalene as an approachable and hard-working pastor. Thank you to the many parishioners who took time to attend the wake and pay their respects. One of Fr. Joe’s nephews handed me a set of keys he found in Fr. Joe’s car. They were keys to the church and parish hall. In a way, it was Fr. Joe’s final farewell and connection to a parish he loved. May he rest in peace.
- As we enter the fall and flu season it is imperative that we follow all safety protocols to the best of our ability. With Europe now experiencing a second spike in the virus, exercising caution is the reasonable way to proceed. Last week, a pastor in the Bronx, and ten of his parishioners, tested positive for the virus. That there are those who refuse to wear masks (not here), is astounding. As I mentioned at daily mass this past week, in the military every soldier is issued ear protection as part of their uniform. Whether you were firing your weapon on a firing range or just standing there watching, ear protection was mandatory. In my years in the priesthood I have met WWII veterans who served in the artillery and were legally deaf from exposure to the constant firing of heavy artillery. Having had the opportunity to fire a 155mm Howitzer, I get the picture. Protective gear exists for a reason. Please protect yourself and others. While we do maintain some masks at the back of the church, please try to remember to bring your own. Incidentally, I have already received my flu shot and will have my next Covid test tomorrow.
- The diocese will be sending out a letter, probably before the end of October, over my signature, requesting that our parishioners consider increasing their weekly donations. As I have written previously, this request comes not from me, but from the diocese. We are not in need here at the Magdalene, thanks to your generosity, but we do have well-established community out-reach organizations within our parish orbit. Assisting them will be one of our priorities, and gladly so.
- The new lavalier mic system and transmitter were installed in the church last Friday afternoon. It is working perfectly. The technicians discovered a cut wire in the attic to one of the speakers in the church. Maybe an animal? They will return to repair the wire. We are still waiting for some technical issues to be resolved before the permanent installation of live streaming. From what I understand, we need a static IP address from Verizon for the camera to be controlled from a remote location. We are waiting on Verizon to respond.
- We have initiated preparations for the start of our religious education classes through our website. The distribution of books started after the 9 and 11 masses on Sunday and through the week. If there are any questions, please contact Dot Meehan at 631.0529, x106.
- Last weekends’ attendance: 5pm, 41; 9am, 51; 11am, 38. This is roughly 37% of our normal weekend attendance. Roughly 70 households tuned in to our live streaming of the 9am mass. Unfortunately, we have no number of how many households may have tuned in later in the day. Despite our low numbers (other parishes are experiencing the same), your generosity to our parish remains extremely high. Thank you.
- The two babies who were baptized last weekend took the pouring of water in stride. No fussing. Next weekend five babies will be baptized, including two sets of cousins. We welcome them and their families.
- I understand that some parishes are setting specific times for parishioners to have “drive-by” communion in the parish parking lot. Sorry, but I cannot think of a more undignified manner in distributing the Eucharist. Not in my 33 years in the army did I ever simply drive into a bivouac site and hand out communion. There was either a mass or brief communion service, uniting word and sacrament. Be patient, with everyone taking the proper precautions, we can beat this pandemic.
September 15, 2020
I finally received an answer from the Archdiocese about the possibility of two Catholics getting married outdoors in a reception venue, in order to avoid a closed space like a church where the Covid virus might more easily spread. Evidently, I was not the only priest to raise this issue in the archdiocese. I was made to understand that the Cardinal is opposed to these outdoor weddings. He believes that churches have proven to be safe when all the protocols are followed: masks, social distancing, hand sanitizing. Let me say that we have had two weddings here at the Magdalene since the inception of the pandemic. Both were small scale and safe. But I do understand the concern many have about closed spaces. We can mitigate risks but not eliminate them completely. I was surprised to learn last week, at the burial of a WWII veteran, that the protocol for handing over the American flag to a family member has changed during this pandemic. The honor guard no longer presents the flag directly, but hands it off to the funeral director, who presents it to the family. Since the honor guard is masked and gloved, this adjustment seems excessive to me, and somewhat impersonal at a very delicate moment.
- With seven baptisms on our schedule in the next two weeks, parents want to know if we are following the established and recommended protocols, and especially if I have been tested for the virus. I am tested every two weeks. So far, so good.
- My sincere thanks to one of our parishioners who will fund the purchase of the new portable mic (lavalier) system because of the FCC required change of frequency. Once the new portable mic system is in place, and the permanent live streaming equipment is installed, we should be able to communicate more effectively and adaptively with our parishioners.
- In the next several months there will be special diocesan second collections. Do your best. These second collections are not garnering the usual response from parishioners in our parishes. No surprise. We send to the diocese only the amount we collect in these collections. We do not add parish funds to inflate the total amount.
- A reminder: church occupancy at the present time, due to the pandemic, is 33%. At present, at our Sunday masses, we are averaging 20% occupancy at each mass. Last weekend’s attendance: 5pm, 41; 9am, 41; 11am, 43.
- My thanks to Dot Meehan and our parish CCD staff for putting together a virtual program for our religious education students. At this time, in class presentations remain risky. Keeping our children safe is our priority.
- The parking lots have been lined. Please remember to honor the handicap location.
- A question about cremation is posed periodically, more so now during this pandemic. Cremation is allowed by the church. A funeral mass may be celebrated with ashes present, instead of a casket. Family members usually place a photo of the deceased next to the ashes. The funeral ritual remains the same. At the present time most parishes are not allowing altar servers, lectors, or Eucharistic ministers at funerals or other parish masses. Many do not allow eulogies at funerals. Here at the Magdalene we allow family members to do the readings and to give a eulogy, keeping my fingers crossed that the eulogy is brief!
- Due to a printing error, the envelope for St. Joseph’s Seminary Collection on September 27th says “Make checks out to Resurrection Church.” Checks are made out to the Magdalene. Of all the parishes that do not need extra money, Resurrection tops the list. I am presently on LBI and will return to the rectory Thursday evening. Please keep Fr. Dietz in your prayers.
Sept 8, 2020
If you attended the 9 or 11 two weekends ago you probably heard crackling noise from the church sound system. The portable mic that I wear was the source of the distraction. The transmitter dates from 2010 and operates on a 600MHz service spectrum. July 13, 2020 was the last date the FCC allowed the use of the 600 MHz spectrum for wireless mics, since the 600MHz frequencies were being repurposed by the FCC. What does this mean for us? You guessed it. We need to purchase a new portable mic system, known as a lavalier, which operates on a 500MHz bandwidth. Considering that we are moving into permanent live streaming, I believe it is important that we have the best audio capabilities possible. The cost of updating the equipment, sit tight, will be $2,142.00. As they say, it is what it is.
1. My sincere thanks to a generous couple in our parish who made a donation to cover the cost of the permanent installation of live streaming for one year. The $3500 cost covers equipment and service. It is important that our parishioners have as much access as possible to what takes place in our parish. When I was ordained a priest 48 years ago I never thought I would be live streaming masses during a pandemic. I am very appreciative of this gesture of generosity from our parishioners.
2. Just so you know, beside the Covid test I take every two weeks, I recently had the antibody blood test. It was negative, meaning I have not had the virus. As you may have heard, the priests at Holy Innocents in Pleasantville have been in a 14 day quarantine since they came into contact with a person who tested positive for the virus. Complicating matters was the fact that they held First Communion after coming into contact with that person, thereby requiring everyone who was present at First Communion to be contacted and tested. Since we will be holding First Communion and Confirmation in October, our concern at the
Magdalene is that an attendee may unknowingly have the virus. It is critically important that anyone who feels sick stay home. Please follow the established protocols. After Labor Day, do not be surprised if we see a spike in the number of people who test positive for the virus, especially among college students returning home from closed campuses. If that becomes the case, we will need to revisit our plans for First Communion and Confirmation. You should know that in the next 30 days we have 7 baptisms scheduled and one wedding, followed by two First Communions and Confirmation.
3. Last weekend’s mass attendance: 5pm, 40; 9am, 46; 11am, 35. This is roughly 33% of our normal weekend attendance.
4. During this pandemic some of our parishioners have been in and out of hospitals for other medical reasons. As you may know, hospitals do not allow any visitors, including family members, because of this pandemic. We want you to know that we are thinking and praying for all our parishioners who are receiving medical care. You are not forgotten.
5. Next Sunday, September 13th, our 9am mass will be offered for all those intentions that could not be honored due to the suspension of masses from March 15th.
6. Believe it or not, someone is still dumping household junk on our property. The culprit is a woman with a ponytail in a 4 door black SUV. The license plate is not NY, but it is difficult to determine the state from the video. The “crime” takes place around 4pm. It is a shame that despite all we do to keep the property beautiful, our efforts are marred by this willful behavior.
7. I hope to take some days off next week, from the 14th through the 17th, barring any unexpected funerals or a hurricane. As a consequence, there will be no morning mass at 8:00 on those days. The church will be open at the usual hour. Sr. Flo Reilly and friends will lead a prayer service for those who are present. If there is a last minute change, it will be announced at next Sunday’s masses.
8. Again, be warned that emails or text messages seeking money or help in my name are not from me. I didn’t realize I was so popular!
9. Fr. Joe Dietz, our former pastor, is facing a serious medical challenge and asks for your prayers. While he would like to hear from friends, talking on
Sept 1, 2020
During the past week the parking lot was sealed. Lining the parking lot for parking with handicap spaces remains to be done. On another matter, we attempted to install sanitizing dispensers in the church. We discovered that the bags of sanitizing liquid did not fit the dispensers that were ordered. As a consequence, we are returning everything to the distributor for a refund. In the meantime, please carry your own personal bottle of sanitizer. My visits to different churches in the last two weeks made me realize that dripping dispensers required that a pan or plate on the floor was necessary to catch some of the errant sanitizer. For the classrooms in our school, we will provide a large bottle of sanitizer rather than a dispenser.
- Through the dedicated work of Pete LiMarzi we have completed the necessary power and audio wiring to the back of the church in preparation for the installation of the camera for permanent live streaming. We will be retaining the services of Local Live Networks of Stamford, CT. The fee will be $3500 a year. This fee includes the live broadcasting of 60 events per year. These events will include weekly Sunday mass (9:00am). We will be looking to include First Communion, Confirmation, Good Friday, etc. If and when we exceed the 60 events, there will be a $50 charge for each event. If families desire to live stream a family wedding or funeral, we will require an additional fee to the normal parish offering. The camera will be operated remotely by a staff member of Local Live from a control room in Stamford, CT. All events will be archived by Local Live on Amazon cloud and a link will be provided so that parishioners can access past events. Once Local Live completes their installation work in the church, we will have a starting date and the access procedures. In the interim, we will continue with the help of Sarah Haase and post our masses on our parish Facebook page.
- Last Sunday attendance: 5pm, 40; 9am, 47; 11am, 47. This is roughly 38% of our normal weekend attendance. It is also the highest number of attendees since the lockdown on March 15.
- AA and our parish knitting group have requested to resume their use of the parish hall. Since both organizations are committed to following all the safety guidelines, they may commence at their convenience.
