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COVID-19 restrictions have eased, allowing a limited number of people to return to church just as the Chatham Catholic Family of Parishes pastor’s team is saying goodbye to parishioners.
Father Jim Higgins and Associate Pastors Fr. Olivet Okoro, Fr. Jude Ogbenna and Fr. Stan Izdebski bid farewell in person to the 15% of parishioners who are currently able to attend Mass in person.
Changing priests is “always a difficult time for people,” Higgins said of the new assignments for the pastoral team, “but at the same time it is an opportunity for people to have a new voice. who will preach the word and a new direction. , perhaps, in the way they will be led.
Father John Jasica will lead the new team of pastors which includes Associate Pastors Bro. Robert Weaver and Fr. Dariusz Lewandowski, who arrives July 5 to begin serving the five Catholic churches in Chatham.
Noting that he was nearing the end of his career as an associate pastor in Windsor, Higgins described Jasica as a younger priest who is “quite excited to come to Chatham and that’s a good thing”.
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He added that he and his successor have been meeting since January to ensure a smooth transition. Regarding future changes, Higgins said the Catholic churches in Chatham “will continue as is.”
âWe have worked very hard and we have been very diligent in making sure that everyone is served, even during the pandemic,â he said.
This engagement included the offer of live masses on Sunday and Thursday.
As a seasoned pastor, Higgins said he had previously celebrated Mass “in many different ways,” including nearly seven years of worship at a Sarnia gymnasium.
Now that the restrictions on the pandemic are easing, he acknowledged that there were a number of parishioners who “are just eager to get back to church.”
The pastor’s team applauded the efforts of students and teachers during the pandemic
âIt was very difficult for our children and for the teachers as well,â Higgins said. âI just can’t imagine how difficult it is for children to learn virtually. “
He added that the parents have done Yeoman’s job to help their children during this difficult time.
The COVID restrictions have also impacted the church’s normal interactions with students in Catholic schools, including delays in the sacraments of First Communion, reconciliation, and confirmation.
Higgins said going online to tell children about the sacraments was “an eye opener on how children really are hungry for their faith.”
He laughed as he received a letter from a young student preparing for First Communion and First Reconciliation who wrote, âI really wanted to talk to you.