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As previously announced, beginning June 14, 2020, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi Sunday), pastors and administrators are authorized to begin public celebration of Mass while continuing the Distribution of Holy Communion at the conclusion of Mass.

The number of persons permitted to attend Mass in a church or other approved indoor location is not determined by a set number recommended by public health personnel. It is determined by the number of persons who can be accommodated within that space according to the plan for safe physical distances in each church. We are using the standard of 6 feet between those not from the same household. Therefore, the calculation of this number of persons will take into account couples or families who reside together in the same dwelling and may sit together.

Ushers and ministers of hospitality do not need to be counted insofar as they normally do not take a seat in a fixed place, but remain at a distance at church entrances in order to carry out their function.

The safe distancing between persons at 6 feet apart and wearing face masks is in keeping with scientific research that while speaking in a normal fashion, the aerosol emitted from the mouth can travel 6 feet. While singing, the aerosol emitted from the mouth can travel more than 20 feet while singing (March 26, 2020, Journal of the American Medical Association).
 
This means that safe distancing for church choirs imposes a more serious risk, especially given the common arrangement of choirs in multiple rows. A soloist, song-leader, cantor, or psalmist poses a similar risk for others whenever the voice is projected toward people who may be within that range of 20 plus feet.
 
With that in mind, pastors and parish administrators are to establish a safety plan regarding placement of musicians, vocalists, and choir members inside of the parish worship space.
 
Members of the choir, musicians, and others involved in parish music minister should be advised of these concerns and assist in finding an appropriate response, which involves especially the following points:
 
· In some churches, the choir is located in a traditional choir loft. In others it may be in the front of the church, near the sanctuary or off to the side and facing the people.
· Regardless of the location within the church, 1) the placement of the choir may not allow for choir members to stand behind each other; 2) members of the choir may not face each other; and 3) choirs may not be placed in an area where their voices project directly at the people, especially if the distance is less than 25-30 feet.
· These placement/arrangement restrictions apply to choirs inside or outside a church.
· Choirs are not permitted in the sanctuary and they are not permitted immediately behind the sanctuary. This applies to churches where there is a screen between the choir and the sanctuary. If the opening is large enough to allow the sound of the music to travel, it is more than enough for COVID-19 to spread.
· At all times members of the choir are to maintain a distance of 6 feet from each other, as applies to all persons within our churches and at Masses outside of a church.
· Based on these circumstances, parishes should expect a small number of choir members (3 to 5) to assist with liturgical singing inside churches. 
· An advisory issued by the experts commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recommends against having a choir, with the positive recommendation of a single person at each Mass who may serve as song leader and psalmist.
· The necessary spacing between persons at 6 feet apart also applies to musicians.
· Cleaning and sanitizing the organ, piano, or other instruments is to occur after each Mass.
· Song books/hymnals/missalettes are not be used and paper sheets with music/lyrics should be discarded after each use.
 
Since the cantor/psalmist faces the people, a clear, plexi-glass screen should be placed in front of that soloist in order to block the aerosol emitted from the mouth as cited above.
 
Similarly, a clear, plexi-glass screen at the ambo is recommended to guard against the same emission while it is used by the reader or homilist. 
 
All who are involved in music ministry should be reminded that the faithful will be wearing masks and their voices will be muted as a result. 
 
At the same time, all liturgies should be prayerful and supported by music while safeguarding one another gathered for worship. These safeguards should not deter us to from fulfilling what we are taught in Psalm 100: “Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands; serve the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful song.”
 
Questions concerning the implementation of these guidelines are to be directed to the Very Reverend Alan Thomas, Vicar General.

At the present time and until further notice, there is no presentation of the gifts during any Mass. This means that there is no Offertory Procession when the gifts of bread and wine are presented following the offertory collection. 
 
The CDC and other experts have advised that handling collection baskets by multiple persons or ushers reaching across those seated in the pews pose a risk of exposure to COVID-19. Also, those who tabulate the Sunday collection and prepare the bank deposit should take additional precautions.
 
As a safeguard for parish ushers, money counters, and others, the following procedures should be observed.
 
Parishioners are urged to make contributions by using electronic payment which is a common means of transactions offered by most banks without any additional fees. This can be arranged as a recurring contribution.
 
Another method is to send to the parish by a check, which can be sent by mail or dropped at the parish office.
 
When people wish to make their contribution while in church, the usual method of “passing the basket” is not permitted. In-church collections will be taken as follows:

· Ushers will be available at all doors of the church before and at the end of Mass.
· The ushers will be holding a container and each parishioner can simply drop their contribution into the container as they enter or exit the church.
· In place of the usual collection “basket,” plastic containers should be used for this purpose. They are to be wiped/sanitized inside and outside after each use.
· The contributions made in the baskets before Mass will be emptied into a bag or heavy duty envelope that will be immediately sealed with tape. This method will prevent the ushers from touching anything directly. The sealed bag/envelope will be taken immediately to the location designated for tabulating the collection and preparing the bank deposit.
 
This method will be repeated at the end of Mass with ushers or other appointed persons will hold a basket at each door of the church to receive contributions as the people exit. When that is concluded, the money is emptied into the bag/envelope; sealed; and taken to location designated for tabulating the collection and preparing the bank deposit.
 
Whatever method is utilized to receive and process the offerings given by parishioners, the contributions will be accurately recorded and immediately deposited in the bank.
 
As a safeguard for the ushers and those who tabulate the collection and handle the money in preparing the deposit, each parish should provide for disposable gloves.
 
The pastor/parish administrator should delegate someone to oversee training and implementation of these procedures. Questions concerning these directives are to be brought to the attention of the Very Reverend Alan Thomas, Vicar General.

When public Masses resume beginning the weekend of June 13-14, 2020, all are permitted to return as long as social distancing is observed. 

According to the Bishop’s directive, “the number of persons permitted to attend Mass in a church or other approved indoor location is not determined by a set number recommended by public health personnel. It is determined by the number of persons who can be accommodated within that space according to the plan for safe physical distances in each church. We are using the standard of six feet between those not from the same household. Therefore, the calculation of this number of persons will take into account couples or families who reside together in the same dwelling and may sit together.”

The directive goes on to say that ushers and ministers of hospitality do not need to be counted insofar as they normally do not take a seat in a fixed place, but remain at a distance at church entrances in order to carry out their function.

The Bishop also stated that pastors and administrators are authorized to celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, First Holy Communion) according to directives issued by the Bishop.

In consultation with those responsible for the religious education and formation of candidates for Confirmation, pastors/parish administrators may determine an appropriate date for the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Per the Bishop’s directives, Communion may be distributed outside of Mass beginning on June 1, 2020.

Those who approach Holy Communion should be properly reverent and disposed, keeping in mind that celebration of the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation has been restored in the diocese.

Those who come to receive Holy Communion are encouraged to have participated in a broadcast, streamed, or recorded Mass insofar as possible. Otherwise, they are encouraged to read the Scripture readings for the Mass of the day before receiving the sacrament. They should privately pray the Our Father just prior to receiving Holy Communion.

Holy Communion should be distributed during published periods of time to accommodate communicants. This schedule should include times in the morning, afternoon, and evening.  

Holy Communion is to be distributed at the church doors or other locations outside of the church. This is to avoid having more than 25 persons gathered inside a church at the same time.

While waiting to receive Holy Communion, everyone must observe physical distancing and use a face covering.

Stations for the distribution of Holy Communion must be arranged in order to facilitate proper distancing.

Arrangements should be made to have sufficient ushers/ministers of hospitality to direct people to the Communion stations. Moreover, it is advised that an usher or other attendant be at every Communion station.

Care should be taken not to create a hazard by putting Communion stations in the same place where automobiles are parked and will try to enter or exit where people are walking or waiting in line.

A suitable number of clergy and extraordinary ministers will be needed and trained in regard to these directives.

Communicants should sanitize their hands before receiving Holy Communion. The parish should make provision for this near each Communion station.

Communicants should receive Holy Communion in the hand if possible.

If Holy Communion is received on the tongue or on the hand and inadvertent contact with a person’s face, tongue or hand occurs, the minister must immediately stop and properly disinfect his/her hands before continuing.

All Ministers of Holy Communion should wear masks or face shields.

Ministers of Holy Communion should be spaced so that physical distancing is observed in any location where distribution takes place.

Tables, corporals, and hand sanitizer, disposable wipes/paper towels must be available for all ministers of Holy Communion.

In the event that a Minister of Holy Communion needs to sanitize his/her hands, the ciborium should be placed on the table, covered by a corporal or purificator, followed by washing and/or use of the sanitizer.

As previously announced, beginning June 14, 2020, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi Sunday), pastors and administrators are authorized to begin public celebration of Mass while continuing the Distribution of Holy Communion at the conclusion of Mass.
 
The number of persons permitted to attend Mass in a church or other approved indoor location is not determined by a set number recommended by public health personnel. It is determined by the number of persons who can be accommodated within that space according to the plan for safe physical distances in each church. We are using the standard of 6 feet between those not from the same household. Therefore, the calculation of this number of persons will take into account couples or families who reside together in the same dwelling and may sit together.
 