- Last week I received several requests from prospective brides and grooms about the possibility of officiating at the weddings of two Catholics in an outdoor reception venue, to avoid a closed space (like a church), maintain social distancing, and provide an extra measure of protection for elderly guests. I have a call in to the diocese and am waiting for a response. I am not hopeful, but I thought I would inquire. I do know for a fact that Bishop Caggiano in Bridgeport has given such permission on a case by case basis.
- Thank you for your weekly contributions. We are very fortunate here at the Magdalene to be financially secure because of your generosity. The only major expenditures, at the present time, are for the sealing of the parking lot and the contract for live streaming.
- We wish all our students a safe start to a new academic year. Our prayers are with our parents and teachers as they try to negotiate a new landscape. Working together we can do what needs to be done.
August 25, 2020
My sympathy goes out to all the gardeners in our parish who are growing tomatoes. I have heard that squirrels and chipmunks are wreaking havoc on gardens, especially on the tomato crop, engorging themselves on this summer delicacy. Do they know something we should be aware of? If we start seeing manna from heaven, prepare for 40 years of wandering in the desert. 1. Mass attendance last weekend: 5pm, 35; 9am, 45, 11am, 41. Forty-nine households watched the 9am mass live. We have no count of how many households watched the mass later in the day. Consider: we have 620 registered households in the parish. If we were to take the number of those in attendance on Sunday (roughly 121 individuals, not households), as measured against our pre-pandemic number (340 individuals), it means that we are seeing only 35% of our normal attendance. I understand that social distancing at the present time must be taken into account when drawing conclusions, and that this pandemic has skewed attendance figures in all parishes. However, our pre-pandemic number (340 individuals) is a very small percentage of our registered households (620). If we can assume that each household has at least 2 individuals, it means that only 20-25% of our parishioners attend mass weekly at the Magdalene. Why do I bring this up? Because I will be eligible for retirement next July 1, which means the parish will automatically come up on the diocesan radar screen. While the parish is financially strong because of your wonderful generosity, nevertheless, the diocese will be making a decision about the future of the Magdalene and other parishes as it wrestles with a severe personnel shortage. As one of my grammar school nuns used to say: “A word to the wise is sufficient.” I am not sure I understood what that meant 65 years ago, but I hope we understand what it means today for the future of our parish. 2. Thanks to Pete LiMarzi, we have started to wire the church today for the permanent installation of live streaming, with a fixed camera and audio connection with our PA system. 3. AA has requested to resume their weekly meetings in our parish hall. We are working on some final details, keeping in mind the present health and safety protocols required
August 18, 2020
Yesterday I received the following note from Fr. Reynolds:
“Dear John, The long lockdown has convinced me that it is time for me to retire from the Magdalene. My balance in walking is deteriorating and I am facing an eye operation sometime in the near future to correct macular degeneration in my left eye. I have enjoyed my almost 9 years of service and am especially grateful to Joe Dietz and you for making this work so enjoyable. Please remember me to all in the parish. My prayers will be with you always. With best wishes, Joe.”
On behalf of the parish I wish Fr. Reynolds well and thank him for his service to our parish. For those who wish to contact him directly, his address is: 5655 Arlington Ave, Bronx, NY 10471. The absence of Fr. Reynolds will require us to look at our weekend mass schedule sooner than expected, keeping in mind that as long as social distancing remains in effect, there will be no change to the present schedule.
1. The cracks in the parking areas have been pre-treated prior to the actual sealing of the parking lot. As soon as we have a target date for the actual sealing please keep in mind that all parking on church property will be suspended for 2 days.
2. Last Wednesday, August 12th, the rectory lost cell service, landline service, internet, and TV. If you tried to contact the church and received no response, now you know why. The service was intermittent through Sunday the 16th. Considering the fact that the area was without power for 5 days the week before, this tropical storm did as much damage as Super Storm Sandy.
3. Thank you for your comments and observations on the FlockNotes relating to our Sunday mass schedule and live-streaming. Since we are
still restricted by social distancing, combining the 9 and 11 on Sundays to one 10am mass is not feasible at this time. In doing so we would be placing too many people in close proximity in a closed space while the virus remains a threat to all of us. If, by January, social distancing restrictions have been lifted, and the mass attendance has not increased appreciably, implementing one 10am mass would be the way to go. There is now added urgency with the absence of Fr. Reynolds.
4. As for live streaming, Pete LiMarzi and I met with another vendor on the 12th. The proposal seemed to be the most reasonable and doable, with remote control from a studio of an installed camera in the back of the church. This would allow a wider view of the church and close-up of the sanctuary. Details of the contract will be provided once we complete the additional wiring in the church necessary for a direct audio input to our sound system. We are aware that our present live streaming, at times, does not provide the best audio. There is not much we can do about that, although we have tried. With few people in attendance at the 9am mass, there is an echo factor we cannot minimize. Also, our present live streaming is not directly connected to our PA system. The audio, at present, is coming through a secondary source (cell phone) and not directly through our PA system. They didn’t teach any of us this in the seminary! Who knew? I would love to have all this in place, if possible, by October, when we will have First Communion and Confirmation.
5. It appears that the household items left at our church were intended for the Union Church. Items were also left there, even though the Union Church was not prepared to receive them. One would think that people would call first to ensure they are following the right directions before burdening others. It brings to mind the old expression: “Hell is paved with good intentions.”
6. I had a funeral last week in Fishkill. Since the parish has a major retirement community, it is not allowing, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, and servers to participate in any masses while the pandemic holds sway.
No family members were allowed to do the readings or give a eulogy. One parish here in Westchester (which will remain nameless) has chosen to eliminate eucharistic ministers permanently. Here at the Magdalene we have adopted a cautious, but measured approach, which seems to be working. As I mentioned previously, I am hesitant to bring back altar servers at this time until I see if our local schools can protect our children from the virus in a classroom setting. Thank you to everyone who is attending mass and following all the proper protocols.
7. If you saw the present edition of Catholic New York (August 13), there was a great photo of our 125th anniversary mass. It was used to highlight an article on the eucharist.
8. I have received from the diocese the official notice that every pastor/administrator will be required to conduct one of three options for fundraising: Continue with the Cardinal’s Appeal (not an option for us); Renew and Rebuild (not relevant to us): Increased Offertory Collection. By the process of elimination, we have but one choice. The diocese will inform me of the mechanics of this option. I can hardly wait.
9. Last Sunday’s mass attendance: 5pm, 45; 9am, 34; 11am, 38. I want to thank Thomas for filling in for Sarah Haase in setting up the live streaming of the 9am mass.
10. Seven hand sanitizers for the church and other venues have arrived. I will consult with members of the Buildings and Grounds Committee before installing them.
11. Remember, the 9:00am mass on September 13 will be offered for all the requested mass intentions that could not be fulfilled while masses were suspended because of the pandemic. You should also know that since the start of the pandemic we have lost 12 priests from various causes, as well as a number of deacons.
August 11, 2020
Next Saturday is August 15, the Feast of the Assumption. Since the Feast falls on a Saturday, it is not a holy day of obligation this year. However, it would not be a day of obligation since no Sunday or Holy Day, due to the pandemic, is obligatory at this time.
1. Thank you for your responses to the FlockNotes. It is good to know they are being read. All suggestions are welcome. Some we can implement easily, others require more deliberation. Also, your donations to the parish are gratifying and deeply appreciated.
2. We survived the recent tropical storm without any damage. Like everyone else in Pocantico, we lost power. Fortunately, our generator kicked in to provide power to the rectory and lights to the church, but no air conditioning to either. The storm also made it impossible for me to get my regular Covid test last Wednesday, since the testing building had no power. I will try again tomorrow.
3. Thank you to our lectors and Eucharistic ministers for resuming their ministries. So far, so good. I am waiting to see how the school year begins before inviting back our altar servers. I do not want to lose the momentum of keeping them connected to the parish. Of course, I will leave the final decision to their parents.
4. Since mass attendance has been low, this might be the right time to have our parking lot sealed before the winter months. It’s due. I will keep you posted on the timetable.
5. On Thursday I have an appointment to interview another vendor concerning live streaming. I am intrigued by the written proposals which offer three possible packages at different, reasonable price points. Off-site control of the camera(s) is a very attractive inducement. That we nail down a system has become more imperative, since I am already getting
requests for live streaming funerals and weddings. Once a decision is made, we will nominally raise the church fee for any event live streamed, to help defray the cost of the service provided.
6. Had there been no pandemic, I would have been cruising at this time from Amsterdam to Scotland to Iceland to Norway. Instead, I am planning an oil change for my car. How exciting!
7. Unfortunately, once again, someone has left a whole pile of household trash at the front entrance of the CCD building. With the blackout, we were not able to review the video tape. It was sometime last Friday. If anyone has a lead, please let us know. I thank Carl for doing the grunt work of seeing that the items were removed from the property.
8. Today marks my 74th birthday. Not of any specific significance, except that it marks one year before my eligibility for retirement next summer (July 1, 2021). The cardinal called this morning to wish me a happy birthday and to see how we were doing. I assume the diocese will enter into “negotiations” with me sometime after the New Year. It is during this period that I will be able to determine the diocese’s long term plans for our parish. I believe in complete transparency. Once I know what the diocese intends, you will know.
August 4, 2020
Our parish offers its condolences to Fr. Bob Verrigni, our former pastor, on the death of his mother Alma on July 28th. Mrs. Verrigni was 95 years old. Donations in her memory may be made to Rosary Hill Home in Hawthorne. Please remember her in your prayers.
1. Presently, we are seeking teachers for the following grades in our CCD program: 2, 6, 7. We are also looking for teaching assistants for grades 2 and 6. Please contact Dottie Meehan directly at 914.552.7628 or at email@example.com.
2. Last weekend’s mass attendance: 5pm: 40; 9am: 29; 11am: 41. That is roughly 31% of our normal attendance. About 74 households watched mass live from the Magdalene. More households watched a recording of the mass later in the day.
3. The latest proposal we have received for a permanent live streaming installation is $6900, which is 50% less than the last proposal we received. As you can tell, there is a wide divergence among the three proposals we have received ($14,000+, $10,000+, $6,900+). Comparing the various specs of each proposal is time consuming but critically important if we are to meet the future needs of our parish. The one thing in our favor is that we are tax exempt! We have just come across another option yesterday and will be evaluating it.
4. We had 2 baptisms this past weekend. As some of you know, there is part of the ceremony where the parents and godparents hold a small lighted candle and keep it in memory of the baptism. After the ceremony both godfathers tried to blow out the candle. Just imagine trying to blow out a candle with a mask on. Quite memorable! The thought occurred to me that, to test the effectiveness of your face mask, try to blow out a candle wearing your mask. If you can blow the candle out, you need a better face mask.
