Updates on reopening in the midst of COVID-19

INTRO

Here you will find important information and frequently asked questions about the reopening of the parish in the midst of COVID-19. Please refer to the sections below. This page is updated frequently so please check back if you do not find answers to your questions. 

PASTOR'S UPDATE

Pastor’s update on re-opening

July 5, 2020

Just a little update on some things going on as we move into these hazy, hot and humid days of summer, and as we continue in these days of Covid and its ongoing effects on everything.

The beginning of a new school year is less than seven weeks away.  Our staff has been meeting every week to review anything we need to keep in mind in preparation for the school year.  The word of the moment is “waiting” – waiting to hear news from the state, and news from the diocese, about what a school year looks like amid Covid concerns.  Options at this point look to be a) return as normal, b) virtual learning from home, or c) some hybrid of those two options.  We are looking at all options and preparing for whatever the year might look like.  As you might imagine, much of the discussion is on masks, hand sanitizer, and cleaning.

For the church:  we have a task force that has been looking at re-opening, and we are currently looking at options to open in some form later in July. The question of re-opening or not has been one of the hardest things to address.  As in any parish, we hear from people, and we hear different opinions: open the church, don’t open the church.  Safety and health remain our primary concern, and we listen to the medical experts on our task force.  We will keep you informed.

For Sunday Mass, there are still concerns about bringing groups of people together, also concerns about the apparent spike in numbers of cases in North Carolina, and our task force will continue to look at all of our options to safely bring people back.  From what I’m hearing from other parishes that have re-opened in some way, it’s not a particularly pleasant experience with distancing, masks, and no lingering afterwards.  As one person said, “there’s no joy in it.”  At the same time, we will continue to look at our options here.

Transition news:  Msgr. Michael Clay and Fr. Jairo Maldonado both officially begin here on 9/1/20.  Both were here visiting last week.

For the friars, as of 9/1/20 Jim Sabak will work full-time at the Diocese of Raleigh, and will continue to live in the friary (which will probably become known as the rectory as of September).  Steve Kluge and I await new assignments.  Our provincial chapter, which has been postponed from early June, will now be held virtually August 25/26.  Right after the chapter, on August 27th or 28th, Steve and I expect to receive phone calls with news of where we’re going.  This means we need to be packed and ready to depart quickly, as our last weekend here is Sunday 8/30.  There are plans being made for a HNP virtual farewell to be held on Sunday 8/23.

Summer is here, baseball is back soon, St. Francis Springs Prayer Center in Stoneville is back open for walking the trails, and these are strange times we’re in and yet also times for rediscovering something that has maybe been lost amid all the frantic busyness of our culture pre-Covid.  Please continue to practice social distancing and wear masks, and I hope everyone is enjoying these days as much as you can.

Peace and good,

Fr. Steve Patti OFM
Pastor
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
11401 Leesville Rd.
Raleigh, NC 27613

__________________________________________

May 26, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I write to you about the question of the re-opening of our church.  As you know, we are in extraordinary times.  A global pandemic has gripped every continent, and we see the effects everywhere: countries shut down, major cities gone empty and silent, the ordinary and good things of everyday life – restaurants, sporting events, gatherings – all affected by a virus that knows no borders.  We have not seen anything like this in our lifetimes, and its ongoing effects on everything remain unknown.

Here at St. Francis, the daily life of the parish has become very different since mid-March, when closings – at first temporary, and then ongoing – began.  We have shifted to livestream mass on Sunday mornings at 9:30.  We have come a long way since our initial, shaky beginnings on Sunday, March 15th, when the mass was filmed by a single iPhone.  We have smoothed the way since then.  We hear from many of you who appreciate being able to tune in on Sunday mornings – seeing the familiar worship space, and seeing familiar faces on the screen.  I know that for us, looking out at a camera and at an empty church, it’s not the same, but we’re adjusting to the whole experience.  We are grateful for your support and encouragement.

