March 17, 2020
Hello to all of you. We are in a period of great concern and uncertainty over the impact of the novel coronavirus in West Virginia and throughout our nation and our world.
I want to assure you as Bishop of this diocese, that spans our great State, that I am in constant prayer with you and for you as we face this unprecedented time.
I realize it is particularly challenging that we are forced to remain apart during this holy season of Lent — a time when we are used to gathering often in prayer, in reflection, and penance as we await the joy of the Lord’s Resurrection. We are experiencing for a short time what millions of our fellow Christians experience for years on end because they live in areas of the world where the Christian faith is forbidden or its free exercise severely restricted.
How long we’ll be required to keep our churches closed and remain apart is still unknown. As such, I urge you to make time each day for prayerful reflection, alone or with family members, and in a spirit of true solidarity with your fellow Catholics who are also deprived of our sacramental life during this time. Traditional devotions such as the recitation of the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet can be done together or individually. Or a family could simply read a short passage of Scripture, perhaps from one of the daily Mass readings, let each person present give a reflection, offer some petitions for the sick and those who care for them and end with the Our Father.
We would do well to remember that the Lord abides with us always, and in every place — and is not hindered by physical boundaries. He seeks to be with us, to comfort us and to speak to us in our prayerful reflection, in the quiet of our souls.
I urge you to use this time, when we are forced to disconnect from our daily routine, to reflect on and renew your commitment to Christ Jesus as his disciples journeying with Him to the cross on Calvary.
Technology offers you the ability to join the Mass that is live-streamed from the Cathedral of St. Joseph each day at 12:05 PM. Sunday Mass is also live-streamed at 6 PM on Saturday and remains on our Diocesan website until Monday.
We are also utilizing social media to make available a number of resources to help people of the Diocese remain firm in their faith during this time. These include links to the daily readings, special prayers and other reflections that we are pleased to share with you as aids in your own spiritual exercises.
As a community of faith, we have a special obligation to follow the guidelines that have been issued by our public officials in order to protect our older adults and those most vulnerable to the severe effects of the Coronavirus. For this reason I not only have suspended the public celebration of Mass but I also dispense all Catholic residents in West Virginia from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass for as long as this pandemic continues. I do ask that you keep in your prayers those who have contracted this virus here in our country and across the globe, that God may comfort families who have lost a loved one and that those stricken might soon recover their health.
We pledge to you to do our very best to stay connected and to continue to provide you spiritual resources and the assurance of our prayers during this Lenten journey that has taken us to an unpredictable place.
We do not yet know the impact that these restrictions will have on our Holy Week celebrations or on our Easter vigil and Easter Sunday liturgies. We will communicate further with you at the earliest opportunity when we see the road ahead more clearly.
Let me now offer you this from today’s readings, a passage from Psalm 25:
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior. Remember that your compassion, O LORD, and your kindness are from of old. In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O LORD. Good and upright is the LORD; thus he shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, he teaches the humble his way.
The Lord forgets us not — and is our constant guide and teacher in the ways of His righteousness — he shows us the way to His truth and is with us always, even in the darkest hours.
May the Lord comfort and sustain you and your friends and loved ones in these difficult days and enliven our hope with the promise of His strength and constant presence.
God bless you all!
Dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass:
“While no member of the Faithful is bound to attend Mass where impossibility arises, West Virginia borders a number of dioceses in which Masses are still being publicly celebrated, and many of our Faithful are easily able to attend those Masses. Owing to the grave nature of the current public health crisis, and not wishing that any of our flock be compelled to place themselves unnecessarily at risk, I hereby dispense all those who reside within the territory of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston from their obligation to attend Mass. The intention of this dispensation, along with the suspension of public liturgies in the Diocese, is to encourage the Faithful to practice ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-quarantine’ to the extent that their state of life permits, by which we hope to contribute to the containment and end of the current pandemic.”
March 13, 2020
Hello, my brothers and sisters. I’m Bishop Mark Brennan of the Wheeling-Charleston Catholic Diocese. I wish to speak with you about the current Corona Virus outbreak and how it may affect Church life.
Last week I distributed materials to priests and parishes outlining best practices to help stop the spread of this new virus and other infectious diseases and keep our parishioners safe.
New developments now prompt me to take further measures. Governor Justice has announced that public schools will be closed until further notice. Because we rely on the same public health information that the Governor is relying on, our Catholic schools and child-care facilities associated with them will also be closed until further notice.
In addition, the Governor has strongly urged that people avoid congregating in large numbers as a way to prevent the spread of disease. … Therefore, taking what I believe is the safer course for our people, I am suspending for the time being the public celebration of Mass, both for Sunday obligation and daily Masses, beginning with this weekend’s Saturday afternoon Masses. I would remind our priests that the Roman Missal makes provision for a “Mass without a Congregation” and I ask them to offer that Mass privately for their people.
All non-essential meetings, gatherings and parish events are to be postponed or cancelled beginning this Saturday.
While I do not want to contribute to panic reactions, I think it wise to listen to our public health officials when they recommend certain steps to keep our people safe and healthy.
We will also be working to provide the daily Mass via our live stream on our website. Mass will continue to air on television in the Wheeling and Clarksburg areas as well.
Faithful Catholic people love the Mass, so it is a hardship not to be able to celebrate it. I encourage you to remain steadfast in faith during this time, by praying the Liturgy of the Hours in your homes, praying the Rosary, and by reflecting on the readings of the day. All of these resources are available online. We can look on this development as a penance we do together during this Lenten season and offer our disappointment and suffering up to God. May the Lord give us the joy of celebrating Easter together in good health!
Finally, I would urge everyone to pray for the sick and for those who care for them, in particular our doctors, nurses and other medical support staff who must deal up close with the sick every day.
Let us pray for a quick end to the Corona Virus outbreak in our country and around the world. May Jesus, the Divine Physician, send his healing grace upon the people he has redeemed. Let us hold one another close in prayer and Christian love.
God bless you and your loved ones!