Greetings everyone. I am Father Don Oleksiak, the diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Cleveland.
One of most enduring images of Jesus in the Gospels is that of our savior as the Good Shepherd, a good shepherd who deeply cares for his flock. As we hear in our Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus says that the sheep follow the shepherd because they recognize his voice. In the middle of all the tension and difficulty in our lives today caused by the virus pandemic, it is important for us to remember to follow the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, in our life as it comes to us through the Gospels. The Good Shepherd’s voice calls us to a deeper relationship with him and to reflect his goodness by the way we live our lives, including how we respond to the challenges now surrounding us.
By now, you’ve heard that the Catholic bishops of Ohio have extended the temporary suspension of all publicly celebrated Masses and liturgies through May 29, with the hope of publicly celebrating together the solemnity of Pentecost on the weekend of May 30 and 31. As before, all Catholics are dispensed from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass until that time. While this extension is no doubt disappointing, it is necessary to ensure the common good and the health of us all.
This decision to extend the suspension of Masses has not been taken lightly. I, along with the bishops of Ohio, recognize the sacrifice we are called to make being physically distanced from the holy Eucharist and from one another. We remain grateful for your understanding and prayerful support.
In the meantime, our diocese and the others across Ohio will be working diligently with their pastoral teams to ensure the development of reasonable, gradual and responsible initiatives for welcoming back the faithful – at the appropriate time – for Sunday Mass. These initiatives will renew our love for the holy Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation – helping to restore our Catholic life and invite others to share in that life after this pandemic. We will be working with our pastors and parishioners to begin to establish plans that respect social distancing and other requirements for the safety of our people.
I continue to encourage you to keep holy the Lord’s Day by participating in Sunday Mass by way of radio broadcast or televised or livestreamed options and making a spiritual communion. Keeping in mind of the gift of plenary indulgences offered to us by the Church, I encourage all the faithful to turn to the Church’s treasury of prayer, praying as a family or individually the Liturgy of the Hours, rosary, divine mercy chaplet, and Stations of the Cross, etc.
Together, we continue to pray for all who are suffering from COVID-19, for all health care workers and first responders, for all the deceased and their families, and for an easing of the anxiety and tension caused by this pandemic. Relying on the motherly care of Our Lady, Health of the Sick, we unite our sufferings to those of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and we trust in the glorious hope of his Resurrection.
Thank you and God bless you.