Let us rejoice! We’re finally able to return to Mass together. This coming Sunday the feast of the Ascension of our Lord will be our first public Sunday masses after the reopening of 8 AM daily Mass starting Monday. This return is not without inconveniences and even risk. The Archbishop and civil authorities have laid down requirements, an abridged version can be found on this page, to make this as safe as possible, but they cannot remove all the risk. I have a responsibility to make attending Mass at St. Ann as safe as reasonable, even though that will mean that this is not a return to “normal.”
To begin with, not everyone is invited. “Those who are symptomatic or who have been exposed to [someone else] with the virus within the past 14 days are not permitted to enter the church.” The Archbishop and I also “strongly encourage” “those who are at risk because of an underlying health issue or who are over 60… to avoid the risk of attending public celebrations of the Mass.” We will continue live streaming Mass at 11 AM.
Occupancy is limited, we are only allowed to have around 150 people in the building at a time. I do not anticipate this being a problem, but If we get close to filling up, we will have to switch to an sign-up system.
Of course, everything will be sanitized before and after each Mass. Hand sanitizer will be in many places through-out the church. We’ll also be skipping things, no holy water, no receiving from the chalice, no sign of peace, no greeting people after Mass. There will be no taking up the collection or bringing up the gifts, instead there will be containers into which you may place your offering. We will also be taking away all the hymnals because they are too hard to keep clean. Two thirds of the pews will be closed off and every family is asked to sit 6 feet apart from those who are in another household. There will also be a “traffic pattern” in the church. Doors and aisles will be one-way. The “in” doors will be propped open before Mass and the “out” doors will be propped open at the end. The line for Communion will be single file and 6 feet apart. The Archbishop asks that no one receive Communion on the tongue.
The biggest sticking point will likely be wearing masks. Everybody over two years old is required to wear a mask in the church except for when receiving Communion or maybe being in their pew. The Archbishop has basically said that as pastor I can’t let you into Mass without a mask., the instructions say: “enforce this obligation without exception.” Anyone who is acting as an usher will also be asked to wear gloves.
We can only do this well, and if we can’t do this well we won’t, if I have help. I will need volunteers: to act as ushers to help direct traffic to read, to help live-stream, to help distribute Communion, and most importantly to clean. It is a big church and wiping down all the pews is a big job. You can volunteer here.
As I think about seeing you and celebrating the sacraments with you, my heart is full of joy, but when I think about the challenges of being together safely in this time I am saddened. This is very much a worthwhile thing. Coming to Mass at this time is a risk, but those who are willing to take that risk in a responsible way should be able to come. These anxious situations can bring out rebel or tattletale in each of us. This is not a time to protest, these steps the Archbishop and public health officials have laid out may or may not be the best course of action, but they are the best we have. It is also not a time to judge others’ behavior. I found people of St. Ann to be reasonable and understanding. If we can continue that in the midst of this challenge, we can celebrate Mass together in a way that is full of joy and maximizes safety.
Archdiocesan Guidelines for Public Mass
Dispensation of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass continues until further notice.
- Parishioners who are symptomatic or who have been exposed to another with the virus should not come to church, in accordance with national, state and local health directives.
- Attendees should take their temperature at home before determining whether they should attend Mass.
- Anyone over 60 years-old and those with underlying health complications are encouraged to participate in Masses via live-stream only.
CLEANING, SANITIZING AND HYGIENE
- Appropriate cleaning of high-use areas within the church is completed before and after each service.
- Gathering of congregants where Mass is celebrated is limited to 25 percent of the occupancy permitted by the fire code in the respective building.
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)
- The faithful are obliged to wear a mask during the celebration of Mass, except for the brief moment of receiving Communion.
- Ushers and other volunteers will wear masks and gloves (when gloves are not available, frequent handwashing will be necessary) throughout the celebration of Mass.
- Specific PPE practices are required for Eucharistic ministers. More details are included under “Holy Communion” below.
- Stationary baskets will be used for donations from the assembly and are to be monitored by the ushers until the donations are collected
- Collection baskets should not be passed, nor will ushers take up the collection from the congregation.
- Please consider giving your offertory online. Please contact your parish for more details regarding the availability of online giving.
SIGN OF PEACE
- The Sign of Peace is suspended.
Communicants are to receive the Host in the hand in keeping with the advice of state health officials and thereby to avoid the Communion minister’s fingers coming into contact with saliva or particles exhaled from the communicants’ mouth onto the ministers’ fingers.
Communion ministers must be masked, must sanitize their hands immediately before and after distributing Communion, and when at all possible, should utilize a disinfectant wipe or purificator dipped in a sanitizing solution (at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropyl alcohol) to sanitize their fingers when incidental contact is made with the communicant.
Distribution of Holy Communion from the chalice is prohibited to the assembly. For those who suffer from celiac disease, special arrangements are to be made with the pastor.
When approaching the Communion minister, the communicant is to pull their mask below their chin in order to prepare to receive Communion as above. The communicant immediately replaces their mask after consuming the Host.
Ushers or other volunteers who are masked and gloved will ensure six-foot distancing in the Communion line.
Floor markings shall be placed six feet apart in the aisles in which the congregation approaches the sanctuary for Communion to facilitate proper social distancing.
Maintaining a single-file is necessary for the distribution of Holy Communion for each Communion minister and communicant to maintain social distancing. Multiple Communion ministers may be used as long as one-way traffic patterns are observed.