My dear Brother Priests,
We have indeed been thrust into times none of us could have envisioned on our Ordination Day. The Great High Priest is now calling us to greater pastoral care of our people in a physically dangerous time.
Public Masses will be suspended in the Diocese of Allentown until further notice. I am very sad to mandate this; however, medical and epidemiological science indicates that limiting social interaction is the only effective way to stop this spread of the contagion.
Some of the faithful will interpret this as a lack of faith in the Holy Eucharist or pastoral timidity. Please educate them that this is not the case. As priests, we will continue to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass privately for the intentions of the people and for the Mass Intentions already scheduled.
In addition, I ask that you keep the churches open for extended periods of prayer and private visits to the Most Blessed Sacrament. Confessions will continue to be heard, but must take place in the church, not in any rectory office.
Using the recommended hygienic precautions, we will be most courageous when we bring the Sacraments to the sick and dying. Hospitals are only permitting clergy visits to patients in danger of death. One need only think of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga.
Now is the time for us to show the virtue and the courage of the Priesthood after so many years of tarnishing. Now is the time for us to faithfully pray the Liturgy of the Hours for the good of the whole People of God. Now is the time to wrap ourselves in the mantle of the Blessed Mother and Her Holy Rosary. Now is the time for us to be pastorally nearer to our people, even though it may seem that we are more physically distant.
I turn to you, my Brothers, in this unprecedented time in the history of the Diocese of Allentown, to live your Priesthood creatively in generous pastoral service to our people. I am confident that we will rise to the occasion as our Brothers did in past times of war and viral outbreaks.
In all that we do, we turn to Saint Joseph, Protector of the Universal Church, that he will protect our people, and us priests, who like him, are called to be the father of our adopted spiritual children.
God bless you and keep you safe as together we tend the sheep of His flock.
Fraternally yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Alfred A. Schlert
Bishop of Allentown