5. During the past week the diocese appointed a permanent administrator for Holy Rosary in Hawthorne and a temporary administrator for Valhalla. To my knowledge, there has been no formal or informal discussion of the future of any parish, as we wrestle with the pandemic and the lack of priests. Today was the Feast of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests. With the number of parish priests quickly dwindling, the Church needs to entertain more creative responses to the shortage. With the present low turnout of parishioners at mass and the financial pressures the diocese (not us) is facing, I have to believe that sometime in the next year the future of parishes will be on the diocesan agenda, just as the future of parochial schools has been the recent focus. I will keep you posted.
6. Tomorrow I will be tested again for the Covid virus. Please stay safe and follow all the recommended protocols.
July 28, 2020
Last Tuesday, the 21st, an unknown person deposited used household trash at the main entrance of the CCD building. As Warner Wolf, the sportscaster, used to proclaim: “Let’s go to the video tape.” I reviewed our security tape. The incidence occurred at roughly 4:30pm. It was a woman driving a black Honda CRV. She was wearing a green top. Rather than pay to have it hauled away, Carl divided the trash for separate pickups at the curb. A reminder: We do not have any full-time employees at the Magdalene to clean up after someone. I thank Carl for pitching in. I wonder what other surprises this summer will bring?
1. With the substantial decline in mass attendance, it is difficult to find a volunteer to transport the food items left in the back of the church to the food pantry. Thank you for keeping the food pantry in your generosity, but it might be more efficient to bring food donations directly to the pantry in Tarrytown.
2. Our mass attendance last weekend was the lowest since we resumed in-person mass: 5pm, 37; 9am, 26; 11am, 23. Recovery is not going to be easy for the church in America. Prepare for a difficult year. As I mentioned previously, in January we will make an assessment of our mass schedule, possibly reducing our Sunday masses to one. There will be ample time to solicit the observations of all affected constituencies. Having the emails of our parishioners is crucial in communicating news and events.
3. It seems that a beautiful red fox has taken up residence somewhere around the rectory grounds. It has been spotted about three times. We welcome this new parishioner and hope it finds a warm welcome at the Magdalene. Once we pin down its exact location, church envelops will be on the way.
4. It is my understanding that the governor will announce the state’s plan for re-opening schools on August 7. Our CCD program will then make the appropriate adjustments to meet the needs of our children.
5. A reminder: the 2021 mass book is now open. A number of our parishioners have used the opportunity to book masses for deceased relatives and friends. Please call the rectory first to ensure that someone will be available to assist you.
6. The diocese has requested that we provide the most updated parish mailing list by the end of this week. They will use this list as the foundation for the “Increased Offering” campaign sometime this fall. I mentioned this in the last FlockNote. Once we get a timetable from the diocese on how this campaign works, I will let you know. The diocese (not me) will be asking you to increase your weekly donation.
7. I continue to be tested every two weeks for the Covid virus. So far, so good. Thank you to all those attending mass. We have 100% cooperation in the safety procedures. It is good to see some of our youngest parishioners slowly returning.
8. During the past week, Catholic Mutual, the insurer for diocesan buildings, conducted their annual inspection of our buildings. The two recommendation: recharge the fire extinguishers and repair the concrete walkway leading to the backdoor of the school building. Normally the extinguishers are automatically recharged by our vendor. I suspect the pandemic threw off their timetable. As for the walkway, we are soliciting proposals for the concrete repair. All else is quiet.
July 21, 2020
I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who contributed to the Cardinal’s Appeal during this most difficult time for our church and nation. Our goal was $48,000. As of this date we now have pledges totaling $51,316. This is an extraordinary accomplishment, especially considering the economic shadow under which we are living. How did we do this? Several of our parishioners, who were able to do so, stepped up most generously. Thank you!!
1. Please observe the recommended precautions regarding the pandemic. A few individuals are arriving for mass without masks. We do have extra masks in the back of the church. Consideration for others is a hallmark of Christianity. Otherwise, we are doing well here at the Magdalene.
2. Some have asked how we are doing financially? With “We Share,” mailed-in and dropped-off envelopes, and the in-person Sunday collection, we are doing just fine. In fact, we are in very good shape, even though our Easter collection was nowhere near our usual intake. And remember, we eliminated our once-a-month second parish collection this past January. My sincere thanks for your vote of confidence in sustaining the stability of our parish. My concern is that, if the diocese goes forward with its plan to initiate an “Increased Offertory” campaign in our parish this fall, as intended, what justification do I use in asking you for more money? I have none! It is abhorrent to me to see any extra money we may collect from such a campaign be used to sustain other parishes that were allowed to use hundreds of thousands of dollars from their “Renew and Rebuild” campaign to make cosmetic and peripheral changes to their churches, rectories, and parish buildings, based on the
theological, liturgical, and personal preferences of individual pastors. Once I hear more about this campaign, I will share it with you. Presently, the diocese is asking us to update our parish mailing list (which we do periodically). As I look toward the future, I can envision one possible solution: increasing our generosity to local charities. We will cross that bridge when we come to it. In any event, I will be seeking input from the parish council, finance council, and others.
3. Last Sunday’s attendance was: 5pm: 50; 9am: 28; 11am: 30. The 5pm was our highest attendance since pandemic shut down, March 15th. My real concern is that we, and other parishes, will never return to the ante-pandemic numbers in weekly attendance. Time will tell. We are still seeking proposals for a permanent live streaming installation. Each Sunday roughly 65 households tune in to our 9:00 mass live. We do not know how many view a recording of the mass later in the day. Calculating the number of people in attendance at mass and those households watching mass live on our Facebook account, we are reaching roughly 45% of our parishioners. The number may be higher, depending on those viewing our mass later in the day.
4. The next major decision in our nation will involve our school children and their education. This week the diocese announced its plans for in-school instruction. We have yet to be informed of what local school districts will be doing. We would like to be prepared here at the Magdalene. At the present time we are in need of teachers and assistants for our religious education program: the 3rd, 6th, and 7th grades. If interested, please call Dottie Meehan at 914.631.0529, x106.
5. A reminder: the 2021 mass book is open. Also, with the postponements of 2020 weddings to 2021, it is important that parishioners contemplating a 2021 wedding check in with the rectory to confirm available
July 14, 2020
The announcement last Thursday that the diocese has chosen to close 20 parochial and regional grammar schools, and merge three others into one, reflects the increased financial pressure the diocese is presently experiencing. I can only suspect that we will see a cascading series of announcements in the months ahead concerning cutbacks, personnel changes, the consolidation of services, etc. Here at the Magdalene we are very fortunate to be self-sustaining while also generously supporting diocesan programs. Thank you!
(1) In the past I have been going for a weekly Covid test. The diocese has now reduced the frequency of testing to every other week. So far, so good. We cannot let down our guard. The nurse who tested me last week is a parishioner at a Bronx parish I am familiar with. Did I get an earful! Let me just say that we should count our blessings.
(2) A reminder that July 22nd is the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. We will be celebrating our parish patron at next weekend’s masses, July 18-19. We will be using the Preface of Mary Magdalene for the first time since the Vatican approved it a few months ago.
(3) Also next weekend, specifically Saturday, July 18th at 2pm, the Riverfront Clergy are sponsoring “We’re Listening,” outdoor rally for change at the Foster Memorial AME Zion Church on Wildey St. in Tarrytown. All are welcome to participate. Rain date is July 19th.
(4) We received the latest proposal for a permanent live streaming installation, $14,783. Really??
(5) Thanks to Phil Decandido for providing a plexiglass shield at the organ. This will allow Anne and Jim to continue to provide musical assistance to
the congregation with more secure social distancing. We continue to make adjustments as necessary in order to maintain the safety of everyone. This past week we changed the filters in our air conditioning system. Thank you for all your cooperation in keeping us safe in church. It seems that masks will be required for the foreseeable future.
(6) The 2021 mass book has arrived. It will now be possible to book masses for deceased relatives and friends for 2021. There still are many masses open for the remainder of 2020. At present we are hesitating to schedule routine parish events until we have more information about the status of the pandemic, the state’s regulations, and the diocese’s guidance. We are presently averaging 20-25% of our normal Sunday attendance.
(7) Cardinal’s Appeal update: goal, $48,000; pledged, $40,766. Thank you.
July 12, 2020
I hope you were able to enjoy our holiday weekend despite the restrictions we are living under. In last Sunday’s gospel Jesus invited all those who are weary and find life burdensome to come to him. That invitation still holds. Even
though many are still cautious about approaching church and attending mass (understandable), spending time at home in prayer is a great alternative.
1. This past Sunday at the 11am mass Greg Occhiogrosso, a parish teen, received the sacrament of confirmation. Greg was under instruction this past year and was slated to be confirmed at the Easter Vigil. The Covid virus changed those plans. We pray that Greg will be guided by the spirit of Jesus as he moves forward in life.
2. I went for my Covid test last Wednesday. Negative! However, I was surprised to learn that since I hold the position I do here at the Magdalene, I will be expected to be tested once a week by ArchCare at 115 Stevens Ave. in Valhalla. As Gomer Pyle used to say: “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!”
3. We keeping tweaking our protocols for mass. It is probably wiser that we keep our masks on when receiving communion. Keep mask on, take communion in the hand, lower the mask to receive communion on your way back to the pew. This may be awkward, but doable. We will have to be more cautious, now that this virus may work its way back north. We have already seen new isolated pockets in Westchester and Rockland. Thank you for your cooperation in keeping the parish safe. Once we let our guard down, we are in trouble!
4. Our Cardinal’s Appeal has made some small progress: Goal, $48,000. Pledged: $40,766. Thank you.
5. Last weekend’s attendance: 5pm: 29; 9am, 34; 11am, 35. Many are still hesitant about attending mass in person. Remember, you can attend during the week at 8:00am. Also, we continue to live stream Sunday at 9:00am. Our live streaming garners between 65-100 households each Sunday. I do not want to be a pessimist, but I think it will take months for parishes to return to normal. In the meantime, we do the best we can. However, I will be honest, it is not the same anymore. The momentum forward has been diminished.
6. We have resumed our basic office hours Monday-Friday for booking masses, obtaining sponsor certificates, seeking copies of baptismal, communion, and confirmation certificates, etc. Please call the rectory first.
7. Bishop Walsh is committed to officiate at our Confirmation Service on Saturday, October 24th at 1PM. This service will be for those who could not be confirmed this past May due to the virus. Dot Meehan will be in touch with the families affected.
8. The diocesan audit of our parish, which was interrupted for 4 months due to the virus, was finally concluded this week. The audit was for 2018 and 2019. Bottom line: We are still in business and solvent. Our financial situation is solid. I will implement two suggestions regarding the security of the Sunday collection. Thank you for your generosity in keeping the Magdalene humming along.
June 30, 2020
As we approach our national holiday, July 4, we offer prayers for national unity and a dedication to public health and safety, both presently in short supply.
