On Palm Sunday, bishops to livestream Masses, some parishes make palms available for pick-up

| April 4, 2020 | 0 Comments

Father Chad VanHoose, pastor of St. Jude of the Lake in Mahtomedi, distributes palms April 4 in anticipation of Palm Sunday Mass.
COURTESY NANCY PALACHECK

Archbishop Bernard Hebda will be celebrating Palm Sunday Mass at Sts. Joachim and Anne in Shakopee April 5, and it will be livestreamed so the faithful can join them from their homes.

He will celebrate 10 a.m. Mass in English and a noon Mass in Spanish.

In between the Masses, he’ll lead a procession and benediction. People are invited to participate in their cars with windows closed, parking in the large lot south of the parish’s St. Mark campus.

Meanwhile, Bishop Andrew Cozzens will celebrate Mass at 9 a.m. April 5 at St. Stephen in Minneapolis. It will also be livestreamed.

The suspension of public Mass continues across the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis during Gov. Tim Walz’s stay-at-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19. For several weeks, Catholics have been participating in Masses by television, radio and the internet instead of attending in person, and are now preparing to enter Holy Week without many of the familiar milestones and sacramentals, including palms blessed at Palm Sunday weekend Masses.

In an April 1 memo from Archbishop Hebda to priests and deacons on the celebration of Holy Week liturgies, he said that blessed palms may be distributed outside of Masses, provided they follow safety precautions prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control. The archbishop said parishes could offer unblessed palms for pick-up prior to Palm Sunday Masses, and then plan to return to the parish at some on Sunday for them to be blessed at a distance, or priests could bless palms during Palm Sunday Masses and then offer them to people following the Mass. Both options must follow social distancing procedures, he said.

Father Ralph Talbot, pastor of St. Mary of the Lake in White Bear Lake, hands out palms April 5.
COURTESY SUSAN MULHERON

Already, some pastors have made palms available. According to social media, northeast Minneapolis priests hearing confessions at St. Maron this week have made palms available to penitents. At St. Nicholas in Elko New Market, parishioners can pick up palms for two hours on Saturday afternoon in anticipation of Palm Sunday Mass. Other parishes, such as Holy Name of Jesus in Wayzata and Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis, are offering palms for pick up on Sunday.

At St. Jude of the Lake in Mahtomedi, the parish’s pastor Father Chad VanHoose stood alongside his parish’s semicircle driveway off Mahtomedi Avenue the morning of April 4 handing out palms to people who drove in. He also offered parish bulletins and blessed each car that stopped with a relic of the parish’s patron, St. Jude. A sign near the road let people know about the morning “palm pick-up.” The other side read, “Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

That’s what the parish is trying to do during coronavirus pandemic, Father VanHoose told The Catholic Spirit. Parish staff has placed candles in the parish’s windows.

“We’re trying to be a light to our community,” he said. And handing out palms is part of that.

Catholics deeply appreciate the Church’s sacramentals — physical signs related to the sacraments such as holy water, Ash Wednesday ashes and blessed palms — and the absence of public Mass has likely heightened that this year, he said.

The palms are “a physical remembrance of the Lord’s grace in our life,” he said. “It’s so important right now when all other things are seemingly stripped away here, (Catholics) have a physical connection to our parish and to the Lord.”

Father VanHoose handed out palms to people in as many as 200 cars over the course of two-and-a-half hours, and he was grateful for the opportunity to reconnect face-to-socially-distanced-face with parishioners.

“We’re trying to bring joy and hope in this time of purification and penance,” he said. “But we’re hopeful that, with the resurrection of Jesus at Easter, that we as a parish will raise with him, too.”

At Immaculate Conception in Columbia Heights, parishioners can pick up palms in the parish parking lot on Sunday morning. A note on the parish website explained that the palms will be individually bagged and will be prepared by staff members wearing sanitized gloves. The note said that the “the most important thing is the safety and well-being of our parishioners” and urged everyone to follow health guidelines.

“While palm branches are an important sacramental for our faith tradition, we recognize that they are not essential,” Immaculate Conception’s website states. “Thank you for your faith and perseverance during these difficult days.”

Catholics are encouraged to check their parish’s websites and social media for information about receiving palms. Offering palms is optional, and some parishes may not provide them during the stay-at-home order.

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