May 14, 2020
Dear Amazing parishioners,
Yes, it’s true. We’re opening up – but S-L-O-W-L-Y to comply with city, county and State Directives. Churches are allowed to have up to 10 people within their 4 walls and up to 10 people in other rooms on the premises that have four walls as long as social distancing of six feet between people is observed.
So we can have 10 people in Church and 10 people in the Sr. Joan’s Room in the Little Flower Formation Center next door. It takes seven people to produce the Online Mass on Sunday, so three more people can be in the church. On Saturdays and at weekday Masses, we can have seven additional parishioners attend. Our staff is having a Zoom meeting on Monday to discern which invitation process is fairest; each has its drawbacks (lottery, sign-up or alphabetical), but we hope to arrive at the one that is the most impartial.
Because so few people can be admitted to Church at this time, Bishop Berg has dispensed all Catholics in our Diocese from having to participate in Sunday Mass for the foreseeable future. Everyone is still encouraged to participate in a TV or online Mass. We will continue providing our online Mass at 9:30 on YouTube and Facebook.
People 60+ years of age or with underlying health conditions are still strongly encouraged to stay home to protect their health. It is your choice to participate in person or remotely. I am a high-risk candidate but do not have the option to stay home; this has meant a few additional adjustments beyond the Guidelines.
Please note that all restrooms are now locked or taped shut and cannot be used. We are unable to disinfect after every use. So please use your home restroom before you leave home. We cannot open the bathrooms.
For sanitary reasons, all hymnals, missalettes, envelopes and papers have been removed from the pews. If you like to use a worship aid of any kind, you are welcome to bring your own. Be sure to take it home with you or it has to be tossed. Singing is prohibited except by a Cantor (because the coronavirus spreads through spray).
Park in the lot by the MacNaughton entrance for admittance to Sr. Joan’s Room. To be admitted to church or Sr. Joan’s Room, a person must be named on the list of ten people and you MUST wear a mask or you will not be admitted. Arrive at least 15 minutes before Mass is scheduled to begin to hear instructions on the changes; the doors will be locked at 9:15 a.m. and not reopened. Stay home if you have any symptoms; if you appear ill, we have to deny you admission.
For the church, entrance is only from the doors on the entrance into the Narthex from the front parking lot; exit is only from the doors facing the hall and school; and they are specifically designated. Follow the tape and you can’t go wrong! Do not expect to sit in your customary location. All of our seating has been taped off so we comply with the six-foot distancing requirement. Two people can sit in a pew, and they are marked to indicate six feet of distancing. The exception to the distancing requirement is a household; its members may sit together.
Because the coronavirus lingers in areas with poor air circulation (and our church is such a place), we need to keep worship time to a minimum, so where pastoral discretion is allowed, it will be exercised. Our homilies will be very brief now.
Priests are discouraged from wearing a mask, so I will have each of our vessels covered with a pall so spray does not get on them. Deacon Corey will distribute communion.
Under the Guidelines, the time to receive Communion has changed. Communion will be distributed after the Mass has ended. For the time being, the Eucharist can only be received in the hand; there will not be Communion on the tongue. Also, we are not allowed to fill pyxes for Communion distribution to the homebound.
To receive Communion, observe the six-foot markings on the floor to maintain social distancing. When you arrive at Deacon Corey’s communion station, take the Body of Christ in your hand, step to the side, lift up your mask from the bottom and consume the Body of Christ, then let the mask return to its place on your face.
I wish we could hug, shake hands and congregate after Mass, but it is not allowed. For now, we only can enjoy each other by phone, text, email or Facetime. Please leave our parking lot directly. The time will come when we can visit and enjoy our fellowship again in person – and the donuts!
With warmest regards and affection, I am yours in Christ,
Fr. John O., Pastor
UPDATE TO LETTER AS OF MAY 24, 2020:
As of Sunday, May 24th, we will now have three rooms available in the Little Flower Formation Center, 10 persons in each room, and with the church’s 10, a total of 40 people will be present on the weekend. Our staff is working on more ways to expand attendance! The first invitees are our liturgical ministers, because they made it possible for us to produce our before-coronavirus weekend Masses.