1. Last Sunday at the 9am we had a parishioner who attended mass without a mask. I will not tolerate this defiance of the safety precautions this virus requires. I do not want to be told that wearing a mask is a means of government control. The policy of wearing masks has nothing to do with the government. It has to do with public safety. If you are not concerned about your own safety, at least have the Christian concern for the welfare of others. Keep in mind that we have people coming to mass who are undergoing treatment for cancer, have serious underlying medical issues, or are in a high risk demographic. In addition, it would be inadvisable for me to invite back Fr. Reynolds and Fr. Tolve at this time if everyone does not maintain the simple precautions that are required: masks, social distancing, and hand washing. Remember, both priests either work or live in high risk environments. If the head of a household can require visitors to wear a mask, then as head of the parish household I am obligated to protect the parish family. AS A CONSEQUENCE OF THIS BREACH OF PROTOCOL, IF YOU APPROACH THE ALTAR FOR COMMUNION WITHOUT A MASK, YOU WILL BE DENIED COMMUNION!!! I will not allow willful stupidity to trump common sense and place our parishioners at risk. Remember, it is easier to wear a mask than to wear a ventilator.
2. One of my friends reminded me that Amazon sells St. Joseph’s Sunday Missal. For those interested in purchasing their own missal with readings,
it sells for $1.99. I remember using the St .Joseph’s Sunday Missal before the Second Vatican Council revised the liturgy.
3. I needed a document notarized the other day when I was conducting business at Chase. I was informed that Chase preferred their employees not notarize during the pandemic, until proper barriers were installed. Since I know the manager, the document was notarized. If you need a notary, call the rectory and I will be happy to oblige.
4. In this pandemic please maintain safe practices. The fact is this pandemic is now raging in the south and west, with the possibility that we will see its return to the northeast, as in Chappaqua at the present time. We are still waiting for the hand sanitizers for church and school. We have the sanitizer, not the dispensers. We are also working on a small plexiglass barrier affixed to the organ, thereby providing Anne and Jim with a safe area to sing and to use the trumpet. Believe it or not, plexiglass is presently in short supply.
5. The archdiocese has set up a covit testing site in Valhalla for clergy. I have an appointment this week. I think of the line of President Nixon years ago: “People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook.” You have a right to know my medical status. I have no symptoms, but I can be an asymptomatic carrier of the virus. For this reason I have declined requests, at this time, to bring communion to our homebound parishioners. I will share the results of my test next weekend at mass.
6. Last weekend we saw 27 people at the 5; 30 at the 9; 40 at the 11. That is 27% of our normal attendance. It is obvious that recovering our former level of attendance will not be easy. Some parishes have chosen to eliminate masses from their schedule due to the poor attendance. As I noted in a previous FlockNote, our attendance in January 2021 and the status of the virus will dictate our course of action. We will continue to live stream the Sunday 9:00am mass on our parish Facebook page for the
foreseeable future. In the meantime it is a pleasure to welcome back our lectors and Eucharistic ministers. Soon we hope to invite back our altar servers.
7. Please enjoy the holiday weekend safely.
June 23, 2020
Dear Parishioners: A few short notes.
(1) This past weekend was the first time we resumed our regular Sunday schedule, with live streaming of our 9am mass. A few observations on how things went: Our 5pm mass had 25 attendees, as did our 9 and 11am. If my math is good, that means we had roughly 20% of our normal weekend attendance. Everyone had masks and maintained social distancing. As the number of attendees increases each week, we may have to alter some of the protocols. So far, so good. Our lectors and Eucharistic ministers are back on schedule. We will wait before asking altar servers to return, out of concern for their safety. We are still
waiting on the sanitizers for the church and the school. Remember, the obligation to attend Sunday mass is suspended at this time. You always have the option to attend mass during the week at 8:00am. Some have already taken advantage of this alternative. Masks are still required, as is social distancing. Also, we will continue to live stream mass at 9am on Sunday morning. There are missalettes in the back of the church which are yours to take home.
(2) We have reached $39,916 of our $48,000 Cardinal’s Appeal goal. Thank you.
(3) The diocese has given permission for parishes to use their halls and meeting places, limiting capacity to 50%.
(4) I hope to determine before August the availability of Fr. Reynolds and Fr. Tolve for the weekend liturgies. Both are in environments that are high risk for the virus: retirement home and prison. Our first priority is to ensure the safety of everyone, so we will proceed slowly. In the meantime I will be covering all the masses. All our summer weddings canceled. Some rebooked for next summer. Others have made no final decision on future plans. We have two baptisms scheduled for August. The several funerals we have had have gone off smoothly. If you have been following the news, experts expect to see spikes of the virus as states and municipalities open up. Churches and bars seem to be the most vulnerable. We cannot let down our guard in church.
(5) A number of graduations took place this week. Congratulations to our young people. We are proud of your accomplishments, especially under the most extraordinary circumstances imaginable, a world-wide pandemic. Stay safe this summer. It is so unusual to pass by the ball fields at Pocantico and see no activity. Hopefully that will change in short time.
(6) As a point of information for all who booked masses for deceased relatives and friends that could not be honored during the pandemic, your offering will remain in the parish account as part of our financial resources. If you choose otherwise, let us know. We have set Sunday, September 13 at 9:00am as the memorial mass for the missed mass intentions. We will be listing all the names of those for whom that mass will be offered. SINCE WE HAVE RESUMED DAILY AND WEEKEND MASSES, YOU MAY BOOK SPECIFIC MASSES FOR DECEASED RELATIVES AND FRIENDS. THERE ARE MANY OPEN MASSES THIS SUMMER. YOU MAY STOP BY OR CALL THE RECTORY.
(7) Because of the financial issues facing the diocese due to the pandemic, and the compensation required for the victims of clergy sexual abuse, the diocese has decided to forgo a salary increase for the clergy this coming September. It would be insensitive to have an increase when so many families are struggling financially. By the way, I am not aware of any clergy going to bed hungry! It is more important that our local food pantry be supported. Check out our website for photos of our teen food drive on the 14th. Many thanks to all involved.
(8) Please share with others that in order to keep in touch with all our parishioners through FlockNote, we need email addresses. Also, we live stream our 9am mass and will continue to do so through our parish Facebook account. All you need do is click on “Follow Us on Facebook” on our website. Some of our parishioners do not have computers and are not aware of the ways we are trying to communicate with them. Please share a copy of the parish FlockNote. By the way, we are waiting for another proposal next week on a permanent live streaming installation. My suspicion is that it will come in around $7500-$8500. I checked out a parish in New Hampshire where a permanent system is installed: $6500. The highest bid so far has been $10,000. Stay tuned.
June 16, 2020
Next Saturday and Sunday we will resume our regular mass schedule: 5pm on Saturday; 9 and 11 on Sunday. Please keep in mind that you must wear a mask and maintain social distancing in church. Since sanitizing dispensers are on backorder, please carry your own small bottle of sanitizer. The pews have been marked off for social distancing. WELCOME BACK!
1. Lectors will not be in the procession before mass. The use of altar servers will be temporarily suspended, so as to prevent their interaction with adult ministers. For the time being there will be no offertory procession. In receiving communion please maintain a 6 foot distance from your neighbor as you approach the altar. Only communion in the hand. In receiving communion, if you are wearing a glove, I would suggest not taking it off, even though the diocese is requiring that you do. My reasoning: Manipulating a glove on the communion line has the potential of spreading a virus. (Doctors and nurses working in hospitals know how properly to remove gloves after treating a patient). There will be no communion from the cup. At the kiss of peace a simple nod will do, but no handshaking. Try to restrain from singing. Singing projects droplets. I will try and take care of the singing with Anne Holland. At the present time mass attendance is limited to 25% capacity. For us that means roughly 50 people at each mass. We will see how this works. We will not be issuing tickets or monitoring how many people are at each mass, as some parishes are doing. If you feel unsafe, the best policy is to refrain from attending in person, watch the live stream, or attend a weekday mass. We will not be adding on any masses. It was imperative that our parishioners understand the safety procedures before we resume our regular Sunday schedule. To have opened up Sunday mass without understanding these precautions would have been irresponsible, especially during a life-threatening pandemic. A number of parishes here in Westchester chose to follow our path and will resume their Sunday schedule next weekend. Remember, if you feel sick, do not attend mass in person.
2. The church law obligating Sunday attendance is suspended for the present time. I have a suggestion: While the obligation to attend Sunday mass is suspended, think of coming to mass any day, Monday through Friday at 8:00am. WE HAVE RESUMED DAILY MASS.
3. Because of the limitations on attendance and the suspension of the obligation to attend, decisions are required concerning live streaming: what mass will be live streamed; where to place the equipment so as not to interfere with the congregation’s participation but, at the same time, provide a panorama of what is taking place in the sanctuary to those watching the live broadcast; will all the priests who celebrate with us be open to it; will the voices of priests and lectors be heard using only the cell phone to broadcast to those not physically present at mass, etc. Despite these unresolved issues: STARTING NEXT WEEKEND LIVE STREAMING WILL CONTINUE AT THE 9:00AM MASS ONLY. Tune in at 9:00am, not 10am. We will continue doing so each week. If you do not have Facebook, simply click “Follow Us On Facebook” on our website to access our live streaming. It is my hope that we can implement permanent live streaming in September using a permanent, in-house set-up, not a cell phone. Choosing the right platform to use (Facebook, YouTube, etc.) will be the most immediate and important decision. This past week we conducted a funeral (not a parishioner) that was broadcast live to Ireland for members of the family who could not attend. The platform used by the funeral home was TWITCH. I never heard of it. If any parishioner is familiar with it let me know. I will also make inquiries.
4. Bulletins are no longer available. Our website, FlockNotes, and email will be our standard ways of communicating. If we do not have your email, please submit it to the office. The information previously found in our printed bulletin will now be found on our website under “Bulletin.” This will include announced masses, community and diocesan news, parish activities, etc.
5. The missalettes are yours. Take them home. We will reserve a few for visitors and guests.
6. As we resume our regular schedule, I see no need to institute a second collection each month to make up for the lost donations during the height
of the pandemic, although some parishes have decided to do so, commencing this month. We are doing fine due to your sustained support. In terms of the Cardinal’s Appeal, it seems that we, like many parishes, have reached a plateau. Our pledged figure has barely moved in three weeks. Understandable. This leaves us roughly $9000 short of our goal. As they say in the movies: “It is what it is.”
7. Our teens conducted a food drive this past Sunday for the Tarrytown-Sleepy Hollow Community Food Pantry. It was a wonderful success for a worthy cause. My sincere thanks to Stephanie Fuller and Cathy Chulla for spear-heading this effort with other parishioners. The day also gave our teens an opportunity to socialize after three months of isolation. Catholic New York is preparing a brief story on our food drive, with photos. I would also like to give a shout out to Jimmy’s Soft Serve who donated his services. By the way, I was able to get a vanilla malted. I have not had a malted in years, reminding me of my days growing up in the Bronx visiting the local soda fountain.
8. Our neighboring parishes in Hawthorne and Valhalla are seeking new pastors, since both temporary administrators are leaving for new assignments. The diocese hopes to fill both parishes by July 1, not an easy task to accomplish.
