December 21, 2020
Dear Diocesan Colleagues and Partners in Christ,
The Diocese of Nashville has been receiving inquiries as it relates to any plans, given the recent address on Sunday, December 20th and an Executive Order from Governor Lee. With the heightened levels of COVID-19 cases and deaths occurring throughout Tennessee, the Diocese wishes to demonstrate solidarity and show support with the Governor’s initiative, taking proper and extra precautions during this critical timeframe. The following summarize current plans for respective areas of the Diocese.
Catholic Pastoral Center. The offices at the Catholic Pastoral Center will begin working virtually effective immediately through Monday, January 11, 2021. Diocesan offices and ministries will transition during that week to fully in-person operations by Tuesday, January 19, 2021.
While the staff is working virtually, offices may be contacted by email or phone during normal business hours. The offices at the CPC will be closed as previously scheduled in observance of Christmas and New Year’s Day from noon Wednesday, December 23, 2020 through Sunday, January 3, 2021.
Parish Worship Services. As our 58 churches make plans for Masses on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, normally some of the best attended liturgies of the year, the safety protocols which have been used for months will be in full force. Pastors are taking a variety of steps most appropriate to their local circumstances to provide for proper social distancing, required masking, limited occupancy, and other measures that are unique to their parish to ensure those gathering to celebrate the great Feast of Christmas may do so as safely as possible.
Virtual “Livestream” Christmas Masses. For those unable or uncomfortable with attending Mass in person, there will be several virtual alternatives: This year, the 10 p.m. Christmas Eve Mass at the Cathedral of the Incarnation celebrated by Bishop J. Mark Spalding will be livestreamed at CathedralMass.com, and on the Facebook pages of the Diocese of Nashville and the Cathedral. WZTV Fox 17 will re-broadcast the Mass at midnight. It will also be re-aired on Christmas morning at 8 a.m. on Fox 17, 9 a.m. on WNAB The CW58, and at 10 a.m. on WUXP My30.
Many parishes have also added additional Masses and made arrangements to livestream their Masses online (please see the diocesan homepage at www.dioceseofnashville.com for a listing).
Dispensation Remains In Effect. As a reminder, Bishop Spalding has consistently encouraged people to protect their health as a priority in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. His dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days remains in place indefinitely in order to permit everyone to exercise prudent care over their health and well-being and offer charity toward others.
Please note: Those who have an active ongoing illness (including infection, flare of a chronic illness, etc.), anyone over the age of 65, those with a history of heart failure, lung disease, diabetes, ongoing malignancy, any immunosuppressive disorder, those on steroids or other immunosuppressive medications, those who have been advised by a health care professional not to attend Mass, and those who live with anyone with any health vulnerability, are strongly encouraged to remain at home at this time and join us on-line or via television for Mass.
Additionally, those who are worried that attending Mass would add undue stress or jeopardize their health or the health of a person with whom they live, are also encouraged to remain at home.
Catholic Diocesan Schools. The Catholic Schools Office under the leadership of Rebecca Hammel, along with the strong support of principals, continue to plan to return to in-person learning as scheduled on Monday, January 4, 2021.
School leaders are united in their determination that the strong protocols developed last summer, in direct consultation with public health experts in Nashville, have provided safe environments in our schools and provided a clear framework to respond to infections that have occurred.
Ever diligent attention to those protocols, schools remain a safe place for our students. Young people are safest and best served by being together with appropriate safety measures in place, according to guidance provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
However, to be prudent in evaluating the latest circumstances affecting the safety of our schools, our Superintendent of Catholic Schools and school principals will meet by conference call on Wednesday, December 30, 2020 to re-evaluate and assess current community conditions caused by the COVID-19 virus to determine if returning to in-person learning on January 4 remains appropriate. Confirmation of reopening or any necessary adjustments will be communicated to families through each school’s regular channels by 4 p.m. on December 30. That information will also be posted on the COVID update page on www.dioceseofnashville.com.
As we all know, the pandemic environment has certainly shown itself to be constantly changing and needing flexible, dynamic response. Further changes are not anticipated at this time, but nonetheless may subsequently be needed. In the event that further changes in plans need to be made, The Diocese of Nashville would use the same consistent channels it has used throughout the pandemic, namely the Diocese home page, the E-Register, and direct communications from Bishop Spalding, Rebecca Hammel, and myself. If you have any questions concerning items or procedures outlined in this letter, please feel free to contact any of our diocesan offices directly.
As we celebrate this most unusual Christmas Season, may we all rejoice in the birth of our Lord with our families, finding peace and comfort in God’s eternal and boundless love.
Brian L. Cooper
Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer