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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.
On April 27, 2020, Governor Polis released an Executive Order on “Safer at Home” which gives a tentative timeline for limited openings of limited categories of businesses. As of yet, there is no schedule on the reopening of the churches for Mass, or what regulations may have to be observed for the safety of all and continued preservation of the healthcare system. Once we are able to gather for Mass again, it is important that we all understand that it will involve safety precautions that we are not used to. We will all need to adapt. We don’t know all the details, but we will all need to keep an open mind and charitable heart.
After consulting with our priests and parish representatives, we are beginning to understand some principles that will come into play when returning to public Mass.
- Social distancing will remain in place for some time to come. The congregation will most likely need to adhere to the six feet separation restriction. Masks may be required to prevent the spread of germs. The use of the pews will have limitations and you may not be able to sit in your usual spot. If you have symptoms of illness, you should stay home.
- Attendance at any one Mass, whenever re-opened will be limited. Restrictions will remain in place for large gatherings. Pastors are working with us on fair and equitable ways to reopen attendance. Your parish may contact you regarding which Mass times are open to you. Please ensure your parish has your contact information. Additionally, you may not be able to attend Mass every Sunday. In these circumstances, it is not a sin to miss Mass. Livestream Masses will continue. (see #4)
- Liturgical changes will remain in effect until further notice. In order to prevent the spread of germs, we can expect to see similar protocols to those we began in March. For example, we may receive the Eucharist under one species and will likely have to refrain from use of holy water fonts or other points of contact.
- General dispensation from the Sunday obligation remains. These extraordinary times merit the use of this Apostolic power from our Bishop. It is not a sin to miss Sunday Mass in this circumstance. You may be able to attend a weekday Mass instead or continue to watch livestream or prerecorded Mass. Anyone in a higher at-risk category and anyone showing signs of illness, has these alternate means of worship and should be responsible toward the preservation of God’s gift of life.
Brothers and sisters, thank you for your cooperation through this time. Thank you for your prayers and your fervent hunger for the Eucharist and the return to public worship. As your shepherd, it gives me great joy to see this love for Jesus and the Church during a time that is otherwise distressing. We are praying for light at the end of the tunnel and a return to the Sacraments, but we must be prudent and safe about planning this transition. Nobody knows what lies ahead, as to the vaccination and cure of this virus. Keep in mind that our mission is being redesigned, but not changed. We are working now to discover, surface, and strengthen the intentional discipleship of the good people of this diocese. God will bring immense good from this trial and you are the good! Take heart! Jesus is with us!
Bishop Stephen Berg