More Bishops Invite Catholics Back to Mass, Lift Dispensations

Kansas and Missouri dioceses have issued letters to the faithful.

More dioceses are calling the faithful back to Mass.
More dioceses are calling the faithful back to Mass. (photo: Unsplash)

Two more U.S. bishops have invited Catholics back to Mass, following other dioceses that have lifted dispensations from the Sunday obligation.

“St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, used to beg his people to keep the faith and not miss Mass because he feared they would separate themselves from God for all eternity,” Bishop Jerry Vincke of the Diocese of Salina, Kansas, wrote to Catholics. “I want each one of you to go to heaven.”

Bishop Vincke’s May 20 letter is split into 12 sections, each dedicated to highlighting the importance of how the faithful should approach the liturgy. He began his letter announcing he would be lifting the general dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days, beginning on the weekend of May 22-23. The general dispensation in the diocese began on March 17, 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic spread in the United States.

The bishop noted that a dispensation still exists for Catholics with “valid reasons,” which include being ill or elderly. He mentioned that those who are unable to attend Mass because of extenuating circumstances, such as travel or work, must seek a dispensation from their pastor.

Bishop Vincke apologized to any faithful “that were hurt by the decision to close Masses to the public” for the six weeks in the spring of 2020 that public Masses were suspended due to the pandemic. A Mass broadcast online, he said, can never substitute for attending in-person Mass.

“It is part of the very nature of our faith that we have a personal and in-person encounter with Christ through His Church,” he wrote. 

Next to the Diocese of Salina, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, launched a new campaign, “Come Home to Communion,” on May 24. Bishop James Johnston Jr. of Kansas City-St. Joseph is inviting Catholics back to Mass, lifting the general dispensation for the Sunday obligation effective on June 1.

In its campaign, the diocese used billboards, social media, a website and online tool kits for the diocese’s 98 parishes and missions to reach Catholics. 

Citing canon law, Bishop Johnston acknowledged that individual dispensations may continue for reasons of sickness, being a caregiver, or being advised by medical doctors to avoid public gatherings. 

The bishop wrote that all legitimate government directives are to be followed, and parishes should be aware of any resurgence of infections. 

Bishop Vincke wrote to Catholics in his diocese that Jesus “is the way, the truth and the life.” 

“If we are missing Sunday Mass because we do not feel it is important, or we simply put other things before God, we are likely on the wrong path,” he wrote. “We have forgotten who we are, and this only leads to our unhappiness.”

Bishop Vincke explained that attending Sunday Mass is the most important thing Catholics do all week. 

“Coming to Mass is participating in the greatest, most passionate love story that has ever existed: celebrating the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, who comes on a rescue mission to save humanity from hell,” he wrote. 

“Perhaps the biggest lie in our world today,” Bishop Vincke wrote, “is that everyone goes to heaven no matter what.”

He continued, saying that “this is not what Jesus said or what the Church He founded teaches us.”

The bishop urged those who have missed Mass deliberately in the past, and have been away from the sacrament of reconciliation, to go to confession before receiving Holy Communion.

Bishop Vincke continued to mention the holy days set by the Church and affirmed the gravity of missing Mass on those days, as well. 

The bishop also wrote that, when attending Mass, the faithful ought to dress appropriately for “God, the King of the Universe,” adding that they ought to dress modestly in order to “honor the sacredness of our physical bodies.”