Letter from Father Sullivan
I went to Lourdes for the first time at the conclusion of my second year in seminary. In those days the foundation of the second year of theological preparation was service to the sick. As part of my preparation for priestly ministry I had been assigned to Washington Hospital Center as a student chaplain and participated in weekly Clinical Pastoral Education courses. The courses were grueling, self-reflective group sessions which could often be quite brutal—so much so— that going and visiting serious and terminally ill patients in the hospital was a bit of a relief.
It was during those hospital visits that I came in contact with a wide range of human illness and suffering. From simple surgical procedures to chronically and terminally ill cancer patients. I visited them all during that year and offered to pray with them. I was only thrown out of a room once, presumably because of the Roman collar I was wearing.
As the culmination of that experience I had the opportunity to go to Lourdes and make a retreat reflecting on my year ministering to the sick. One of the religious sisters on the seminary faculty encouraged me to go, and insisted I be sure to take the bath in the famous spring waters flowing from the grotto of the apparition. Her enthusiastic recommendation I found rather surprising as she wasn’t the type of nun who would seem otherwise enthused about apparitions and miracles.
I arrived in Lourdes mid-May, really before the pilgrimage season had begun in earnest, and remember the sense of quiet and solitude that enveloped the entire area devoted to prayer and care for the sick at the great shrine. I stayed for several days, taking up residence in the City of Saint Peter, a youth camp/hostel, where young people from around the world visiting Lourdes could stay at a very reasonable rate, with dormitory accommodations and mess hall type cuisine.
Practically by myself, the days were filled with Masses, rosaries and solitude. The other sites associated with the life of Bernadette formed a type of walking pilgrimage through the town, so during my stay I made my way to the old, abandoned jail that was her family’s home at the time of the apparition, the mill where her father had worked and where the family had spent her early years, the site of her birth, the parish church, the school Bernadette had attended and the convent where the sisters lived and where Bernadette took refuge after the apparition and whose community she would eventually join. Each site had its own charm, and the spirit of the very simple, sickly, pious young girl who had difficulty remembering her catechism seemed to fill every space.
Each day was highlighted by several visits to the grotto where the Immaculate Lady appeared to Bernadette. The ground before the grotto is covered with a terrazzo floor, decorated with crosses and stars, as I remember. The pattern is interrupted by a simple square, whose mosaic inscription reads, “Place Ou Priait Bernadette le 11 Fevrier 1858” —The Place Where Bernadette Prayed the 11th of February 1858— Each visit I tried my best to get nearest that spot to meditate upon the rosary, as Bernadette had done, and gaze up at the little opening in the cave to rest my eyes upon the place where she had seen the Lady who is the Immaculate Conception.
Coming to the last day of my retreat, I still had not yet taken the bath, as Sister had so unexpectedly recommended. Finally making my way past the grotto to the baths, I entered the section for men and waited for only a short while before I was admitted to the preparation room. Removing my clothes, and wrapped in a very large and wet towel, I was led into the private area just before entering the bath itself. Several men, speaking only French, ushered me inside and gave me instructions as to the procedure. Taking me by the hands, they led me into the waters. I was handed a small statue of Our Lady of Lourdes and asked to say a prayer. I prayed the “Our Father” in French as all the gentlemen joined in. In my heart, I was remembering all those sick and ill patients I had visited throughout the last year. I remembered their sufferings and fears as I brought it all to the Mother of Jesus asking her intercession as I entered the waters of healing. Quickly plunged under the ice-cold waters by my new sympathetic French friends, I was just as quickly placed back on my feet, then ushered to the dressing room where I dried off, retrieved and put on my clothing and was led back outside. It all happened so quickly, but almost instantaneously a sense of great peace and love descended upon my soul.
Today, February 11, 2021, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and commemorate the World Day of the Sick. It has been 163 years since Mary appeared to Bernadette eighteen times from February 11, 1858 to July 16, 1858. This year’s celebration occurs during the pandemic which we have all been enduring for almost a year. The changes we have had to adjust to. The new priorities we have put in place. The illness and death which has touched so many of us. All of these we bring to the Lady who, when informing Bernadette who she was said quite simply, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
Today I receive my first vaccination, how coincidental—no, Providential—I should receive it on this day.