9. If you need a notary, I am still available. I have had seven requests since the pandemic lockdown.
10. Next Sunday is Father’s Day. As if parents did not have enough responsibility, the pandemic has added to the burden: proving food for the table, meeting financial obligations, “home schooling” children, possible job insecurity, health concerns, etc. On Father’s Day we pray for all those who assume the role of father, that, with a steady hand, they will guide their families with wisdom and grace.
June 9, 2020
Our small upgrade of the equipment we are using on Sunday to live stream mass has received positive reviews. I would like to thank Sarah Haase for researching for a low-cost enhancement to our production. We are not through yet. We are still working on other options. For now, having a connection with parishioners, is the goal. I deem it extremely important that we not lose the flow of communication with each other through live streaming and Flocknotes.
(1) This past week we had our first full funeral mass (not a parishioner) at the Magdalene since the pandemic imposed limitations. We restricted the number of people (15), required masks, and social distancing (every other pew). The family was appreciative of our willingness to be flexible in meeting their needs at a difficult time. It demonstrated that we can easily make accommodations for weddings and funerals, which are now allowed. Starting next Monday, June 15, we will resume daily mass at 8:00am.
WE WILL RESUME OUR REGULAR SUNDAY MASS SCHEDULE NEXT WEEKEND, JUNE 20-21, Saturday at 5; Sunday at 9 and 11. Welcome back!!!
In addition to daily mass, funerals, weddings, and baptisms are now allowed in church, with the provision that all safety precautions presently in effect are observed. I started saying mass again at Marymount convent
on Fridays. Their protocol is simple and (in my opinion) effective: my temperature is taken, the sisters wear masks, social distancing is maintained, and I sanitize my hands prior to distributing communion into the communicant’s hands. With the exception of temperature taking, I cannot see why we cannot implement the same protocol once we resume masses at the Magdalene.
(2) Some are still receiving Cardinal’s Appeal solicitations for deceased family members. We regret the pain this is causing. Even though the return address lists our parish, the Magdalene is NOT the source of these solicitations. Here at the parish we have no idea what outdated list the Appeal is using, even though we send the Appeal updated info in a timely way. The only suggestion I have is that you contact the Appeal directly. Our contact person for the Appeal is firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck. Some have also received robo calls from Cardinal Dolan seeking further donations to the Appeal. We are out of the loop on this as well. Please keep in mind, however, that the Appeal assists the less fortunate among us. The parish’s goal: $48,000; pledged so far $39,316. Once again, thank you for stepping up to assist the Appeal and the Magdalene.
(3) Cardinal Dolan has given delegation for pastors/administrators to officiate at Confirmation due to the extraordinary adjustments prompted by the pandemic. In consultation we Dot Meehan, our Director of Religious Education, we have set TENTATIVE DATES FOR FIRST COMMUNION AND CONFIRMATION. The dates chosen are Saturday, October 17 for First Communion at 11am; Confirmation, Saturday, October 24 at 1pm. Families of our religious education students will be contacted of our ongoing plans for these dates. Depending on social distancing guidelines at that time, we will make the necessary adjustments, including the possibility of live streaming on our Facebook account for those unable to attend due to space limitation. More to come.
(4) Next Sunday, June 14, our teens will host a drive-through food drive for the Tarrytown-Sleepy Hollow Community Food Pantry. The drive-
through will take place in our parking lot. You need not get out of your car. The hours are between 1-4pm. The food items needed: rice, tuna fish, pasta, healthy cereal, oatmeal, long shelf-life milk, diapers.
(5) June 14th is also the Feast of Corpus Christi. I know that many have missed the opportunity of receiving communion. Some have suggested drive-by communion or parking lot masses. Some churches have gone this route. To be honest, I think of drive-by communion as a type of vending machine solution. As for mass in our parking lot, our lot is not well-suited for this type of accommodation.
(6) June 14th is also Flag Day. There is no better way of honoring the flag of our nation than by recommitting ourselves to the principles upon which our nation was founded, especially in light of recent national events. I remember only too well the events of 1968 when I was a senior in college (assassinations of MLK, Robert Kennedy, anti-Viet Nam protests, civil rights marches, Vatican II reforms, to name a few). One would think that one annus horribilis is enough for one lifetime. However, there are times we need to be reminded that we cannot rest on the status quo ante in both church and state.
(7) Since we will be resuming daily mass next Monday, the 15th, it will be possible to book any DAILY mass in memory of a loved one. Also you may book SUNDAY masses in memory of a loved one beginning June 20th. ON SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 13th, AT THE 9:00AM MASS, WE WILL REMEMBER ALL THE MASS INTENTIONS THAT COULD NOT BE HONORED .
(8) Finally, we received nothing but positive feedback on the tweaking of our live streaming of Sunday mass. Thank you to Sarah Haase. Many remarked that by coming in front of the altar for the homily made it more personal. I thought of two famous lines from the actress, Gloria Swanson, who played Norma Desmond in the movie Sunset Boulevard: “All right, Mr. DeMille, I am ready for my close up,” and the boast: “I am going to be bigger than peanut butter.”
June 2, 2020
Thank you to those who replied to the last Flocknote. We received about a dozen suggestions. There was definitely a consensus about missalettes: keep them but have families take them home. Many of us remember the days before the Vatican Council (1960’s) when each individual came to mass with his/her own missal. Therefore, before regular Sunday mass begins again:
(1) Please stop by the church between 9-4 and take a missalette(s) to have as your own and bring it to church each weekend. Take the cover with it and label it with your name. You may choose to sanitize the cover but remember the missalettes have not been used in two months. If we run out of missalettes for you to take home, we will simply order more. The present missalette runs through November. In the fall we will order new missalettes to cover 2021 and will set a date or dates for pickup. This way we retain the advantage of having the mass readings, prayers, and music accessible to all our parishioners. We will maintain about 20 missalettes at the back of the church for visitors. Speaking of music, when Sunday mass resumes with a congregation, the congregation will be asked, as things now stand, to refrain from singing, to avoid spreading saliva. We will evaluate this on a week to week basis. I know this will be a real sacrifice for our parishioners since we have a great singing parish. However, with the cantor and my loud voice we will try to make up for what is lacking in communal song.
(2) We have ordered 20 touchless hand sanitizers for church, school, and parish hall. They are on backorder because the demand is heavy, as you can imagine. They will be wall-mounted as soon as we obtain them. We have also marked off the pews for social distancing in preparation for resuming Sunday mass. However, we are not marking off pews for singles, couples, families, etc. Several have suggested that we designate certain masses for seniors, couples, families, etc. My style is not to micro-manage every detail. We are adults. Gauge your own level of risk-taking. Wear masks, maintain social distancing, carry hand sanitizer. If you chose not to attend mass immediately, understood. Remember, the obligation to attend is suspended at this time.
(3) In terms of the printed parish bulletin: While I do believe that contact between an usher, handing out a bulletin, and a parishioner, is a warm and welcoming gesture, we are in a new age when caution and safety are the bywords. A number of people read the bulletin and leave it in the pew to be picked up by the ushers afterwards. At present, the bulletin is handled by at least 3 people. For a number of people, the info in the bulletin can be digested in 5 minutes and the bulletin discarded. As one parishioner noted: Think of how many trees can be saved! When I worked for Safeway and Finast supermarkets as a high school student, the heaviest cases to lift were Ken-L Ration dog food. When the bulletin covers arrive, their cases are just as heavy, trust me. A lot of paper for brief use. As a consequence, we will publish on our website the info normally contained in our printed bulletin (announced masses, local events, school open houses, etc.) and cease handing out printed editions. In addition, we will post the weekly info on our parish bulletin boards. Our website links us to the world, the printed bulletin is limited in distribution and circulation. We will be looking at ways to make our website more impactful. Suggestions?
(4) Please be careful of email phishing scams. If a suspicious email comes from me or the parish, CALL THE PARISH TO VERIFY. No matter how savvy we are, in a moment of inattention, we can be easily scammed to give over personal information. Please be careful. Verify, verify, verify!
(5) It should come as no surprise that parishes have suffered a decline in income, as have families, small businesses, and corporations, etc. The diocese informed me that in the fall we will implement an increased offertory campaign here at the Magdalene. I rejected this two years ago when the diocese proposed it, believing that our Sunday collections reflected a great generosity among our parishioners and there was no need to initiate a campaign. While the level of our Sunday contributions is still very good, considering the circumstances, a little booster shot won’t hurt. More about this in the coming months as the diocese works out the timeline. I am very grateful for your loyalty and generosity to the Magdalene and enjoy reading your supportive notes with your envelopes and donations. Yes, I have enough food!
(6) I understand that parishioners are still receiving correspondence from the diocese about the Cardinal’s Appeal, even though they have already pledged or given. These solicitations are not coming from the parish. They are coming directly from the diocese. I have no control over these requests. But what it tells me is that the Appeal is falling far short of the goal diocesan-wide. Our Cardinal’s Appeal goal: $48,000; pledged: $36,016.
(7) Since we are not ordering flowers for the altar, flowers from your garden are welcomed. Bringing them on a Friday or Saturday works fine. Just let us know you are coming.
(8) You should know that the Vatican has approved a special Preface for the Feast of Mary Magdalene (July 22), a unique honor: “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, to glorify you in all things, almighty father, whose mercy is not less than your power, through Christ our Lord. He appeared in the garden and revealed himself to Mary Magdalene, who had loved him in life, witnessed him dying on the Cross, sought him as he lay in the tomb, and was the first to adore him, newly risen from the dead. He honored her with the office of being an apostle to the Apostles, so that the good news of new life might reach the ends of the earth. And so…”
To my knowledge, only the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul have special prefaces.
(9) We will have a Drive-Thru Food Drop of Sunday, June 14th from 1-4pm in the church parking lot. These are the items needed: Tuna Fish, Rice, Pasta, Oatmeal, Healthy Cereal, Shelf Sustainable milk, and Diapers. Jerry’s Soft Serve will be in the parking lot, $3-5 a cup or milkshake. It reminds me that I have not had a milkshake in a long time. Vanilla sounds just about right.
