For more than 18 months leading up to 2020, the Diocese of Richmond had big plans for the commemoration of its bicentennial. It still does, but COVID-19 has forced the diocese to rework those plans. 

In a May 4 letter to the faithful, Bishop Barry C. Knestout wrote, “When planning began for the diocesan bicentennial, I could not have imagined that we would be facing a pandemic during this jubilee year.”

Due to the coronavirus, the bishop said plans for the following events have been modified:  

• The pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore, which had been scheduled for Saturday, May 9, has been postponed until the fall.

• The Bicentennial Regional Masses will occur as previously scheduled. The Mass on Saturday, July 11, which will also be the Chrism Mass, will take place at 10:30 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Richmond; the Mass on Saturday, Sept. 26 will be at 10:30 a.m. at St. Andrew, Roanoke. 

“These will occur even if only livestreamed and limited numbers of people are permitted to attend,” Bishop Knestout wrote.

• The Octave of Service — Sunday, Sept. 27 through Sunday, Oct. 4 — which is centered upon the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul, patron of the diocese, will take place as previously scheduled, with safeguards as appropriate for the common good.

• The Eucharistic Congress will take place only on Saturday, Nov. 7 and in a different format. Instead of gathering at the Greater Richmond Convention Center as had been planned, there will be a series of synchronized events in parishes, and speakers will give online presentations. 

• A Mass marking the close of the bicentennial is scheduled to be celebrated on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 at 10:30 a.m. at a site to be determined.

Bishop Knestout noted that when the diocese “faced numerous hardships over the course of two centuries,” e.g., the Civil War, yellow fever and the Spanish flu, the Church adapted.

“In good times or bad, God has never abandoned us. Moved by this conviction, many Catholics responded to the needs around them by making sacrifices for the sake of the Church, for those who were poor, and for the common good, by seeking ways to alleviate the pain of others,” he wrote. “As we grapple with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pestilence, I pray that we too may be strengthened to serve others and give witness to our faith.”

The bishop asked parishes, schools and campus ministries to continue promoting the bicentennial by praying the bicentennial prayer, using the bicentennial hymn, completing the evangelization spiritual preparation, publicizing bicentennial events and learning more about the history of the diocese.

Editor’s note: All the information about the bicentennial can be accessed at https://2020.richmonddiocese.org/.