At the same time, we realize that livestream is still not “live.”  It’s not church as we know it.  It’s not seeing people in the assembly, no sign of peace, and, of course, no receiving the Eucharist.  All very different, and all profoundly disorienting.  Amid all of our adapting to the virtual world, we are also aware that something is missing here, something essential to the life of any church, and what is difficult is the not knowing how long it will go on for.  We are living between what we once knew, and what we don’t know.  And living in that state of uncertainty over an unknown period of time is profoundly unsettling.

We want you to know that at this time, we are listening to the governor’s office, and also our Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama.  We are aware of the different phases of re-opening in the state.  We are aware that some churches are planning to re-open, either for indoors, or outdoors, or both.  We are aware that some churches are not re-opening at this time.  We know that some churches remain undecided.

Each week, the friars meet with staff to discuss what re-opening might look like, whether inside or outside.  Our staff has walked through our church sanctuary and measured off spacing.  We have considered things such as cleaning, access, distancing, capacity.  We have considered that many people in our parish are part of an at-risk population.  We have considered what a return to the sanctuary would actually look like: a far reduced number of people, masks, no singing, no sign of peace, no approaching anyone.  We have considered all of these things.

In all of this, our primary concern remains the health and safety of everyone.  This outweighs everything.  At this time, with all we know to this point, we have decided that the best option for St. Francis is to continue with our Sunday morning 9:30 livestream-only mass, until we’re able to get a better sense of the ongoing effects of Covid-19.  This decision is very much in line with our bishop’s recommendation:  he prefers, for the health and safety of everyone, that amid the uncertainty of these times, we continue to offer livestream-only mass.  It’s the best way for us to reach the most people.  We will of course keep you informed if anything changes.  For now, please continue to tune in on Sunday mornings at 9:30.

It is important to remember also that our bishop continues to waive the Sunday mass obligation due to the risk associated with the virus.  He is aware, as well, of the challenges of opening up a Catholic church in a time like this.  By our very being we are a community that comes close together to receive communion, and in this way are different from other churches and denominations, especially in the South.  This is something we have to consider in making any decisions.

We hear from many of you questions, and longing, for a return to the Eucharist.  It’s a central part of our Catholic identity, and it’s now going on almost three months since we have received Eucharist.  We are in a time of absence.  We are, in many ways, in a kind of solidarity with those throughout history who have gone without Eucharist – people in the midst of war, refugees on the move, those who live in remote parts of the world with scarce access to the sacraments.  We are with them now.  We live in a land of one-click same-day delivery; what is it like to now go without?

In this season of Easter, we have been hearing nearly every weekend, and weekday, from the Gospel of John.  John’s gospel is the only one of the four gospels that does not tell the story of Jesus breaking and sharing the bread at the Last Supper.  Scripture scholars presume that the community that John was writing to –  toward the end of the first century and therefore a good seven decades after the life and death of Jesus – already knew those stories from Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

So what does John do in his gospel?  He tells another story.  He tells the story of the foot-washing, of Jesus “removing his cloak” (a sign of deep humility), and washing the feet of his disciples.  It’s a depth interpretation of what Eucharist is all about: it’s not just about bread and wine, it’s about living one’s life in a way that is modeled around the way of Jesus.  That’s what it’s all about:  can we be people of mercy, grace, kindness, forgiveness, peace?  Can we model our lives on Jesus?  In a time of absence, in a time in which we stand in communion with those around the globe who go without sacraments, this remains our call.

The last words any of us heard at mass were “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!”  Those words still hold for all of us. Thank you for being with us in these times we’re in, and in the words of St. Francis, may the Lord give you peace!

Fr. Steve Patti OFM
Pastor
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
11401 Leesville Rd.
Raleigh, NC 27613

______________________________________________________________

March 2020

Letter from the Pastor During Covid-19

Greetings of peace in these strange days of virus and distancing and learning new ways of being among one another.  If you’re new here, welcome to the virtual world of St. Francis.  We are a parish that, whether we gather in person in our beautiful church sanctuary or via livestream on our parish website, seeks to live into the witness of our patron saint, Francis of Assisi.