May 26, 2020
As you probably know by now, the diocese has issued its official guidelines and timetable (5 phases) for reopening churches. Our parish church has been open from day one, March 14th, for prayer and reflection. As I reviewed the newly-issued protocols, many have already been put into place at the Magdalene (no kiss of peace by handshake, no reception of communion by the chalice, empty holy water fonts, hand sanitizer for Eucharistic ministers, etc.). Other diocesan guidelines for mass are new during the course of this pandemic: the use of altar servers is suspended; full choirs are eliminated, but one or two cantors are permitted; the priest is not to wear mask/gloves during the celebration of mass; the priest/minister is not to place communion in a the gloved hand of a parishioner: the obligation to physically attend mass remains suspended; the possibility of receiving communion without mass is being explored; physical separation is to be maintained, etc. However, other protocols require major change on our part. Let me be clear: These changes are requested by the diocese. However, if these changes diminish our parish cohesiveness or have a deleterious effect on parishioner participation, we reserve the right to rethink the implementation of these proposals. Before we implement the next three proposals I welcome your feedback first. The diocese requests the following:
(1) The elimination of the missalettes which are handled by many different people at mass. Since it is obvious that we cannot sanitize each missalette after each mass, the diocese would prefer, if I understand it correctly, they be eliminated, to avoid the possible transmission of the virus. If we were to do this, we would need to print a sheet of music each week (mindful of copyright laws) to put in the hands of parishioners. New sheets of music would be provided for each mass so that the same sheet of music is not used by more than one person. After each mass the sheets would be collected and disposed. Also, without the printed readings, lectors will be required to be solicitous of those who are hard of hearing. Eliminating the missalette will also deprive those who learn primarily by reading than listening from absorbing the message of scripture. Another option, which I
favor, would be for each parishioner to have their own missalette to bring to church each week. You can take a missalette home and make it yours. To implement the diocesan proposal for the elimination of misallettes, requires a major change for us. Another possibility: either wear gloves in handling the missalette or carry hand sanitizer to use both before and after handling the missalette. Taking home a missalette and making it yours may be the best option. Please let me know what option seems best.
(2) Marking off pews for single people, couples, families, while maintaining no more than 25% of occupancy at any mass. This will not be easy. Given our weekly attendance of roughly 350 parishioners, we would need 7 masses on a weekend to accommodate this proposal. No way is this happening!! We are still working on the occupancy limitations. Right now there is no way of knowing how long attendance limitations will be in effect. All the more reason for live streaming at least one mass. Speaking of live streaming, last weekend’s wedding was live streamed by family members using their cell phones, since the groom’s parents could not be present due to distance. As they say: “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
(3) The elimination of the parish bulletin. Why? Because of human handling, the diocese requests that they not be distributed. Between our website and flocknotes we can effectively communicate with all parishioners and post news, announcements, mass intentions, etc. To do this most effectively We Need Your Email Address. I will provide one flocknote a week. The flocknote will also be posted on our website the following weekend. We can post the weekly mass intentions on the church bulletin boards. The elimination of the bulletin will need some tweaking in the coming months and will be re-evaluated in the New Year. Let me know what you think.
(4) While we are exploring hand sanitizing stations at the church entrances, let common sense prevail: if you are sick, stay home; wear a mask in church; carry hand sanitizer; if you feel more secure wearing gloves, wear them.
(5) The use of the parish hall will be suspended because of social distancing. As a consequence, our monthly brunches will be on hold until next year.
(6) Cardinal’s Appeal update: Goal: $48,000; pledged, $35,166. Thank you for your generosity to the parish and the Appeal.
(7) As noted in a previously issued flocknote, I anticipate a busy fall. Three weddings have been scheduled/re-scheduled for September. In addition, we need to accommodate memorial services for those who were buried without a funeral mass. Also, a Saturday morning mass will be set aside for the mass intentions that could not be honored due to the pandemic. Delayed baptisms
must be rescheduled. First Communion and Confirmation dates need to be
set, provided that schools are in session.
To my knowledge, our parishioners are weathering this pandemic disruption well. Please remain safe. Remember the needs of our local food pantry.
(8) Next week is Pentecost, marking the conclusion of the Easter Season. Let the words of Jesus to his disciples in St. John’s Gospel comfort us: “Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit.”
May 19, 2020
We have had a very, very, quiet week. Your donations to the parish keep flowing in by mail, in person, and online. More about that a little later. Thank you very much. This week I received an anniversary card from the Cardinal celebrating the 48th anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood on May 27th. I am appreciative. The majority of priests in the diocese were ordained in the month of May. (When I was ordained in 1972 there were 13 of us. Today, only 5 of us remain in active ministry). In 48 years of priesthood, while there have been many challenges, none match this virus, but fortunately, to my knowledge, our parishioners are maintaining their health and safety. Keep up the good work. We know the expression “If you have your health, you have everything.” No truer than at this time. On another note, a quick reminder: I have noticed some suspicious emails in my account. Be very wary of any emails that claim to be from me asking for assistance, money, etc. Be wary of any text messages seeking help, money, or assistance. They are not from me! Do not open any links! Do not respond.
(1) Food insecurity remains a major concern for so many in our area. I am amazed how prices have spiked at our local grocery stores. Our parishioner, Stephanie Fuller, has offered a great suggestion. Our teens will organize a food drive, listing the items the T-SH food pantry needs. The teens will set up boxes in our church driveway. You need not get out of your cars. Just simply drop your food donation in the boxes. Jimmy’s Soft Serve will park in our lot if you are looking for a treat. The target date is June 14th, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ and Flag Day. Christ fed many during his ministry. In his name, we are called to feed our sisters and brothers in need. More to follow.
(2) As Memorial Day approaches a thought occurred to me. In December 1941 our nation awarded posthumously the first Combat Medic Badge. It is given to a soldier assigned to a medical unity providing support to infantry troops or Special Forces engaged in active ground combat. I would like to see our nation authorize a civilian equivalent for those doctors, nurses, aides and other personnel who staffed and maintained our hospitals and nursing homes during this pandemic. It is a badge that can be worn on a hospital
gown or civilian attire with pride and distinction, an acknowledgement by a grateful nation of the selfless sacrifice made by so many in the face of an invisible enemy.
(3) While the diocese has made no definite plans on how and when masses will resume, this is what we know so far: (a) distancing and personal protective equipment will be required; (b) the sign of peace will be omitted; (c) communion will be offered in the hand; (d) distribution of the Precious Blood will be suspended; (e) how we line up for communion might require some changes; (f) the obligation to attend Sunday mass will most likely be suspended for a period of time to accommodate those who remain hesitant about being in large crowds. Also, be prepared to accept that some parishes may be forced to eliminate masses due to lack of attendance. Other possible alterations: elimination of holy water fonts, placement of permanent sanitizing stations at church entrances, elimination of missalettes in pews, suspension of choirs, etc.
(4) As a point of information, the following parishes will be open for new pastors on July 1: Hastings/Ardsley, Hawthorne, Harrison, Mamaroneck, White Plains, Chester, Staten Island, and Manhattan. I have mentioned these before, but Hawthorne, our neighbor, is the new addition. I wish Msgr. Barry well. We have been friends for over 55 years. In addition, I suspect, without any hard evidence, that other parishes will become open over the next several months. Remember, we are ordaining only one priest for the diocese this month. Do the math.
(5) The month of May traditionally embraces graduations, marriages, first communions, confirmations, and wedding anniversaries. In our live streamed masses we remember all those cheated out of their special moment. Knowing that you have reached a milestone in your life, even without the attendant celebration, deserves our acknowledgement and recognition. Not having family and friends to share in your achievement is, unfortunately, another casualty of this pandemic.
(6) Cardinal’s Appeal update: Goal: $48,000; pledged: $34,000; needed: $14,000. Do the best you can. Thank you to all who have already pledged. As they say in the film industry: “I would like to put this in the can.” Regarding parish finances, I did a quick calculation. Between March 15, 2019 and May 15, 2019 we deposited into our operating account from
collections and other sources (rebate from Cardinal’s Appeal, interest on our savings account with the diocese, etc.) $132,000. This year, in the same time frame (with masses suspended), we deposited $93,000 (including $28,400 from the government PPP program). In short, without the PPP, we are taking in roughly 50% of what we took in last year. Remember, however, that we no longer have a second collection each month for the parish. It was suspended on January 1st this year. Also, ticket sales for the 125th anniversary dinner in June 2019 (subsequently canceled) brought in extra funds. Considering that businesses are closed and that many are unemployed or underemployed, we are holding our own. Thank you for thinking of your parish in these difficult times. All parishes are in the same boat. In fact, we are better off than most.
(7) On Friday afternoon May 22nd we will have a chance to experiment with live streaming a small wedding at the Magdalene. The bride would like her guests, who cannot be present due to social distancing, to witness the exchange of vows and rings. The wedding will be limited to immediate family, best man, and maid of honor. She is willing to set up the live streaming from her computer. I did not anticipate experimenting live streaming special ceremonies/sacraments so soon. I will let you know how it turned out. And while we are on the topic of marriage, two things: First, a number of 2020 weddings have already set a new date in 2021. If you are thinking of a 2021 wedding, it is not too early to scope out the date in 2021. Second, because of the pandemic, pre-Cana has gone virtual. 600 engaged couples in the diocese have not been able to attend the standard, in-person meetings. For further info contact nyfamilylife.org.
(8) Finally, we give a shout-out to the Marymount Sisters and the residents of Kendal who have been restricted to their rooms for almost 2 months. Not pleasant, but warranted by the circumstances of our time. You are not forgotten! Nor do we forget, this Memorial Day weekend, those whose sacrifice secured our freedom.
May 11, 2020
I am sure that we are all growing tired of this routine, but we understand how important it is to maintain our health and the health of our families. Everyone on the parish staff is well. We take each day as it comes and do the best we can. I think of the words of St. Paul from 2 Corinthians: “We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…”
(1) In the “Donate” portion of our website we have added 2 other important categories for future reference: Christmas and Easter. It helps us keep track of our two major collections in addition to our weekly Offertory collection. Thank you for your generosity regardless of how you chose to donate. Update on Cardinal’s Appeal: Goal, $48,000; Pledged: $30,566. Needed: $17,500.
(2) Last week I mentioned our updated parish list, in contrast to the outdated mailing list used by the diocese (without our knowledge) to mail the “We Share” solicitation cards many of you received. You should know that when I arrived at the Magdalene in July of 2016 our parish list officially listed 520 households. As of this week we count 617 households. We welcome all our new families who bring to our parish a vibrant faith and infectious enthusiasm. I can say, without any qualification, I am honored to be here at the Magdalene. I cannot think of another parish in our diocese more cohesive, supportive, and prepared for the future (unknown as it is) than the Magdalene.
(3) Since the pandemic lockdown, while we have had no deaths here in the parish, I have had two burials at the request of local funeral homes. Due to social distancing, only 4-5 family members were allowed. In one case the deceased was a WW II veteran (age 96) who was not accorded the customary military honors, which he deserved and to which veterans are entitled. It is unfortunate that the approaching Memorial Day will require a muted celebration in honor of our service members. Another unintended casualty of the pandemic. In great and small ways, this pandemic leaves no one untouched.
(4) Last weekend we were to celebrate the First Communion of our Religious Education students. Obviously, that was not possible. We are looking forward to welcoming our children to the Lord’s Table sometime in the fall, with all the necessary precautions because of the pandemic. This will require delicate
balancing: celebration and caution. If social distancing is still required at that time, live streaming of the event, to family members not able to attend, might be the solution. For this reason we continue to pursue the option of a more permanent live streaming installation.
(5) Following up on the previous observation, some have reported that by the time they get to the live streaming of mass they have missed the opening comments at mass and part of the Gloria. Even though we will go on the air at 10am, we will try to provide some background music for a minute or two to allow everyone to get online. Each week, as we try to tweak the live streaming, we learn more. Remember, even if you do not have a Facebook account, go to our Website and click on “Follow Us on Facebook.” If it asks you to join Facebook, click “Not now.”
