COVID-19 community updates

  • The Rev. Mitchell Rozanski, Bishop of the Springfield Diocese, celebrates a Mass of Christian Burial for the Rev. Vernon Paul Decoteau at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Belchertown in June 2016. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Published: 7/29/2020 7:23:01 PM
Catholic Mass will celebrate graduates

A Mass for High School seniors, honoring 2020 high school graduating seniors in the Springfield Diocese, will be celebrated on Aug. 11 at 2 p.m. at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Springfield.

The Mass will be taped to be broadcast on the Aug. 16 “Chalice of Salvation” on WWLP-22NEWS and WXXA FOX23 (Berkshires).

Celeste Labbe, director of faith formation for the Springfield Diocese, said the Mass is currently scheduled to be celebrated by Archbishop-designate Mitchell T. Rozanski in the cathedral to allow for social distancing.

Sister of St. Joseph Betty Matuszek, pastoral minister at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Springfield, said the occasion of the Mass for High School Seniors, whatever schools they attended, sends a hopeful message. She said the event is an appropriate way of affirming that the graduates “are of definite value to the Catholic religion and what the presence of the church truly means to them personally.”

Sister Matuszek said that since the Mass is televised, it will give the high school graduates more attention so that others in the diocese, from young to old, will be encouraged to pray for them and celebrate their accomplishments with them.

“The circumstances of this year’s virus kept much of that celebration at bay, so to put it in the context of the awareness of the diocese and church, I think, it is an opportunity that I hope will be very beneficial and visible,” Sister Matuszek said.

Sister Matuszek said because many youth members of parishes attend public schools, they are largely unfamiliar with other youths in religious education, so whatever sense of unity that can be provided using liturgy, diocesan outreach and religious education is beneficial to their own faith formation.

Labbe said she understands the disappointment the graduates faced due to the pandemic. She said it was also sad that they could not spend the final months of their senior year celebrating with their peers and saying goodbye.

When speaking with Archbishop Rozanski, Labbe said they decided that during the weekend of Aug. 15-16 every parish in the diocese would dedicate one Mass to graduating seniors, whether from high school or college, and the parishes associated with Catholic schools could include the eighth-graders who would ordinarily have had a graduation ceremony in their parishes.

“I am hoping that parishes are holding something special for all of these students,” said Labbe. “I am hoping that the graduates get the message that we care about them, that we are praying for them, and we wish them success. We support them and want to let them know they are a valuable part of our communities.”

Labbe said the Mass for High School Seniors also will be the last opportunity for these youths to be in the presence of Archbishop Rozanski before his reassignment to St. Louis. She added that it is a way for the youth of the diocese to show how much they appreciate his work over the last six years by offering support and well wishes to their bishop. Those interested in taking part should call 452-0841.

State budget funds COVID-19 relief

A supplemental budget to fund state COVID-19 relief efforts, signed Friday by Governor Baker, includes funds earmarked for the Hampshire and Franklin districts.

Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) secured $250,000 in earmarked spending in this supplemental budget, collaborating with the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce to use these funds for COVID-19 relief efforts throughout the region.

$110,000 in funding is earmarked for the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and will be distributed among a number of Franklin County businesses.

$110,000 in funding is earmarked for Hampshire County and will be disbursed by the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce.

Comerford and the chambers of commerce have agreed to work together to use the funds to meet key needs in the region, including child care, business reopening costs, assistance to significantly impacted sectors, PPE purchasing, and other COVID-19 recovery needs.

Some of the funding directed to the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce will be used to help fund child care sector needs in the North Quabbin area, and some of the funding directed to the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce will flow to the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce as well as be used to assist South Hadley businesses with reopening costs.

Comerford also secured a $30,000 earmark for Franklin County D.I.A.L./S.E.L.F. Inc. for the expansion of their youth homelessness prevention work, which is especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This supplemental budget contains one billion dollars in statewide COVID-19 relief spending that is eligible for federal reimbursement, and also makes a large investment in the Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund, which can be drawn from throughout fiscal 2021.

EV chargingstations available in Northampton

Six new electric vehicle chargers are installed beneath and powered by the solar canopy at Whalen Insurance, 71 King St., Northampton. These charging stations are operational and available for public use, charge up to 7.2 kilowatts of power at a cost of $2 per hour, and there are no parking fees to access these chargers.

The EV chargers and 62.64 kW solar canopy were both installed by PV Squared, a local solar design and installation company based in Greenfield. The EV project was funded primarily by a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MA DEP) for Public Access Level-2 EV Charging Stations, as a result of the Volkswagen diesel emissions settlement.

In 2015, Volkswagen admitted to secretly and intentionally installing software in vehicles to cheat state emissions tests, which raised the levels of smog-causing nitrogen oxides (NOx) up to 40 times higher than permitted. Massachusetts received a partial settlement, and the money is being used to increase the amount of EV charging and infrastructure and promote more electric vehicle usage throughout the commonwealth. The goal is to increase air quality and reduce particulate pollution by creating a cleaner transportation sector.

The Level-2 EV charging station at Whalen Insurance is contributing to the larger environmental goals of the state, while also directly benefiting the local community. In addition to the EV charging station, Peter Whalen of Whalen Insurance has invested in six solar projects, totaling 127.92 kW, on various properties in Northampton. On an annual basis, these solar arrays produce a combined 141,591 kWh of electricity, which is equivalent to 110 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). This translates to an environmental offset of CO2 emissions from 11,265 gallons of gasoline consumed and 110,308 pounds of coal burned. Peter also loves driving his electronic vehicle.

“I first started investing in renewable energy projects in 2014, and plan to continue supporting clean energy and clean transportation in the coming years,” Whalen said. “My goal is to be almost completely independent of the use of fossil fuels. I’m really excited about the new EV chargers behind the Whalen Insurance office for the community to use.”

In addition to investing in renewables and running Whalen Insurance, Peter is a lifelong resident of Northampton. He serves on local boards and supports nonprofits and community groups.

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