Ushers and ministers of hospitality do not need to be counted insofar as they normally do not take a seat in a fixed place, but remain at a distance at church entrances in order to carry out their function.
 
Pastors and administrators are authorized to celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, First Holy Communion) according to the following directives:
 
1. Because of the limited seating arrangements due to physical distancing within churches, these sacraments are to be celebrated at a Mass or Masses on a weekday (Monday-Friday) evening that is scheduled expressly for that reason. This will provide for a greater opportunity for at least sponsors and some family members to be present, while keeping Saturday and Sunday Masses available for parishioners.
 
[For example, if St. Alphonsus Parish has 25 children who are prepared to receive First Holy Communion, the group could be split into 5 groups so that parents and some other family members could be present. This would require 5 Masses for First Holy Communion.]
 
2. The reception of the Precious Blood from the chalice is not permitted at any Masses, including First Holy Communion.
 
3. Depending on local circumstances, and the needs and wishes of their parents, it would be appropriate to provide an opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation on another day or days for the First Communicants and family members.
 
 
4. With regard to the Sacrament of Confirmation for young persons, Pastors /Administrators must submit to the Bishop’s office a list of all who will be receiving Confirmation, together with the explicit request for the faculty to confirm as required according to canon 884 §1. The letter should indicate how many liturgies will be celebrated in which Confirmation will be administered.
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5. Mass(es) with Confirmation should be celebrated on a weekday (Monday-Friday) evening. The number who are to receive the sacrament should be determined by the seating capacity of the church according the safe distance seating arrangement.
 
6. Precautions must be taken with regard to the role of the Confirmation Sponsor.
• First, those to be confirmed should arrive at their seat in the church and not participate in the entrance procession.
• Sponsors are not to place a hand on the shoulder or in any other way make physical contact with the one being confirmed.
 
7. The laying on of hands together with the prayer of the celebrant over the whole group is made according to the liturgical text (see attachment), followed by the anointing of each candidate with the words: “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit. ”
 
8. At the anointing with Sacred Chrism, the celebrant will dip a cotton ball lightly into the Sacred Chrism and make the Sign of the Cross while saying the prayer (Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit). The cotton ball is then discarded in a paper bag held by an attendant/server. The bag and contents are to be completely burned following the Confirmation Mass.
 
9. When the celebrant concludes the anointing with Sacred Chrism, the sign of peace may only be spoken. There is no handshake or other physical contact (e.g. hug/embrace).
 
10. The Bishop is available to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation. This request is be made by contacting the Bishop’s office.
 
11. The precautions and rubrics outlined for conferral of these sacraments also apply to those participating in the process of Christian Initiation of Adults. These sacraments which are traditionally received at the Easter Vigil should be administered at a special Mass on a weekday.
 
12. More than one Mass may be needed for the sacraments of Christian Initiation of Adults due to the number of candidates or in order to better accommodate the needs of those being initiated, their sponsors, and families.
 
13. Baptisms of infants may take place during or immediately following Sunday Mass according to practice in most places. It may also be celebrated at a weekday Mass.
 
14. The same distancing requirements, proper use of a cotton ball for the anointing, and participation of Sponsors apply to Baptisms as outlined for the sacrament of Confirmation.
 
15. Rehearsals/preparations for the celebration of these sacraments are to include careful instructions for the candidates, sponsors, and others who may otherwise be inclined to interact with spontaneous physical contact.
 
16. Clarifications concerning these directives for the Sacraments of Initiation for Children and Adults should be directed to the Bishop or Vicar General.
 
18. Necessary precautions should be taken with regard to photographs which would normally group persons close to one another.
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Additional Directives Concerning The Place for Celebration of Mass
 
 
19. Pastors/Administrators are reminded that permission remains in effect for the celebration of Mass in a parish hall or activity center, especially if it provides for a larger seating capacity with due regard for the established safe distancing plan.
 
20. Any of the celebrations of the Sacraments ofinitiation for Adults or Youth may take place in a hall or parish center, but not in an outdoor setting.
 
21. Insofar as there may be room for a greater number of participants, it is permitted to celebrate Sunday Mass (including Saturday vigil Mass) in a suitable outdoor setting, even a public park, as long as other activities in that setting do not distract participants or otherwise might be incongruous or even disrespectful in relation to the Sacred Liturgy.
 
