CHARLOTTE — Parishes may return to near-normal operations effective immediately, the Diocese of Charlotte has announced, following state and federal officials’ moves to relax COVID-19 restrictions.
Catholics’ obligation to attend Sunday Mass is also being reinstated effective Pentecost Sunday, May 23, although some important exceptions will remain.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced May 13 that people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer need to wear face coverings or follow social distancing norms under most circumstances.
North Carolina’s requirements for masks and social distancing were similarly dropped May 14.
However, state and federal health officials urge people who are vulnerable or unvaccinated to continue wearing masks and following social distancing norms.
In North Carolina, 46 percent of people aged 18 and older have been fully vaccinated to date.
In response to the state and federal actions, the Diocese of Charlotte’s vicar general and chancellor, Monsignor Patrick J. Winslow, issued a decree May 14 announcing that mask and social distancing requirements at all religious services are lifted “effective immediately.”
The diocese’s instruction states:
In accordance with the latest guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which no longer recommends social distancing or face coverings for those who are fully vaccinated, and North Carolina Executive Order 215 that lifts mask and social distancing requirements in most circumstances, effective immediately parishes and the faithful in the Diocese of Charlotte are to observe the following norms.
Religious services no longer require social distancing or face coverings.
Those who remain vulnerable are advised to continue wearing face coverings or attend Mass virtually.
Masses and confessions are to return to their pre-COVID schedules beginning Pentecost Sunday (May 23, 2021).
The options of receiving Communion from the chalice and extending the Sign of Peace are to remain omitted until further notice.
The faithful retain the right to receive Communion on the tongue or in the hand.
Beginning Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021, the general dispensation from attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation will be narrowed to include only those who remain vulnerable to the coronavirus.
Charities and outreach efforts remain operational.
Carolina Catholic News is excited to present a new program “Healed and Restored,” on Sundays at 5 pm, hosted by Elza Spaedy.
Elza, founder of a non-profit ministry, author, and public speaker, brings to the show a compelling story of her own healing experience. This production guides listeners through insights and reflections on how to return to physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.
The program offers a variety of facets to healing, and discussion with an array of guests. Charity, forgiveness, trust and a dedication to Christ will be themes throughout this program, while transforming one heart at a time!
Carolinacatholicradio.org at the “on air” tab will take you to the link, on Sunday at 5 pm. You can also listen on your phone app and on 1270 am. You won’t want to miss this enlightening show!
This is Frank Trotta with a Carolina Catholic News update…
There is a lot happening at Belmont Abbey College.
On the heels of announcing a free “Jump Start Summer Class” for incoming first-year students to give them a head-start in their college studies, Belmont Abbey College, announced they are joining forces with Gaston College to help local students achieve their goal of a bachelor’s degree. Gaston College is a community college granting associate degrees to its graduates.
The Catholic News Herald reports that the presidents of the two colleges executed a memorandum of understanding stating that any student who earns an Associate’s Degree at Gaston College can have direct-entry admission to Belmont Abbey College to pursue their bachelor’s degree. The program is called “Belmont Abbey College Connect,”
In addition to the “Belmont Abbey College Connect” and the free “Jump Start Summer Class” Belmont Abbey College president Bill Thierfelder gave an hour long talk to the parishioners of St. Michael parish and students of St. Michael School on the history of the Catholic Church in Gaston County.
The fascinating lecture, complete with archival photos told how in the 1800s the monks of Belmont Abbey were responsible for the entire Catholic Church in North Carolina, how the monk built the college by hand including making the bricks themselves from local clay, and how in the early 1900s the New York Yankees would stop at the college on the way to spring training and play a game against the Belmont Abbey College students. When showing the photo of Babe Ruth with one of the Abbey’s monk, Dr. Thierfelder noted the irony as his father was an executive with the Yankees in the 1960s.
Here is the video of Dr. Thierfelder’s History of the Catholic Church in Gaston County.
CHARLOTTE — North Carolina is ranked 11th in the United States for the number of human trafficking cases reported, according to the National Resource Center for Human Trafficking.
Human trafficking violates the sanctity, dignity and fundamental rights of the human person. The United Nations’ Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines it as “the recruitment, transportation, harboring or receipt of persons by means of force, fraud or coercion…for the purpose of exploitation.”
According to the U.S. State Department, human trafficking appears in “many guises,” often taking the form of commercial sexual exploitation, the prostitution of minors, debt bondage and involuntary servitude. The U.S. government, and increasingly the international community, use the umbrella term “trafficking in persons” to define all forms of modern slavery.
Every year, millions of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, and no sector or industry is immune from human trafficking. Victims may be workers in food processing factories, waiters or cooks at restaurants, construction workers, agricultural laborers, fishers, housekeeping staff at hotels, domestic help in private residences, or sex trafficked women and men in brothels, spas and massage parlors.
According to the United Nations’ International Labor Organization’s 2016 “Global Estimates of Modern Slavery,” nearly 40.3 million people are victims of modern slavery, of whom 24.9 million are trapped in forced labor and sexual slavery and 15.4 million are subjected to forced marriage. Through coercion, deceit or force, they work in jobs and situations from which they cannot escape.
“This is a pro-life issue and those who fall prey to traffickers are our children, our brothers and our sisters,” explains Kara Griffin, St. Matthew parishioner and member of the Diocese of Charlotte’s anti-trafficking task force coordinated by Catholic Charities’ Respect Life Program.
Griffin explains that many people are forced into these situations or manipulated because of desperate times. Many who are coerced into trafficking are also vulnerable to other human injustices and become trapped in an endless cycle of poverty, desperation and vulnerability.
Griffin adds, “Many are young people who are vulnerable targets online. They are lonely or feel unloved, and predators know how to provide attention and groom them into activity and behaviors that eventually become criminal acts. The victims feel they are responsible, and this is why this is a difficult crime to address or even identify.”
Victims of prostitution are tricked, drugged and often threatened to engage in acts they never intended to do, she adds. “Many people also fall prey to forced labor conditions in restaurants, clubs, spas, nail salons, construction, agricultural work and more.”
Griffin emphasizes that human trafficking is “a pandemic that’s hiding in plain sight, but that is often ignored even as it reaches and crosses the boundaries of our own communities. Modern-day slavery is one of the fastest growing crimes in America – including labor and sexual exploitation.
“We hope to bring greater awareness to Catholics and open their eyes to this heinous crime.”
— SueAnn Howell, Senior reporter. The USCCB, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking contributed.
Join the virtual event Feb. 8
On Feb. 8, the International Day of Prayer and Awareness of Human Trafficking, Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte’s Respect Life Office is partnering with the Catholic Coalition of Organizations Against Human Trafficking to host an international virtual prayer service and panel of experts. Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville of Washington will open the service with a prayer and reflection. To join this virtual event, register here: www.humantraffickingacademy.org/event/day-of-prayer.