In these days of social distancing and Zoom calls, we have adapted and continue to adapt to our new virtual reality.  Scroll down this front page of our website and you can see different ways of being virtually involved in the ongoing life of the parish – our 9:30 Sunday liturgy, opportunities for prayer, friar videos and reflections, faith formation opportunities, ways of offering or receiving help, peace and justice opportunities, and information on our schools.

We find ourselves in strange, strange times, and uncertain times.  As you can imagine, we are feeling the financial effects of a reduced offertory.  We are working hard to contain expenses.  In the meantime, many thanks to all who have continued to support our parish financially.  We know these are difficult times, and we appreciate your support.  One way to give is through Faith Direct.  You can sign up directly by calling 866-507-8757 and giving our parish ID# NC674.  Or if you’d prefer you can send contributions directly to us here at:  St. Francis of Assisi Church, 11401 Leesville Rd., Raleigh NC 27613.  Thank you again, and may the Lord give you peace!

Fr. Steve Patti OFM
Pastor
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
11401 Leesville Rd.
Raleigh, NC 27613

FACILITIES

All routine parish programs and meetings are currently canceled through Labor Day. This may be extended. For the schedule of liturgical events, please continue to check the parish website. If you do have an occasion to be on campus for any reason, please be advised that face coverings must be worn, social distancing must be adhered to, and anyone (visitors/staff/vendor/students) who enter any building will have their temperature taken.

Please do not drop off any unsolicited items on the church property or in our buildings.  All of our donation drives are closely coordinated with our ministry partners in the community and are well publicized in advance. If you have donations at times outside of our announced drives, please take your donation directly to a charity of your choice. Thank you for your cooperation.

FORMATION

For the time being, all parish formation and sacramental preparation programming will be offered in an online format. For more information on our offerings, please visit https://www.stfrancisraleigh.org/formation-resources/ or email jennifer.fiduccia@stfrancisraleigh.org.

Q: Are you looking for virtual ways to learn more about Catholic Social Teaching and our call to justice and peace?

A: The Office of Justice and Peace continue to provide virtual adult justice and peace formation programming. You can read about offerings: https://www.stfrancisraleigh.org/learn/

MASS

In an ongoing effort to promote the safety of all, Bishop Luis Zarama has indefinitely suspended the obligation to attend Sunday Mass in person. We will continue to stream the 9:30 Mass each Sunday on multiple platforms. Please visit our website at stfrancisraleigh.org to participate.

Those who are in need of initiation to the Catholic faith (i.e. baptisms and First Eucharist) will be participating at the 9:30 Mass in person, with extensive safety protocols.

Beginning August 9, the Sunday 5:30 Mass will include public participation for up to 100 people, including ministers. Information on how to sign up for these liturgies is available at the parish website or you can contact Tim Hetzel at tim.hetzel@stfrancisraleigh.org or James Wahl at jim.wahl@stfrancisraleigh.org.

-Everyone will enter through the double doors in the breezeway.

-Face coverings are required for anyone over the age of 6 and must be worn for the duration of the time indoors (with the exception of the brief time receiving communion).

-Upon approaching the doors into the commons, attendees will sanitize their hands, provide their names and have their temperature taken. Anyone with a temperature above 100.4 degrees, and others living in the same domicile, will be asked to step aside, at a distance, and will be rechecked in 10 minutes. If temperature is not under 100.4 degrees at recheck, they may sit in the columbarium where sound will be projected.

-Social distancing is required at all times in the commons and the sanctuary.

-All attendees must remain in their pew for the duration of Mass with the exception of receiving Communion.

-Communion will be offered in the form of the host only and must be received by hand.

-At the conclusion of Mass, attendees will be dismissed one at a time by an usher, starting at the back of the church.

