Bishop Paprocki sent an email tonight indicating that he intends to extend permission to resume public Masses, starting on Saturday-Sunday June 6-7, the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity in our churches in the diocese. I join the entire St. Anthony of Padua parish community in thanking the bishop for offering this opportunity to begin to resume normal parish life.
As part of the resumption of public Masses, there are many conditions which we will need to follow while in this first phase of resuming public celebrations of Mass:
- There is a limit of 25% of the occupancy of our buildings to be observed. When this limit is reached, it will be necessary to turn people away from the celebration.
- Parishioners are asked to wear face masks (except for Holy Communion) and practice careful hand hygiene while maintaining ‘social distance’ while inside church.
- Holy Communion not be received from the chalice for the foreseeable future, and may be distributed either at its proper place in Mass or immediately after Mass in order to increase ‘social distance’ and take advantage of several other features of distributing separately from Mass. (We are going to study this on the parish level before we decide what we will do.)
- Churches must be sanitized between each Mass. We are to have a ‘team’ that oversees and insures this process is carried out with diligence.
- Hymnals and other materials must be removed from the pews. (… which will significantly impact music ministries.)
- The entire document listing the directives can be found here: Diocese of Springfield Website on Public Masses with Limitations
The faithful are reminded that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains abrogated (suspended) for the duration of this health crisis, and nobody is required to come to public Masses at this point. Indeed, if you show any symptoms of disease, if you have knowingly been exposed to the disease, or if you are in a demographic which is vulnerable to the disease, you are urged to stay home! I am expecting that the diocese is going to have us place signs at the doors explaining that those who attend Mass during this time do so at their own risk, and that despite our best efforts, we cannot guarantee safety from exposure to the disease. It may be better for those who really want to attend Mass, but are afraid of the large crowds to attend Mass sometime during the week instead, when there are fewer people present.
I will announce the specifics of how we are going to restore public Masses for St. Anthony of Padua parish sometime in the coming week after I get a team stood-up to provide the assistance that the diocese is requiring to carry out all of these directives. I am anticipating that we will celebrate one Mass at St. Dominic (probably 4pm) and one Mass at St. Anthony (probably 6:30) on Saturday nights. On Sunday, we will again celebrate one Mass at St. Dominic and another at St. Anthony. Having two sites is a great advantage for us, as it will allow plenty of time and space between celebrations to clean and get things re-organized. I also anticipate that, besides being larger than the church, “sanitizing” the St. Dominic ‘worship space’ will be easier than cleaning St. Anthony Church. Twenty-five percent of the capacity of St. Anthony Church is about 100 people. I think that 25% of the capacity of the St. Dominic site is approximately 150. We are being instructed to turn those away who do not fit within the prescribed church capacities, but I want to see if we can provide alternate places to participate in the Mass on-site (such as the parish hall at the church site) so that those who cannot fit in the church can have a closed circuit broadcast and receive Holy Communion while here. But all of the finer details remain to be figured out. I hope to enlist the assistance of Fr. Don Blickhan to assist in having Mass at both locations. If these are too many or two few celebrations of Mass for the faithful of the parish, we will re-examine the situation and add or subtract as prudent.
For your information, here is a website from the Diocese of Springfield with resources that we are using to implement the Parish Reopening Plan.
A brochure has been published on the Reopening of Public Mass.
And here is last week’s letter from Bishop Paprocki introducing and explaining the general rationale of this plan.
Finally, a meme has been passed around on Facebook, which I think is an important reminder to us. The Church has not been shut down at all during these times, we simply have not been able to attend church. In these weeks we have had plenty of opportunities to “be Church” even if we cannot “attend church”. The Holy Sacrifice of Mass has been offered for the salvation of our parishioners and for the whole world. Our school has remained in operation and provided thousands of cumulative hours of instruction for our young people. Catholic Charities continues to serve those in need. Our churches have been open for private prayer and confession. Parishioners have generously remembered us in their stewardship and other sacrifices. We have been called on, each of us in our own situations, to witness to the glory of the Resurrection during these last 50 days. But rather than drawing a sharp and exclusive contrast between the value and merits of “being Church” vs. “going to church”, I want to encourage the faithful to remember that one organically leads to and enhances the experience of the other. We cannot fully “be Church” without the fullness of worship provided at Mass. We cannot dispose ourselves to receive the graces available at Mass when we “go to church” unless we live as faithful disciples, trusting in and calling upon the Lord’s strength for ministry to those we meet throughout the rest of the week. — Fr. Tom Donovan