Having received permission from the archbishop, we are now going to attempt to partially reopen the parish for summer worship. When we say partially reopen, we mean that we will have to comply with the policies given to us by the archdiocese. Hopefully, most of you have seen these already. Applying those directives to our parish’s circumstances will take planning. We may learn along the way and have to readjust as we move forward. For now, here are some of the particular parochial policies you can expect.
First, we are required to keep six feet (or two meters) of social distance between families, so that means we are going to have a far smaller seating capacity for our Masses in the church. Some pews will be left unoccupied. Parishioners will be asked to sit at certain places in the church by our Mass Captains, who will be working out the best way to seat the most amount of people at every Mass. We’re not going to be able to just find our normal pews, where we always like to sit. We’ll need to be seated. Mass Captains will also instruct us in safe ways to go up for Communions (keeping social distancing and avoiding two-way traffic in aisles). At the end of Mass, we’ll need to be ushered out of our pews, as well.
Secondly, because we will have less than 50% seating capacity, parishioners will need to attend Masses every other weekend as we begin this process. So, for Pentecost weekend May 30th/31st we will try this if your surname (last name) starts with the letter A-M, then your family can come to one of the four Mass that we have. The next weekend, church attendance will be available to those whose surnames begin with N-Z. We can think of no fairer way to limit our crowds. Don’t be surprised if one of our Mass Captains asks your last name at the door. Keep in mind that the Archdiocese is still dispensing us from Sunday Mass attendance, and not everyone is going to return right away. Moreover, summers tend to be smaller crowds as folks are often away on vacation (but then nothing about this year has been normal). Certainly, we would recommend that our at-risk elderly parishioners use an abundance of caution as to when you decide to come back. Still, our Mass Captains will have to decide when the church can no longer safely seat any more families, so you could be turned away at the door. Those parishioners may be given the option of providing the Mass Captain with their cell phone numbers, and then praying in their cars, and then going through a drive-thru Communion line after Mass. We would also encourage people who normally come to the 11:00 am Mass (our most crowded Mass) to consider one of our other Mass options too.
Thirdly, our Daily Mass schedule will change for a while. Allowing for one more evening Mass, in hopes that this provides those who were unable to come to Mass on the weekend an opportunity to come to daily Mass on a weekday. Monday and Friday Masses will be at 9:30 a.m. and Wednesday and Thursday Masses will be at 6:00 p.m. The dispensation from the Archbishop is there to assure us that we are not sinning by not coming to Sunday Mass during this time, so we might choose to come to a weekday Mass once a week if we cannot attend on the weekend. Another change will be, for now, that we will suspend normal times for confession. People being in small spaces together is irreconcilable with social distancing mandates, so we will need to schedule drive thru confessions throughout the summer months. Facebook is where these times will be announced.
Fourth, there will be requirements. Our archdiocese is requiring the wearing of masks by the faithful. Of course, infants and toddlers will be excused from this, but otherwise, parishioners who attend Mass during the pandemic will need to wear a mask, scarf or bandanna to cover their mouth and nose. The parish is not able to give out disposable masks, so parishioners who come will be expected to bring their own masks. Mass Captains will not allow unmasked people to enter the church. Even at Communion time, we will wear masks in line, only pulling them down just before we go up to receive Communion.
Fifth, we will need to learn how to receive no-touch Communion. Parishioners need to allow the host to be placed upon their open palms and then allow for the priest to pull back his hands before they close their hands upon the host. Parishioners who desire to receive on the tongue will be asked to receive last, or even after Mass. Always, it is important to keep in mind that Catholics do not have to receive Communion in order to fulfill their obligation. So, if you want to come to Mass, but you still are worried about receiving Holy Communion, it is okay if you abstain for a while.
Sixth, Mass attendance at OLM will come with risks and responsibilities. We cannot purify the kneeler every time someone kneels for Communion. We will endeavor to keep the church clean, and to clean between the Masses, but as parishioners, we would ask you to take some responsibility for your parish church too. Bring hand sanitizer for you and your family. Bring non-bleach wipes to wipe down the wood of the pews before and after you come to Mass. If attending a daily Mass, you will need to help each other practice social distancing and help to make sure everyone is wearing a mask as there will be no Mass Captains to help us with this. Be a part of the solution, and help others feel safe in this time of uncertainty. Obviously, don’t come to Mass if you are sick. Taking your temperature before you come to Mass to assure you are not running a fever would be wise.
These are our thoughts so far. Please note that we will no longer be posting weekend liturgies on the Facebook page after public worship recommences, as the tripod and equipment would be too much of an obstruction to those in attendance in the church. Also, note that while our parish has always had to lock the church for safety reasons, our front desk employees will be back to work on Tuesday, May 26th and should be able to buzz folks in who come by the office and who want to pray in the church. But again, please be responsible here, and clean the wood of the pews where you pray with non-bleach wipes before and after you pray, clean the door handles that you touch as well, maintain social distancing from others who may be there praying and wear your mask. Regarding our scheduled adoration, we will not start up right away, but we look forward to the day when we can. Still, we encourage everyone to tune in to EWTN for those weekends when your families cannot come to Mass.
Again, as we attempt all this, we will learn more and may need to adjust our policies. Please be patient with us and kind with each other. Also, please be safe, good people, and pray!