-Because of the rapidly and constantly changing circumstances surrounding the pandemic, this plan may change and the Mass may be canceled at any point.

MUSIC

Music Ministry is an integral part of the worshipping community. However, due to the increased risk of virus spread associated with singing, choirs and ensembles have been suspended. Small groups of existing Music Ministry members will be used to staff liturgies until further notice. If you have any questions please contact James Wahl at jim.wahl@stfrancisraleigh.org.

TFS

Please use this link to the Sumer Resources/Re-Opening for the most up to date information.

https://www.franciscanschool.org/covid-19/

PRESCHOOL

July 14, 2020

Dear Preschool Families,

We hope that your family is continuing to enjoy a safe, healthy, and fun summer together. Thank you for your patience as we worked to develop plans to return to preschool for the 2020-21 school year. While it will look different than years past, the mission and developmental philosophy of St. Francis Preschool will remain the same… to provide a safe and loving environment where the development of the whole child, the joy of learning, and the recognition of God in our lives are nurtured through peer interactions, thoughtful instruction, and play.   

The public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic is an ever-changing situation, so we are doing everything in our power to create a safe, welcoming, developmentally appropriate learning environment. Our current plan is based on what we know and what we can control. This plan was carefully constructed in collaboration with preschool directors from St. Michael, St. Raphael, St. Andrew, and Sacred Heart (Pinehurst) along with parish leadership, the Catholic Schools Office of the Diocese of Raleigh, and our own task force.  The overall goal was to create a plan that minimizes risk while maximizing learning and socialization, which are the hallmarks of a quality early childhood education, acknowledging that no school can completely eradicate the risk.

At this time, we plan to reopen on our normal schedule for the 2020-21 school year with enhanced health and cleaning procedures in place to protect all students, staff, and families. Please keep in mind that this plan is subject to Governor Cooper’s final decision about schools as well as any updated guidelines from NCDHHS/CDC. 

As you’ve heard, Governor Cooper has asked K-12 schools to develop guidelines according to three plans:

  • Plan A: minimal social distancing
  • Plan B: moderate social distancing involving
  • Plan C: remote learning only

Please note that in both Plan A and B, preschools are permitted to operate under the health department’s guidelines at full capacity and on a normal schedule. According to a recent publication from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “In Pre-K, the relative impact of physical distancing among children is likely small based on current evidence and certainly difficult to implement. Therefore, Pre-K should focus on more effective risk mitigation strategies for this population. These include hand hygiene, infection prevention education for staff and families, adult physical distancing from one another, adults wearing face coverings, cohorting, and spending time outdoors.” 

The attached plan provides specific guidelines that will be implemented should the governor decide that K-12 schools will open in the fall under Plan A or B. If schools open in Plan C, remote learning only, the preschool would remain closed. We would not open until schools move to Plans A or B. These guidelines follow the requirements and recommendations in the NCDHHS Child Care Strong Public Health Tool Kit last updated on June 26, 2020. This document differs from the K-12 guidelines and gives specific guidance for preschools and daycares. 

You can access our full reopening plan HERE. Below are some of the plan’s key points:

PARENT & STUDENT ORIENTATION

  • All large gatherings will be canceled or modified.

 HEALTH SCREENINGS

  • Health screenings will be completed daily for all students and staff. This includes a temperature check and questions about symptoms and exposure (see HERE on page 15).

 ARRIVAL/DISMISSAL PROCEDURES

  • A carpool system will be utilized for drop-off/pick-up.
  • It may be necessary to slightly stagger arrival/dismissal times for some classes.

 PRESCHOOL LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

  • Each class will be considered a ‘bubble’ with children and teachers not mixing with other classes on the playground or for specials. 

