January 2021

Ash Wednesday, February 17, marks the beginning of the holy season of Lent. It is also the starting date for annual Fish Dinners in parishes throughout the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. In many of those places it is a regular fundraiser to support parish activities or to help the poor.

In view of the continuing impact of the COVID 19 pandemic, and on the advice of the Presbyteral Council and other advisors, it has been decided that the following guidelines are to be observed with regard to Fish Dinners in parishes in the diocese.

Fish Dinners may be provided, but only in the format of Take-Out service. There should be no indoor dining. Anyone who assists in food preparation and serving of these dinners must be screened by temperature check. All must wear the proper masks and gloves and adhere to the protocols for sanitizing and maintaining safe distances.

Some parishes have already cancelled their annual Fish Dinners altogether. The most common reason is the lack of volunteers who are uneasy about being part of social activities during the current pandemic

In view of Take-Out service only, customers should not enter the building to place their order or to receive their order. Arrangements should be made for this to occur outside, which may require additional volunteers. Some of the commercial fast food restaurants have been using that arrangement throughout the current pandemic.

This “Take-Out Only” format should be responded to in the true spirit of Lent which is a penitential season; a time of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.

The recent availability of COVID vaccinations is a sign that an end to the pandemic is on the horizon. However, the reality is that it will take several months for everyone to have been vaccinated, and even then there will remain a need for care and vigilance.

Such care and vigilance are at the heart of the holy season of Lent. I thank everyone for your continued vigilance and cooperation for the common good all. I invite you to reflect on the words of the opening prayer for the Ash Wednesday liturgy which provides the proper focus for this time:

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up the battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

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