By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published March 16, 2020 | En Español
SMYRNA—The Archdiocese of Atlanta has announced suspension of all public Masses effective March 17 and extending through April 5 amid a rise in coronavirus cases in Georgia. The suspension of Masses includes the weekends of March 21-22, March 28-29 and April 4-5.
Bishop Joel M. Konzen, SM, diocesan administrator announced the suspension the afternoon of Monday, March 16.
“As we walk through this Lent, we have an opportunity to embrace sacrifice and ministry in a whole new way,” said Bishop Konzen. “Bishop Ned Shlesinger and I look to serve the spiritual needs of our people as we make decisions on how best to protect the health of our communities. We want you to know that, in concert with the College of Consultors of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, we have wrestled with each of these decisions. The well-being and safety of all the faithful are preeminent in our concerns.”
As new information and directives on the spread of COVID-19 are announced by public health officials and civil authorities, the archdiocese will continue to evaluate and revise provisions.
Bishop Konzen assures Catholics that the sacrifice of the Mass will continue.
“Our priests will still be offering private Masses for those in their care,” he shared.
Spiritual resources for Catholics during this time are available at www.archatl.com. Information will include a list of Masses offered online via livestream, broadcast, or social media. These Masses are private and the faithful should only participate online.
“Bishop Shlesinger and I will partner with other clergy at the Chancery to offer a livestream Mass from the chapel at the chancery office daily as well as periodic video messages to the faithful,” he said.
Some churches will remain open for prayer and adoration, but it may be subject to change.
“We ask that you practice social distancing when utilizing these spaces. Do not come if you are sick or if coming will put you at great risk of becoming sick. Churches may choose to move adoration from a small chapel into the main sanctuary where people can spread out,” said Bishop Konzen.
Priests will still be able to hear individual confessions, but penance services are canceled. Weddings and funerals will be limited to immediate family only with no in-parish receptions allowed for the time being. All other gatherings in parish facilities should be canceled or postponed. Confirmations are postponed until further notice.
In-person parish faith formation opportunities should be suspended during this time. The archdiocesan website has resources for individuals and parents who wish to stay engaged in faith formation while children are at home.
The Monday announcement suggested that parish staff and volunteers can minister to their communities by calling people at home, checking on the elderly or otherwise marginalized and seeking opportunities to use technology to connect individuals and communities.
“We can still unite in prayer. We can still care for our neighbors. We are still the Body of Christ. We are challenged to find non-traditional ways to connect with one another. It is a sacrifice, for sure, for all of us to alter our participation in the Eucharist, a sacrifice as unwelcome as it is new,” he said.
For the time being, it is “a cross we bear in a spirit of self-denial, an emptying of ourselves in imitation of Our Lord’s privation as he faced his Passion,” said the bishop.
“We know that we can hope in the Resurrection. Let us bring that hope to our neighbors and our communities through our sacrifice, our service and our prayer.”