From my heart to yours, in the hearts of Jesus and Mary,
Roof Shoring Project Approved
22 July 2020
Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene
I am happy to announce Bishop Brennan has approved Phase 1 of the project to repair the roof of our beloved Saint Thomas Aquinas Church. Phase 1 of the project is called the “Shoring Up Phase”. During this phase of the project, portable shoring towers will be located within the church to stabilize the roofing infrastructure and prevent any additional damage.
You may remember the church roof was condemned by local authorities on Ash Wednesday after the structural engineering analysis reported significant deterioration of the 178-year-old trusses supporting the roof of the church. Just 19 days later all public celebrations of Masses were suspended and the doors to churches were closed due to the spreading Covid-19 pandemic. Many businesses, including construction companies and other building firms suspended their work, as well.
Through these ensuing four and a half months we have been laboring hard to put in place a plan to repair the trusses and provide new stability for the roof, as well as patch cracked plaster, repaint effected areas, repair disintegrating masonry on the clock tower and replace the clock dials and mechanism which allows the church bell to ring, calling us to prayer.
We have removed the acoustic tile ceiling in Rosary Hall and the underlying pressed tin ceiling. Finding asbestos insulation underneath the old tin ceiling, a company was hired to abate the asbestos. This work has been successfully completed since May. Our building engineering plans have been finalized, reviewed by the local building commission and approved. Special thanks to Mike Morris for all he has done to get us to this moment. His expertise and enthusiasm for our parish has been invaluable in this process.
The cost of Phase 1 of the project is significant and I want to share that cost with you. We have received a proposal for Phase 1 with a “not to exceed” cost of $276,963. That proposal has been accepted and work will begin very soon.
Phase 2 is the actual truss repair of the project.
Phase 3 consists of repair of cracked and damaged plaster, repainting in effected areas and the re-installation of pews, ambo, altar and other liturgical furnishings.
In order to achieve approval for the next phase of the repair project, Bishop Brennan will soon initiate discussion with the priests of the area to put in place a vision and long range plan, in conjunction with Saint Nicholas, Saint Ann and Saint Mary, that considers all strategic issues for the Catholic Community of Muskingum County over the next 10 to 20 years. Once that is completed, decisions can be made on how further resources are used at Saint Thomas.
The Catholic Church faces many challenges including:
- Decreasing number of priests
- Decreasing percentage of the population that practices the Catholic faith
- Decreasing resources to support existing ministries
Just to name a few.
The overall Saint Thomas Aquinas Roof Repair Project is a very big undertaking and the estimated total cost of all three phases is estimated not to exceed $1.7 million. That is a lot of money– to be raised over several years’ time—which, if approved, will require generous participation by us all.
Because of the past generosity of several individuals, now gone to their eternal reward, work can begin on Phase 1 of the project immediately. As we go forward, these funds will have to be replenished in our parish resources so Saint Thomas Aquinas Church can continue to provide spiritual support and ministry into the future.
Your love for and dedication to our venerable parish has been manifested to me time after time in the very short period I have been among you in Zanesville. Together we can do this, so that Saint Thomas Aquinas Church and the Catholic Community of Muskingum County can continue to serve the spiritual needs of our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, and the greater community of Zanesville for many years to come.
Trusting in God’s Providence, with faith and confidence in Jesus and His Holy Mother, supported by the intercession of Saint Patrick and Saint Thomas Aquinas, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Reverend JCP Sullivan
Statewide Face Mask Mandate
This morning all Pastors and Administrators of our diocesan parishes received the following reminder from Monsignor Moloney, The Vicar General of the Diocese of Columbus, concerning the statewide mandated wearing of facemasks.
I thank you for your charitable compliance with this order from the very beginning, and I want to pass on this reminder to all Saint Thomas Aquinas Parishioners as added encouragement for our continued safety.
As a further reminder, signs will go up this week on the entrance doors of the Activity Center saying, “Face Masks Required.”
—From Monsignor Moloney–
“The Chancery Office has received a number of calls from parishioners expressing concerns about lax compliance with the statewide mandatory “mask order” among those attending our churches and oratories.
The statewide mandatory mask order requires everyone over age 10 coming to a public place of gathering (which includes churches) to wear a mask. (Our own diocesan protocol is that everyone over age 2 must be masked.) An exception is made for the “officiant” of a religious service. This is generally understood as anyone having a speaking role: e.g. celebrant, deacon, lector, or cantor. There is also an exception for those who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons. Such persons should be advised not to attend public gatherings at all, including coming to Mass due to their vulnerability to infection. It should also be noted that those distributing communion must be masked while performing this function.