(6) Each day we receive 2-5 visitors to the church. The church is open 7 days from 9-4. The thought occurred to me that parents with grade school age children might like to add a change of pace to their daily routine. Why not a brief field trip to the church to light a candle and say a prayer for some chosen intention?
(7) We are still soliciting email addresses for our Flocknote. It is our most effective way of communicating with our parishioners. While our Flocknotes are distributed on Tuesday, they are posted on our website on Friday afternoon. Thank you for the small notes and updates you include with your envelopes and donations. I read all of them and am appreciative of your comments. By the way, I haven’t seen any scotch tape on the envelopes recently. Good job!
(8) I have been trying to get the old rectory TV (from 1993) properly hauled away. It has been sitting on the rectory porch for 3 weeks. The Town of Mt Pleasant will finally haul it away on the 13th. Alleluia!
(9) Thursday, May 21st, is the Feast of the Ascension. Unfortunately, we will not be able to live stream mass since all the personnel necessary will not be available on a weekday. Many dioceses, years ago, shifted the Ascension celebration to the following Sunday. New York was not one of them. This raises another issue: how prepared are we in our diocese for, what I think, will be necessary and unprecedented structural changes in all areas of diocesan operations due to this pandemic (parishes, schools, staffing, finances, sacramental ministrations, clergy-laity relations, etc.). For example, the diocese of Sacramento has granted pastors delegation to administer confirmation in light of this pandemic. What other changes will be necessary? As Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz declared: “We are not in Kansas anymore.”
Week of May 4
Dear Parishioners: All is quiet at the parish. The Cardinal called again last week to see how things are here in Pocantico. He observed how little traffic there was on Madison Ave. If truth be told, we have more car and truck traffic on Bedford Rd.
We may be a small hamlet, but the traffic on 448 is impressive!
1. We did get one proposal for a permanent live stream installation. However, I did not think that the cost ($10,000) was justified, considering we do not know what parishes will remain open after the diocese takes stock of its institutions and personnel once the pandemic has abated. I am seeking other proposals because, in my opinion, live streaming keeps the parish connected to parishioners unwilling or unable to be physically present at church due to lingering fears of the virus. In addition, streaming allows our services (baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and funerals) to be viewed by family members unable to attend. Therefore, it is worth pursuing. You should also know that live streaming from church depends upon our internet connectivity. Last Sunday we lost our connection briefly. As many of you know, the cell service and internet connectivity at the church can be abysmal. This is why the chaplain for Westchester Medical does not live here any longer. The hospital could not reach him by cell phone for emergencies. Enough said.
2. Thank you for your continuous generosity. It is difficult to provide a weekly total of revenue to match a particular Sunday’s envelope, since donations arrive by mail, in person, and online. Since we initiated online giving, we have netted $12,800. The generous checks we receive, without the weekly envelope, usually do not specify the weeks they cover. Regardless, you should know that our bottom line is good, especially with the infusion of the loan from the Payroll Protection Program ($28,400). This loan becomes a grant in 2 months as long as we continue to pay our employees. It allows us to cover our two major expenses: salaries and diocesan assessments, over which we have no control. At present, we are able to meet all our financial obligations through our parish operating account. Also, thank you for pledging $29,700 toward the Cardinal’s Appeal. Our goal is $48,000. A reminder: please be cautious with text messages, emails, and phone calls soliciting funds for various causes. The scammers are out in force. Unfortunately, the pandemic energizes those intent on doing evil.
3. This past week postcards were sent to parishioners seeking to enroll you in the online giving “We Share” program. It was signed the “Parish Staff.” This came as a surprise to us. It appears that the diocese used the Cardinal’s Appeal mailing list (outdated) to help bolster enrollment in online giving and mailed these out. It seems that the parish needed to “opt out” if we did not want these sent, an oversight on our part. However, we were not informed what address list was used for these mailings and when these mailings were to be sent. Because of lack of communication from the diocese to us concerning the list, they were using, cards were sent to deceased parishioners. We apologize for any hurt this may have caused. Even though the return address listed on the card is the parish, we are NOT sending these cards. We did not provide our parish mailing list for this purpose. Our parish list is up to date. If it brings you any comfort, you should know that parishioners in other parishes also received these cards from their respective parishes. Enough said.
4. Last week we lost 2 more diocesan priests from complications of the virus, bringing the total to 8 since the pandemic hit New York. Also, we lost several deacons. Religious communities, like Maryknoll, the Capuchins, etc., have likewise been hit hard. Please remember these church ministers in your prayers. Last week the cardinal gave permission for masses to resume in religious houses of sisters, brothers, and priests, with strict restrictions: masks, gloves, sanitizers, etc.
5. Please let us know of parishioners who are completely confined to their homes and can use a phone call from the rectory to bolster their connection to the parish during this period of isolation.
6. 2 quick reminders: Sunday mass from the Magdalene is live streamed at 10 am on our Facebook page, which can be accessed on our parish website by clicking on “Follow Us on Facebook.” Also, by registering your email address with the parish we can update our parishioners with the latest information. If you know of someone who is not connected to the internet, please share these Flocknotes with them.
7. Please remember our local foodbanks. Food insecurity has become an unwelcome distraction for so many more families because of unemployment or underemployment. The pandemic has simply intensified the needs of so many. When I was in Shoprite the other day, being annoyed (as were others), by the mechanical breakdowns of the self-checkout counters, I realized how fortunate I am to be able to choose and buy what I need. Sometimes we can all use a wake-up call.
8. An invitation: We have, for obvious reasons, reduced our purchases of flowers for our altar. If you would like to provide flowers from your garden (no purchases), we have all types of vases. Just let us know when you are bringing them and we will be prepared. Please omit the “killer Asian hornets.”
9. Next Sunday is mothers’ day. Our mothers, living and deceased, will be remembered in our 10 am mass on Facebook. We offer the following prayer:
“Lord Jesus, shepherd of the flock, you ministered tirelessly to the sick, the marginalized, the wayward, the lonely, the unbelieving, and the wounded, hear our prayer this day for all mothers and those who have assumed the role of mother. Strengthen them, especially at this time, to be models of love, patience, mercy, and service. May their reward be a place at the table in your heavenly kingdom.” Amen.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY
April 27, 2020
We continue to hold our own at the parish. I pray that all our families are well. Many thanks for your nice notes with your Sunday envelopes. Jeanne LiMarzi and I are on top of the usual parish day-to-day business. One question that comes up with some regularity: when will have first communion and confirmation? Assuming the school year resumes in the fall on schedule, we are looking at October for the administration of both sacraments. Bishop Walsh has contacted me and is willing to accommodate a date for confirmation at our convenience. Because of the many variables involved, we cannot provide a more specific date at this time.
1. This week, in Catholic New York, I provided some reflections on the death of my classmate Msgr. Richard Guastella, pastor of St. Clare, in Staten Island. Also, this week, in an email, the diocese announced that seven parishes will be open for pastors: Harrison, Hastings, White Plains, Mamaroneck, Staten Island, Chester, and Manhattan. My gut tells me that more will become open in the next 3 months. How we will fill these is anyone’s guess. As Bette Davis once said: “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”
2. Some financial updates: [a] Our Easter collection, so far, is $11,800. I am sure more donations for Easter will trickle in. Our normal Easter collection for the past 3 years hovered around $25,000. Thank you to everyone who is trying to keep up with their envelopes. [b] This past week we submitted our application to Tompkins Bank for $28,400 for the Payroll Protection Program. We received the full amount within 2 days. [c] Last Friday we received a check from the diocese for $2655 for exceeding our Cardinal’s Appeal goal last year. Our goal this year is $48,500. Thus far, we have $28,890 pledged. I know that for many parishioners, at this time, the Appeal is not a priority, but if you can see your way to make a pledge, remember, our parish can benefit as well.
3. On a lighter note, prior to the suspension of masses on March 15th, an unknown donor placed in the collection each week a $20 bill configured in origami as a bird. It was perfectly executed. I assume it was done at home and simply dropped in the collection basket. I would hate to think that it was fashioned during my sermons! While this origami twenty requires a little extra work to prepare it for a bank deposit, it is nonetheless most welcome.
4. This past week we had a demonstration of a more professional tech set-up to live stream our Sunday mass. I am waiting for the proposal from the firm that made the presentation. Remember, at present we are simply using a cell phone to live stream! As a consequence, lighting and volume may not be optimum. Considering the low-tech equipment we have available, I think we have made great strides with the help of our liturgical ministers (Sarah Haase, Roberta Ruppel, Anne and Jim Holland) since the suspension of masses on March 15th.
5. Thank you to all who forwarded information on potential housekeepers. I will be working on that this week.
6. As I sit in the rectory, I have a direct line view of our flag flying at half-staff. It serves as a constant reminder to me that not only over 55,000 families have lost loved ones, but that so many are out of work and trying to make ends meet. Please remember our food pantries and the employees of the local shops we normally frequent. Many of us are spending less (restaurants, gas, entertainment, etc.). Those that serve others can use the help.
7. I cannot even imagine what it is like to be a nurse, doctor, or hospital worker who must report for duty each day. The same is true for first responders, food service workers, postal employees, delivery personnel, funeral directors, etc. Please keep them in your prayers. Yes, they have jobs. But they also assume greater risks.
Almighty and Eternal God, our refuge in every danger, to whom we turn in our distress, in faith we pray:
Look with compassion on the afflicted, grant eternal rest to the dead, comfort to mourners, healing to the sick, peace to the dying, strength to healthcare workers, wisdom to our leaders, and the courage to reach out to all in love, so that together we may give glory to your name. Amen.
April 22. 2020
I cannot be more grateful to you for your kind notes with your weekly offerings. They are very comforting and supportive. So far, we have received over $6000 with online donations. Mail and drop off offerings continue on a steady basis. I check the rectory mailboxes several times a day, as well as the poor box in the back of the church. For comparison, last year during the same time period (mid-March to Easter), the parish received roughly $77,768 in donations. This year we received $37,335, with no masses being offered. We took a big hit on Palm Sunday and Easter, as did most parishes. At a time when your concern should be about your family and their health, I want to publicly acknowledge your loyalty to the Magdalene.
(1) Our biggest bill each month (and the biggest bill for any parish) is what is known as the “consolidated bill,” payable to the diocese for the support of various diocesan offices, and for the parish pension and medical obligations for its employees. Our bill is $8163, each month. For larger parishes it can be over $30,000. The assessment is calculated on the amount received in weekly collections. It annoyed me this week when I received an email from the diocese to pay our bill. You should know that our bill was paid the week before. All our bills are paid as received. Within 10 minutes, the diocese received a response from me. It was brief and to the point. Need I say more.
(2) Many of us are familiar with the movie “Mommy Dearest,” about the life of Joan Crawford. She hated wire hangers. She would scream “NO WIRE HANGERS” at her children. No screaming. Please do not use scotch tape to seal your weekly offering. It presents a problem for us and the envelope company in processing your offering.