 VISITORS

  • We will follow the current recommendation of CDC/NCDHHS to restrict parents and/or volunteers from entering the building. Teachers and staff will continue to use other ways to provide parents with glimpses of classroom learning that is occurring for their child (i.e. Google Photo, Bloomz, Shutterfly, etc.) 
  • No outside groups will be allowed at the school.
  • Exceptions to the visitor policy will only be professionals providing health/developmental needs (ie. therapists).

 MODIFICATIONS TO CLASSROOM SPACE

  • Classrooms will be rearranged to maximize the ability of children to spread out, whenever possible. Activities currently prohibited by NCDHHS guidelines, such as playdough, sandboxes, and sensory tables, will not be used.  Comparable activities to allow for engaging skills that the prohibited activities would have addressed will be offered.

 FACE MASKS/PPE

  • All staff will wear face coverings while in the building. Children will not be required to wear a face covering. See the full reopening plan for more specific information.

 CLEANING/HYGIENE MEASURES 

  • Our preschool facility, both during the school day by staff and nightly by a professional cleaning crew, will be cleaned with enhanced cleaning products and procedures.
  • As always, we will educate the children on good hygiene practices, such as frequent and effective handwashing, using sanitizer safely, and coughing/sneezing into your elbow.

 DISTANCE LEARNING

  • Should schools need to close for a short time during the school year, we will be prepared to offer temporary distance learning.

 RECOGNIZING HEALTH RISKS/REPORTING 

  • Parents and staff will be provided with information about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 (see HERE page 1 for list of symptoms).  They will be responsible for learning this information.  If they or their children exhibit any of the symptoms, all members of the family are required to stay home. It is imperative that we all work together to keep our preschool healthy!  We will follow the NCDHHS guidelines for exposure to COVID-19 (see HERE on page 13). If any staff member, child, or parent has been determined to be in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, they must notify the preschool office and follow the above plan before returning to childcare.

TUITION

  • If there is a delay in the opening of preschool, we will offer credits and/or refunds for any prepaid tuition.
  • If a family chooses to withdraw from our school, prepaid tuition will be refunded ONLY if our office is notified in writing by July 27th. (email is acceptable). Otherwise tuition policies in the Parent Handbook will apply. As a reminder, tuition is paid one month in advance.
  • Registration fees are not refundable.

Although our program may look differently than in past years, what has not changed is our commitment to providing a safe and nurturing environment that educates each child spiritually, academically, physically, and emotionally. We look forward to a preschool year filled with love, learning, friendship, and fun.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions at Heidi.hobler@stfrancisraleigh.org.

Thank you for entrusting us with the early education of your child!  

With Joy,
Heidi
Heidi Hobler, Director
St. Francis of Assisi Preschool
11401 Leesville Road
Raleigh, NC 27613
919-847-8205 ext. 240

 

MINISTRY

Q: Are there ministry opportunities to serve and help in the community during this time of COVID-19?

A: Please see our COVID-19 Ways to Offer and Receive Care web page: https://www.stfrancisraleigh.org/offer-or-receive-help/

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Q: Are you looking for virtual faith-filled friendship and informal conversation during this time?

A: You can join us for “Communi-TEA” and “Quaran-TEA-NI.” To sign up, https://www.stfrancisraleigh.org/virtual-cafe/

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HELPFUL INFORMATION

From CDC: What you need to know about Coronavirus
From CDC: Preparations for people at High Risk
From CDC: Steps to Prevent Illness
From CDC: Recommendations if you or an immediate family member is sick

CDC Sick Fact Sheet

CDC Steps When Sick

 If you believe you or an immediate family member may have been exposed to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), 
Please call your local health department, in Wake County, call 919-250-4462. 
You should also call your doctor to tell them your situation.   

To keep from spreading respiratory illness to others,
a
nyone who has been diagnosed with Coronavirus/COVID-19
or member in the same household has been quarantined due to a diagnoses
by a medical professional or the NC Health Department should, 

Stay home.

Call ahead before visiting your doctor.

Notify employer, school administration, or parish staff liaison of the diagnosis.

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