22. Arrangements must be made for a canopy in case of rain because Mass celebrated outdoors must be completed even by the celebrant alone. If it begins to rain and there is no church or indoor space nearby, the people should wait in their cars until the rain subsides. Holy Communion is then distributed at the conclusion of Mass.
23. Safe distancing must be observed at all times, including at the distribution of Holy Communion where people would be moving about.
24. There should be sufficient ordinary and extraordinary ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion. The reception of the Precious Blood from the Chalice by the people, including Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion is not permitted until further notice.
 
25. Given the unfamiliar surroundings in an outdoors setting or in a parish hall, there should be a sufficient number of ushers or attendants to guide and assist people in attendance.

Beginning Saturday, May 23, 2020, pastors and administrators may resume the regular public celebration of the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation with these requirements:

  1. In order to facilitate the arrangements that must be made for the Sacrament of Penance, pastors and administrators are authorized to make us of a parish hall, insofar as it may better accommodate the safety measures and make the sacrament more readily available to the people.
  2. Until further notice, people are not to congregate in groups larger than 25, whether inside or outside of a church.
  3. Parishes are advised to have ushers or ministers of hospitality available to assist in monitoring the number of people coming for confessions and assist in guiding people.
  4. Penitents must observe the standard six-foot physical distancing while waiting.
  5. Penitents should wear face masks while waiting their turn for confession.
  6. There should be an impenetrable physical barrier, perhaps of glass or plastic, between the confessor and the penitent. Otherwise both confessor and penitent will either have to observe physical distancing or wear appropriate masks or face shields.
  7. If stations for confession are arranged in an outdoor setting, penitents should remain in their vehicles or other personal space and not congregate in groups larger than 25.
  8. Unless a ready exchange of fresh air is possible, confessionals should not be used; other open spaces in a church or outside in open air are preferred to enclosed confessionals.
  9. Depending on pastoral need, some provision should be made for providing the option of confessing anonymously or face-to-face. This may be accomplished by a linen cloth that can be draped over the glass/plastic divider, or by the confessor facing away from the penitent; keeping in mind the need to hear and to be heard.
  10. Areas in the church and/or portable confession screens must be cleaned and properly sanitized after confessions are concluded for that scheduled time.
  11. The secrecy of confession should be carefully observed.
  12. Priests should be extra zealous/generous in their time commitment as confessors and solicitous to penitents who may be burdened not only by sin, but emotionally by the challenges that everyone has encountered in recent times.
  13. A suitable penance at this time is to have the penitent pray for an end to the Coronavirus pandemic and for the intentions of all who are afflicted or otherwise affected.
  14. Parishes should cooperate in scheduling times for confessions in order to reach out to as many penitents as possible.
  15. The schedule is to be communicated within the parish and shared with neighboring parishes. A copy of the confession schedule should be sent to Tony DeGol, Secretary for Communications so that information regarding the sacrament can be updated on the diocesan website and social media.
  16. Confessions should be scheduled at different times (morning, afternoon, evening) to allow more people to receive the sacrament.
  17. Priests who need additional help with confessions should seek assistance from neighboring priests, even to the extent of arranging for multiple priests to be available at the same time. However, no penance services are to be arranged. Only individual confessions are to be heard.

According to the Bishop’s directives, issued on May 20, 2020, priests may resume the public celebration of Reconciliation beginning on May 23, 2020.

The Distribution of Holy Communion to the faithful may begin on June 1, 2020, while continuing the celebration of private Masses.

The celebration of public Masses may resume on the weekend of June 13-14, 2020.

All clergy have received the directives below from Bishop Mark, parishioners will receive further updates from their parish.

Bishop Mark asks the faithful to continue being patient as the sacraments are made available, and he assures parishioners that the appropriate training measures and safety precautions will occur.   

“We rejoice at the progress being made, and we continue to pray for one another in the days ahead,” said the Bishop.

The living and real presence of the Lord Jesus in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is at the heart of our Catholic faith. To go into a parish church before the tabernacle is an expression of what it means for each of us; that we would like to see Jesus. It is a great desire.
 
And that desire extends to the whole sacramental life of the Church, because we draw near and encounter the Lord Jesus in the celebration of Mass and in all the sacraments. A close second to the requests I have received is for the sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation to be made available since it was practically unavailable during Lent this year.
 
The closing of churches and suspension of the public celebration of Mass and the sacraments were necessary precautions taken for the health and safety of everyone. But the opportunity has come to begin reopening our churches and restore sacramental life in stages. 
 
In order for this reopening to be successful, I am requesting and urging that all of you, the faithful Catholic people of our diocese, will continue to abide by the directives in place to combat the spread of COVID-19. These directives include frequent hand washing, disinfecting, physical distancing, wearing a mask, and abiding by limits on occupancy in places where people wish to gather.
 
