A wise priest once told me that there are certain decisions that a pastor must make, even at the risk of his own life. One of them is deciding to tinker with the parish Mass schedule. Last year, after the shutdowns, the unique circumstances required the adjustment of the liturgical schedule. If you recall, prior to the pandemic the Mass schedule was as follows: 4pm vigil (St. Gabriel), 5:30pm vigil (St. Cecilia), 7:30am (St. Cecilia), 9am (St. Cecilia & St. Gabriel), 11:15am (St. Cecilia). When we were permitted to have public Masses again in May 2020, I met with parish leadership and, with their support, decided to modify the schedule to what we currently have, expecting that eventually we would return to the pre-Covid schedule. As life in Fairfield County quickly returns to normal, the time has come to revisit our parish Mass schedule. I share my thoughts about it with you here.
Looking at attendance figures, the Mass with the largest attendance, even prior to the pandemic, has been the 4pm vigil. Although it is a smaller church, we originally had this Mass at St. Gabriel because that building is more easily accessible for the large number of senior members of our parish who attend that Mass. Because we are no longer under social distancing requirements, we can safely resume worshipping at St. Gabriel’s at the 4pm vigil, and will do so. For those who prefer a later option for the Saturday vigil, we will reinstate the 5:30pm vigil Mass at St. Cecilia. Both of these Saturday evening Masses will feature our music ministry.
On Sunday mornings we will go back to the 7:30am early Mass at St. Cecilia. Like the 4pm vigil at St. Gabriel, this was a very popular Mass prior to the pandemic. As before, the 7:30am Mass will be a quiet “spoken” Mass with no music. We will also be reinstating the 9am and 11:15am Masses at St. Cecilia. These Mass times make it easier to schedule our parish Religious Education classes on Sunday mornings. This past year Religious Education took place between the 8am & 10am Masses. We found that the earlier start time (9am instead of 10) was a challenge for the students and their families. By returning to the 9am Mass, we can have classes at 10am, giving families the option of attending Mass at 9am or 11:15 – before or after Religious Ed. Because of the 8am Creole Mass at St. Gabriel we will not reinstate the 9am Mass at St. Gabriel. Therefore, the quiet “spoken” Sunday morning Mass at St. Gabriel Church will be discontinued. As always, weddings and funerals may be scheduled to take place at either church.
After having discussed the schedule with members of the Pastoral and Finance Councils, as well as the lay Trustees, I have decided that beginning on the weekend of August 28-29 the parish Mass schedule will be the following: 4pm vigil (St. Gabriel), 5:30pm vigil (St. Cecilia), 7:30am (St. Cecilia), 9am (St. Cecilia), 11:15am (St. Cecilia). Saturday afternoon confessions once again will take place from 3-3:45pm at St. Gabriel Church. Confessions also will be heard each Wednesday evening from 7-9pm at St. Cecilia Church. With regard to Mass intentions, starting August 28 we will apply the Mass intentions for the (discontinued) 10am Sunday Masses at St. Gabriel’s to the 4pm Saturday vigil Masses at St. Gabriel’s, taking place on the same weekend. Starting August 28, Mass intentions for the 4pm vigil Masses at St. Cecilia will be transferred to the 5:30 vigil Masses at St. Cecilia on the same day. The parish office will follow up with those who requested these Mass intentions to confirm that they are aware of the change.
Adjustments to a parish Mass schedule are often received with mixed feelings. Please know that my primary motivation throughout this process has been to discern what is best for our parish, including what is sustainable over the long term. I appreciate your patience and understanding.