Because the wearing of masks is now mandated by the governor’s executive order, it is necessary for our parishes to enforce compliance with this order. Lax compliance with this mandate on the part of the people attending Mass may result in problems not only for them, but also for the parish and the pastor or administrator. Although we do not recommend confrontation, neither can non-compliance be ignored. Pastors and Administrators are urged to take the steps necessary to ensure the fullest possible compliance with the mandatory mask order by all those who attend our churches.”
UPDATE ON SINGING THE MASS
Greetings to all in this very unique Summer! Since our return to public Mass, we have sung as we did before the pandemic (with the omission of some hymns, such as at Communion). This was a temporary move, and we remained open to fine-tuning it based on new information. We also remained committed to the use of hymns as a crucial way we embrace and proclaim the Gospel message in song. Now that we are learning more about how the virus spreads through the air (especially in crowds) and observing wise and charitable procedures in other places, we have discerned the need to make a change.
If you attend weekday Mass here (in person or via livestream), you know that the musical experience is simpler than on Sundays. The congregation only sings the unchanging parts of the Mass (Holy, We Proclaim Your Death, Amen, and Lamb of God), which are known as the “Ordinary.” As the ministers enter and again as the people come forward for Communion, the cantor sings an Entrance Chant and Communion Chant. These chants (together with the Scripture readings and Psalm), are known as the “Proper” of the Mass – since they change from day to day.
Out of an abundance of caution, and out of love and concern for all who attend worship here, Father Sullivan and I will extend this procedure to all public Masses beginning this weekend (July 11 and 12). The congregation is welcome (though absolutely not required) to sing the Ordinary (Glory to God, Holy, We Proclaim Your Death, Amen, and Lamb of God). Please leave your mask on to sing these parts of the Mass, and please sing only if you are comfortable doing so. The cantors and I will share the responsibility for singing the various Proper chants (including the Psalm and Alleluia as usual), while all listen and meditate. The Entrance and Communion chants are brief and thus perfect for the short processions that take place in our Activity Center. Their text will be found in your Missalette, and at the beginning of Mass, the lector will announce the page numbers.
An old Missal that I have (edited of course by wise Dominicans!) tells us that the Entrance Chant “signifies mystically the sighs of the ancient Patriarchs longing for the coming of the Messiah” and that the Communion Chant represents “the rejoicing of the people over the reception of the Sacred Mysteries.” Because of this, the Roman Missal envisions that it is possible and often more desirable to have Mass with just the Proper and Ordinary sung, and no other music added. This is certainly a return to the sources, but it also highlights a profound truth. Despite the fact that in “normal” times, our worship can be enriched by sights, sounds, and smells, Fr. John Hunwicke reminds us that “one of the characteristics of the Roman rite in all ages has been its unshowy matter-of-factness.” Perhaps we need some of that steady simplicity now, more than ever, as our focus shifts from so many external concerns to the reality of care for one another.
One day, we will resume singing hymns again – perhaps once again in our beautiful church, where as Thomas Gray wrote, the “pealing anthem swells the note of praise.” Your singing is a gift, and I am grateful for the repertoire that you have built, Sunday by Sunday. Until then, we can take comfort in the closeness of the great “choir” of witnesses that sings on our behalf – and perhaps reflect on this verse from one of our greatest hymns (“For All the Saints”):
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song –
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
From two other resources (they happen to be from the Archdiocese of Detroit, but find resonance everywhere):
- 1. Excerpt from a statement by the Archdiocesan Academy of Sacred Music:
“While ‘full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else’ (Sacrosanctum Concilium #14) in preparing liturgical celebrations, exterior participation in sacred music has the potential to spread the coronavirus particularly vigorously. However, new research suggests that soft singing in masks transmits aerosols at a rate similarly to speaking in masks. Balancing the potential risks of singing with the spiritual hunger of the people of God to sing at Mass, the Academy advises that the congregation might join the sung dialogues with the clergy and in singing the ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei). This singing should be through a mask and should be soft to prevent excessive aerosol transmission.”
- 2. Article on the use of different styles of “Antiphons” (Entrance Chant / Communion Chant):
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