I hope that you will be careful and thoughtful in your determination about returning to church for personal prayer and the sacraments. In particular, I urge you to think about others and not just your own needs and desires.
Remember that the clergy and laity should be able to visit to your home. So, those who are currently sick or are at greater danger from the coronavirus need to refrain from coming to the churches at this time. Ask the clergy to come to you.

I have asked parish pastors and administrators to develop individual plans for reopening the churches which include limitations on the number of people who may be in the church at any one time. There must also be a schedule for daily cleaning and frequent disinfecting, and appropriate measures to keep everyone safe who would like to come to church. 

I am relying on their good pastoral judgment. I am also authorizing pastors and administrators to use church social halls or other locations for the daily reservation of the Blessed Sacrament and personal prayer if this permits easier physical distancing and appropriate disinfecting.

In this step-by-step reopening, we may have to adjust certain things as we go forward together. Directives have been sent to all the priests and deacons in our diocese. Here is the basic plan.

First, the churches will be open for personal prayer. Mass and the other sacraments will continue to be celebrated privately. When churches are open for prayer, there will be seating restrictions to provide for safe distances.

Next, priests in each deanery will develop a plan for the celebration of the sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation. I am grateful to the pastors and the ingenuity of laypersons in creating the necessary screens to safeguard against transmission of the Coronavirus while allowing for the appropriate interaction for the sacrament. 

I have asked and urged all the priests to assist in being available to hear confessions not only in their own parish church, but throughout their area. I have also directed the priests to arrange for the sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation to be available at different times (morning, afternoon, evening) during the day. I plan to assist in hearing confessions at different times and places around the diocese.

After the churches have reopened for private prayer, I am also hopeful that we will be able to put in place a system for distributing Holy Communion outside of Mass. Ideally, you would be able to join in a Mass either on TV, live-streamed, or recorded, and then you would come to the church to receive Holy Communion according to a system determined by the parish priest.

This method will reduce physical contact between parishioners and keep church cleaning and disinfecting to a reasonable level. Even though there are restrictions on occupancy and requirements for frequent disinfecting, Holy Communion will still be available to everyone.

Another step along the way will be restoring public daily Masses. This step will require some alterations in the way priests celebrate Mass. For instance, priests will need to be sure that hosts consecrated for distribution to faithful are kept under appropriate cover and priests will need to take special precautions in distributing Communion. 
Likewise, we will continue to abstain from shaking hands or hugging at the sign of peace, and Holy Communion will be available under the form of bread only. Singing and the length of Masses will probably need to be reduced. 
Offertory collections and offertory processions will also pose challenges, due to the potential of passing on the virus through contact with envelopes, baskets, and the bread and wine presented at Mass. Ongoing guidance and direction will be given as we go forward.

Because of the restrictions which will continue to be in place to battle COVID-19 in months ahead, it is conceivable that it may be quite some time before regular weekend Masses are restored, at least for some parishes. 
Dealing with this difficulty will likely result in people attending Mass on another day or at a time that may be different or unique. It may require using weekday Masses, assigned Mass times, or other systems as a way to allow the participation of everyone. Please be patient with these efforts, burdensome as they might be.
Baptisms, weddings, and funerals may be celebrated, but the requirements of masking, distancing, and limiting occupancy remain in effect.  I am relying on the good pastoral judgment of pastors and administrators in dealing with these celebrations.

The process of Christian Initiation of Adults will hopefully continue once we are able to begin celebrating public Masses. It will be up to each pastor or administrator to work out a course of action with catechumens/elect and candidates for celebrating the sacraments of initiation. 

It will also be necessary to adapt the way in which First Holy Communion is celebrated. It is likely to happen that children will receive as part of a smaller group. Parishes with larger numbers of candidates may have to schedule multiple First Communion Masses to which limited numbers are invited.

The sacrament of Confirmation will also have to be celebrated in a different way for the time being. Because it is impossible for me to have large gatherings at the cathedrals or other churches, I plan to delegate pastors and priest-administrators to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation this year. Depending upon the number of candidates and the restricted number of people permitted in the churches, multiple celebrations may have to be scheduled.

Finally, I am aware that having Masses out of doors may allow larger crowds and easier cleaning and disinfecting by parishes, especially if those who attend bring their own chairs. Physical distancing will have to be observed as such celebrations. Contingency plans will be needed in case of rain, but I am hopeful that a number of areas in the diocese may be able to celebrate Mass for larger crowds as the weather and other circumstances permit.

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