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A Letter to the Faithful from Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.
May 7, 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

I write to you to share the sad and deeply troubling news of the closing of nine elementary schools and one archdiocesan-sponsored high school in the Archdiocese of Newark. Today’s announcement will cause special distress to the students and families, teachers, staff, administrators, pastors, and parishioners most directly affected by these difficult decisions.

Every time a school closes, something irreplaceable is lost. Our Catholic schools are much more than institutions. They are communities of faith and learning, as well as centers of prayer and service that build on the formation that is begun in families. Parents, grandparents and guardians make enormous sacrifices to provide their children with the great blessing of a Catholic education. This sacrifice is also an investment that will yield lifelong benefits, since Catholic schools recognize and educate the whole person (mind, body and spirit), their contributions to the well-being of each student, and his or her family, reach far beyond the excellent academic programs they offer.

Although Catholic elementary and high schools continue as a priority for the Archdiocese of Newark, this historical moment presents crucial challenges to the sustainability and ongoing success of our schools. The snowballing crisis that threatens both health and economic stability continues to expand and has exacerbated the dual threats of declining enrollment and swiftly increasing subsidies that have been necessary to sustain schools.

Some elements for the future flourishing of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Newark are clear. These include the archdiocesan vision of “Forward in Faith Together: Our Road Ahead,” as well as a sharper sense of shared responsibility for Catholic education. Passing on our faith to new generations is an indispensable part of the mission of the Church. So, we must intensify our efforts to develop new models that can sustain our teaching mission, especially in areas of the Archdiocese where schools and other formation programs are most needed. The present circumstances invite us to renew a meaningful commitment to Catholic education in the Archdiocese in which our institutions flourish, not simply survive.

We mourn the loss of these ten schools, but we hope to shape a better future. There continues to be demand for Catholic education and many examples of thriving schools. We are proud of what our Archdiocesan schools, students, teachers, and staff members have accomplished over the past century. We hope that the families affected by the closures will continue their children’s education at a nearby Catholic school.

Please join me in praying for all our Catholic school communities, and for our students and their families. May the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, who nurtured and formed the child Jesus in their family home in Nazareth, guide us as we work to educate all our children in faith, hope and loving service.

Sincerely yours in Christ the Redeemer,

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.
Archbishop of Newark  

Sentinel Management has notified Catholic Charities that our Donation Bins are anticipated to be open as of May 18th. We are grateful for your patience and look forward to your continued support. We need clothing, small appliances, shoes, linens, sheets, towels, stuffed animals, novels, toys, knickknacks, and children’s books.

We pray for an end of this virus in our society and throughout the world.

Thank you with all our heart.

May 11, 2020

As painful as the decision was to suspend all public Masses in the Archdiocese of Newark, during the Covid 19 pandemic, the process was straight-forward and necessary for the common good.

As we see numbers flatten and decrease, we are beginning to sense the situation improving. In the interest of the common good, we do not want to contribute to a second wave that could disrupt our liturgical life.

As health restrictions are eased and we are able to start gathering together again, it is important for everyone to accept that things will not immediately go back to life before the Corona virus.

Health experts and civic leaders are currently determining new guidelines and restrictions for the next weeks and months, and at the same time the Archdiocese of Newark is planning for how public worship will be celebrated with respect to any new regulations. 

We know the desire to return to your parishes, participate in the liturgy, and receive the Eucharist is incredibly strong, but we ask that everyone approach this reopening with a patient, loving and charitable mindset. 

The specific details of when public Mass will resume and how it will be celebrated are still being determined, but the return will occur through a three-phase gradual process. Each phase will be rolled out with specific dates and directives to follow determined by Archdiocesan leaders.

Phase 1. Churches will first be opened for personal prayer only. Individuals and families can come to church for quiet prayer, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation may be celebrated if social distancing can be maintained and masks are worn.

Phase 2. Following on Phase 1, churches will be permitted to celebrate public weekday Masses and funerals with very specific restrictions, such as the strict practice of social distancing, use of masks and limited number of people present.

Phase 3. Following Phase 1 and 2, churches will be permitted to celebrate Sunday Mass publicly with the obligatory practice of social distancing, use of masks and limited number of people present. All other sacraments will resume according to the directives during Phase 3.

Five Things to Be Mindful of During the Return Process

1. A general dispensation from the Sunday obligation will remain until further notice. The dispensation for the obligation to attend Mass will remain in effect. No one will be required to attend Mass when public celebrations resume. Hence, live stream Masses for parishioners at home will continue.

2. Attendance will be limited. We know restrictions will remain on holding large gatherings, so we are working with parishes to determine the best way to ensure safety. Communications will come from the parish so parishioners will know how many people can attend any given Mass.
It is likely that all parishioners may not be able to attend Mass regularly at first.

3. Social Distancing will be practiced. Expect that your parish will have pews/rows that are taped off, and that households, even of one individual, will be asked to keep six feet of separation from each other. No one will be admitted without a mask. Parishioners should take their temperature before coming to Mass. Anyone with any symptoms of sickness must stay home. 

4. Liturgical changes will be in place. Similar to protocols established when churches were closing, extra precautions will be taken. Temporary adjustments will be made to how we celebrate Mass and receive Communion.

5. There still will be a risk for anyone who attends a public Mass. Even with best health practices and strict social distancing, anyone who enters a public space should recognize there is a risk of contracting the coronavirus. Improved cleaning will occur at our churches, but no one should expect that they will be any safer from germs than in other public spaces.

Finally, we should recognize that this is a unique time and we need to continue to work together to make progress. There will be challenges and frustration. You may not be able to attend Mass at your parish the first few weeks it resumes. However, we believe these guidelines are a call to love our neighbors.

If we all work together, we can incrementally expand our options and increase our participation in the liturgy. However, if we look for ways to get around the regulations, we will likely contribute to the sickness and death of others, creating situations that force us to take steps back. Each of us is called to be faithful members of the Body of Christ as we implement the reopening of our churches. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do in our parish communities.

Updated directives regarding Catholic Cemeteries have been approved by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., for the Archdiocese of Newark.

On Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 10, all archdiocesan cemeteries will be open for visitation from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will be open for visitation every Sunday, thereafter.

Beginning on Monday, May 11, up to 10 family members will be permitted to attend a burial service. (Currently, two family members only are permitted.) Until further notice, all committal services are limited to immediate family only and not to exceed the recommendations of New Jersey Executive Order No. 107 (2020) and Administrative Order 2020-04, that gatherings of 10 persons or fewer are permitted.

Beginning on Monday, May 18, cemetery visitation will be permitted weekdays, Monday through Saturday, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., after all interments are completed.

Memorial Day Masses at our all archdiocesan cemeteries are postponed until further notice. Announcements are forthcoming regarding a livestream or video of Memorial Day Mass at Holy Cross Cemetery.

All persons entering archdiocesan cemetery and mausoleum premises must wear a facemask and practice social distancing as per the state’s mandate. Signs will be posted in cemeteries.

Read the full letter from Andrew P. Schafer, the executive director Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Newark.