Bishop Francis Malone: Rev. Francis I. Malone was pastor here at St. Michael’s for only one year, June of 1985-86. He obtained his law degree in 1989, was elevated to Monsignor and served as Chancellor for Ecclesial Affairs for the Diocese of Little Rock. In December last year, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, elected him to serve as the next Bishop of the Diocese of Shreveport, Louisianna. His ordination was on January 28th.
< Bishop Malone was ordained by Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, seen here in the photo placing the bishop’s miter on him; Bishop Taylor of Little Rock and Bishop Duca of Baton Rouge were co-consecrators.
< Newly ordained Bishop Malone blessing the congregation for the first time as Bishop. The crosier he is carrying is the late Bishop Andrew McDonald’s (of Little Rock).
Fr. Chandra – temporary Sacramental Minister: Our pastor, Fr. Amal, had some issues renewing his Visa and in early January was notified he needed to go back to India to resolve this. In his absence, the diocese sent Fr. Chandra to minister to our Sacramental needs. It was a delight to have him with us for 6 short weeks. Fr. Amal returned to us in time for Ash Wednesday Mass, February 26th.
Coronavirus Pandemic and the cancelation of Holy Mass: In early January, the coronavirus, which began in China, spread from Italy and Europe and into the U.S. In early March, even before the first patient in AR was confirmed positive, Bishop Taylor announced a few temporary modifications at Mass, which included: no shaking of hands at the Sign of Peace, no holding hands during the Our Father, and no Communion on the tongue. As the CDC (Center for Disease Control) restricted gatherings no larger than 250, then 50, then 10, Bishop Taylor made the decision, effective March 22: all public Masses will be suspended; all meetings and gatherings would be canceled or postponed, which for our parish included CCD, RCIA, Bingo, St. Vincent de Paul and KCs, etc; he also encouraged parishes to remain open for prayer. In our parish, Eucharistic Adoration continued Mon-Fri with the Blessed Sacrament upon the main altar (to allow people room to distance themselves from one another). The Church was also open on Sunday mornings for prayer.
Phase I of Reopening: The governor, with the advice of the CDC, allowed the state to begin “opening up” effective May 16th. This also meant that the public celebration of Mass was allowed to resume, but with many restrictions. Masks had to be worn; everyone must sanitize their hands upon entry to the building; a safe distance of 6′ from one another had to be maintained; hymnals, missalettes, and other material touched in common had to be removed; one cantor was allowed to sing with their mask off; a total of 25% of maximum capacity were allowed to attend each service, which meant 75 persons; etc. Fr. Amal had to offer Mass without servers and the distribution of Holy Communion was done single file, one pew at a time. No holding or shaking of hands during Mass was allowed, and the distribution of the Precious Blood was still prohibited. All indoor activities and meetings are still prohibited.
Phase II: On June 15th, the governor allowed the state to enter Phase II of reopening. All that changed for the churches was they were now allowed 66% of max capacity at each service. With the number of COVID cases rising around the country, and in Arkansas, we will be at this phase for some time. To be continued…
June 20 & 21, 2020: Bishop Taylor joined us for Confirmation at our Saturday Vigil Mass, and First Holy Communion the following Sunday morning.