(3) As I mentioned at mass last Sunday, one of our parishioners asked how she could use her $1200 payout from the government, since she is not in need of the money. Food pantries are desperate. Two suggestions: our local Tarrytown-Sleepy Hollow food pantry, and HOPE Community Services in New Rochelle. Our religious ed director, Dot Meehan, sits on the board of HOPE, and another
parishioner, Stephanie Fuller, is on the board of the Tarrytown-Sleepy Hollow food pantry.
(4) Since mid-March the diocese has lost 5 priests due to the virus, age, and various medical conditions. In addition, the cardinal has put a hold on any foreign priests helping out in the diocese this summer. This basically means that many diocesan parish priests will not have the opportunity to take their vacations this summer. The pandemic will force many organizations to re-evaluate their present and future operations. The diocese is not exempt.
(5) Our live-streaming of mass has been very successful, considering our low-tech operation. For the last two Sundays we averaged 500-600 views each Sunday. Last Sunday Sarah Haase found a lens attachment for her cell phone that provided a wider screen for projecting the mass to our Facebook page. Even if you do not have a Facebook page (I don’t), simply go to our parish website and click on “Follow Us on Facebook” and you will have access to our live streaming. We stream Sunday mass live at 10am. We are actively working on a more permanent live-streaming setup, since I anticipate some hesitancy among a few parishioners in every parish to join crowded churches in the near future. This past week we had a technical expert visit the church. He will give us several proposals for installing hardware. I believe that this is a crucial step in keeping parishioners connected to our parish. Our future and our viability as a parish may well depend on the sustained loyalty of our parishioners, physically present or not.
(6) While the parents in our parish may be at their wit’s end with kids home all day, I do miss seeing them at mass and at CCD. A parish has a very different feel without the liveliness and antics of the young. I just pray that we do not lose them forever because of this imposed hiatus. Please give them my best.
(7) They say that when it rains, it pours. For the last three weeks we have been trying to contact the parish housekeeper for the rectory and the school, with no success. We have tried every means at our disposal. She has been with the Magdalene 25-30 years. We do not know what has happened. She might be ill or in the hospital. Unfortunately, we know of no family in this country or abroad. We pray that she is ok. As a consequence, I find myself doing the parish
laundry, changing sheets and towels, making beds, emptying the trash bins, etc. I haven’t started vacuuming, yet! And I don’t do windows! Any suggestions or leads? The rectory is cleaned every other week, the school, on alternate weeks during the school year.
(8) A reminder: we need parishioner emails to communicate quickly and keep our parishioners up to date on what is happening at the parish through Flocknote. Please spread the word. Stay safe and do not let your guard down. This virus is far from over.
I think we would agree that this was a most unusual Easter. I want to thank those who helped in making the Holy Week liturgies memorable under extraordinary circumstances. Who would ever think that we would be live streaming through our parish Facebook account? My thanks to Sarah Haase (production supervisor), Anne and Jim Holland (music), Jeanne LiMarzi, Peggy Slavin, (altar decorations), Roberta Ruppel (lector). Until we are able to celebrate together again, we will live stream Sunday mass at 10am on our Facebook page.
(1) The virus has touched our parish family in different ways: some have tested positive, some have lost loved ones, some are part of the medical response. Please keep them in your prayers.
(2) When we begin to meet again, I will designate a Saturday in the fall to celebrate a memorial mass for those mass intentions that could not be fulfilled with the suspension of daily and weekend masses.
(3) Once again, thank you very much for your continuous financial support of our parish. The online giving on our parish website is an unqualified success. In addition, Sunday envelopes keep arriving by drop off and by mail. Thank you. I just discovered something I was not aware of: when scotch tape is used to seal church envelopes, the envelope company, DP Murphy, charges us a fee to remove any scotch tape remnants before they feed the envelopes into an automatic reader. How would you know this? I didn’t. No need to use scotch tape.
(4) Please encourage other parishioners to submit their email address to our parish. Communicating to our parishioners by Flocknote is the easiest and quickest method available to us. We promise that we will not annoy you with inconsequential emails. Also, we continue to publish our weekly bulletin online.
(5) We are working with the diocese and our accountant to apply for our just portion of the federal payroll relief money. However, we learned that our parish bank, Tompkins, is not a participant in the program. As you may know, small businesses submit the completed paperwork to their banking institution. We need to determine how we overcome this obstacle when our bank is not a participant. The diocese is assisting.
(6) I heard on Easter that Fr. Jim Gavin died on the 11th at the age of 81. Many of you would know Fr. Jim from his time at the Magdalene as a Sunday assistant. Please remember him in your prayers. My own classmate, Msgr. Guastella, died of the virus last week. The diocese of Bergamo, Italy, a hotspot for the virus, lost 20 priests to the virus. Please remember these priests in your prayers.
(7) A final thought: My radar tells me that this virus will continue to stalk us in the coming months. As a consequence, many people will hesitate to be in the
company of large gatherings, including Sunday mass, concerts, sports events, etc. I would like to continue the live streaming of at least one Sunday mass when we return to our normal schedule, in order that parishioners who may be hesitant about attending mass in person may still be connected to their home parish. Sarah Haase has been invaluable in helping with the live streaming with her cell phone! I would like to kick this up a notch by getting whatever professional equipment we might need to do this on a permanent basis. I need direction. Can someone tell me: what do we need and how best to do it? Cost is not a problem.
Holy Week and Easter
As we prepare to enter the Sacred Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, it is the first time in my priesthood that we will do remotely. A reminder: we will live stream Holy Thursday on our Facebook site at 7pm; Good Friday at 3pm; Easter Sunday at 10am. If you do not have Facebook, go to our parish website and click on “Follow Us on Facebook.” Also, we communicate to parishioners by Flock Note, but we need your email address to do so. You can also click on “Bulletin” on our website to get our messages.
(1) Once again, thank you for your donations of food and best wishes. Holy Thursday celebrates the last meal of Jesus. At this time please consider those who are not able to feed their families. Our local food pantries are in desperate need. Please consider donating. Our parish recently presented the Tarrytown-Sleepy Hollow Pantry with a $2500 donation.
(2) Everything at the parish is quiet. However, I am steeling myself for an extraordinarily busy fall filled with baptisms, weddings, and memorial masses, all delayed because of the pandemic. I have not made a decision about my August cruise, but I am leaning toward canceling. I will decide by late May.
(3) Our “Make A Donation” app on our parish website has proven to be an initial success. In the 3 days since its inception we received 10 donations. Thank you very much. Again, thank you to everyone who mailed or dropped off their envelopes. Our normal Easter collection is around $25,000. We will be lucky to make half of that. Be as generous as you can, considering the financial needs of your family. We continue to pay all our employees. The plan right now is for the diocese to apply, on behalf of all the parishes and institutions, the financial relief Congress has passed. It is anyone’s guess how long this will take. Because of your generosity we are in a much better financial position than the majority of parishes in the diocese. As for the Cardinal’s Appeal, we have surpassed the 50% mark. So far, so good. What is not so good are the countless families struggling financially during this crisis: cooks, waiters, hair dressers, baristas, and the invisible army of American who are the engine of our economy. Let us remember them.
(4) I spoke with Fr. Reynolds this past week. He is fine but in lockdown. He cannot leave his room. 3 retired priests died last week, 2 from the virus. 3 others are in critical condition at different health facilities. My own classmate, a pastor in Staten Island, is on a ventilator. Last week a representative of the cardinal called me to ask if I was still in the Army reserves. I retired in 2014 after 33 years. I think he wanted to know if he will be losing any priests who might be activated. His concern is justified. We will be ordaining only one
priest next month for the archdiocese. We are in very serious trouble, but this should not come as a surprise to anyone. I have been asked twice this week if I still intend to retire next year, considering this new set of circumstances. The short answer is yes. But who knows? If our economy slides into a long recession or a depression, or the needs of our diocese threaten its future viability (which is not, in my opinion, unthinkable), I will revisit my response.
(5) I do not know about you, but I do miss music at our liturgical services. Ann Holland has offered to assist. However, the cardinal has made it clear to all pastors that he does not want any ministers gathering inside our churches. Understandable.
(6) Last Sunday we ran out of palm. One possible reason is that our surrounding parishes were not distributing palm, holding it for some future date to be determined by the diocese. I decided not to wait. Others were feeding at our trough! As a consequence, we ran out.
(7) If you are in need of a notary, let me know. I have been a notary over 30
(8) I would like to give a shout-out to all our medical personnel, our first responders, delivery drivers, postal workers, truck drivers, transit employees, supermarket personnel, farmers, etc., who help us experience some normalcy during this crisis.
(9) On this Easter weekend, I wish all our families the blessings of the Risen Lord. As the Risen Christ gave hope to Mary Magdalene and the disciples, may he strengthen our families and our nation. Let Us Pray:
Almighty and Eternal God, our refuge in every danger, to whom we turn in our distress, in faith we pray:
Look with compassion on the afflicted, grant eternal rest to the dead, comfort to mourners, healing to the sick, peace to the dying, strength to healthcare workers, wisdom to our leaders, and the courage to reach out to all in love, so that together we may give glory to your name. Amen.
Dear Parishioners: I hope everyone is weathering well the most challenging period in our lifetime. Please exercise all necessary precautions to keep yourself and your family safe. Our church remains open from 9-4 each day for a visit and prayer, but no congregational activities. The parish buildings remain in good shape. Because of your generosity we have been able to weather the loss of our weekly collection for the short term. Thank you. However, do consider mailing in your envelopes or dropping them off at the white mailbox at the rectory back door. The diocese has recommended that our parish sign up for We Share where donations can be made automatically from your financial institution to our parish. We are presently looking into that proposal.
It is likely that there will be no services on Palm Sunday or Holy week. Please note that Reconciliation Monday, March 30th, has been canceled. Since we have already ordered palm, we will make palm available in the church parking lot on Saturday, April 4th and Sunday April 5th. We have canceled our flower order for Easter Sunday, since there is little expectation that there will be Easter services.
Looking ahead to May, we ask that families who have children scheduled for First Communion or Confirmation make no plans or reservations for receptions or parties at outside venues. The cardinal has asked that both events be postponed. While it may be possible to retain the present parish schedule for both events, please note that these events may not take place as scheduled.
Since the cancelation of masses, we have not been able to honor the intentions for which those masses were to be offered. One thought is to have a special memorial mass on a future Saturday morning at 11am on a date yet to be determined once we resume masses. Since we have only a part-time staff, rebooking each individual mass would be time consuming and burdensome. Honoring our dead in a communal setting will demonstrate our support for each other.
I want to thank our parish staff for their assistance at this time. Their loyalty to our parish is deeply appreciated. One thing I have learned: what days of the week I need to put out the garbage and recyclables, since Carl is home, as he should be.
Please stay in touch. The easiest way is through email: the Magdalene@archny.org. You may also call the rectory at 914.631.0529. With all my thanks and prayers.