Approaching the great feast of Pentecost, I want to give you an update related to the celebration of the Mass in our Family of Four Parishes. I am evaluating the Archdiocesan directives issued as to the reopening of our churches in light of the current health conditions and analysis. I have made the decision as your pastor that we will not resume public Masses in the family of four parishes until a later, undetermined date.
The question is not if. I know many of us cannot wait to gather for Mass and share Holy Communion together. These are two of the best and most central parts of being Catholic! I know we all want to get back to some sort of normal.
The question is when. The first principle I operate from as your pastor is that I will never put anyone at undue risk. Given my understanding of the current health realities and the layout of our 5 church sites, the calculated risk of opening now is a risk I in good conscience cannot take.
As your spiritual father, it is my decision that we will begin to gather together again once certain conditions have been met in light of a virus which we know something about, but not everything about. These conditions include adequate testing for and tracing of the virus, a sustained decline of positive tests in our area and our ability to provide a safe physical environment for public worship. Once these conditions are met, we will begin the process of returning to the public celebration of Mass. We are currently creating a detailed plan to safely reopen our churches in several phases. A tentative sketch of this phased plan can be found below.
In the meantime, we will continue to meet every week as a family through the online YouTube Mass. We will continue to financially support our ministries, especially those that serve the poor. We will come together as a family like all families do – sometimes present physically, but sometimes not – always united as one in Jesus Christ. We will continue to consult with neighboring parishes, health care professionals and the Archdiocese to further develop our phased plan to reopen our churches and to share in Holy Communion in ways that are both safe and reverent. We will continue to pray for one another and for the wisdom to make the right decisions.
Please know this decision is based on a great amount of consultation and my basic concern for the safety of all parishioners and visitors. If I err, it will be on the side of caution.
For more information, please refer to the Catholic Comeback Plan and Matrix issued by the Archbishop on May 14.
We have evaluated our parish worship spaces and the families we serve and will apply the comeback plan and matrix according to our local circumstances.
CURRENT PHASE: In this phase, the only public celebration of Mass will be our online Mass. As noted, we will not be celebrating public Mass in our Family of Four until a date determined by the public health realities in our local community. At that point, we will determine a restart date and prepare our churches for a safe and sanitized use. We will also begin the training of ministers to help us provide a reverent celebration of the Mass and determine how to implement limits on our numbers permitted at Mass, which for each of our parishes is approximately 100 per Mass. There will be no daily Masses celebrated publicly.
PHASE ONE: Once we are confident that we can safely celebrate Mass publicly, we will start a rotation of Sunday Masses within our four parishes with each parish being assigned one weekend per month as the designated site for Mass. There will be two Masses per weekend at that site. We will work on the schedule and communicate it with another letter, email and post on our parish website.
The YouTube Masses will continue indefinitely and will remain the primary weekly Mass for our Family of Four Parishes. This will be the best way, especially for high risk individuals and those in regular contact with those at risk, to participate in the Mass. This phase will also be the time for us to develop a Communion ministry, so that Holy Communion can be safely received by any parishioner who takes part in an online, TV or radio Mass and wants to receive Holy Communion. Details of the training, procedures and safety precautions will be communicated. There will be no daily Masses celebrated publicly and the parish offices will remain closed.
PHASE TWO: Once the Archbishop determines we have moved to a safer way to gather in our churches, we will begin limited Masses in each parish weekly. The details of this will be worked out more fully by our staff once we move closer to this phase.
Our ultimate goal is to a return to PHASE THREE which includes daily Masses, unrestricted weekend Masses and other parish gatherings and activities.
Please note this is an initial attempt to plan for an unknown future, so everything is a bit up in the air and subject to change. We will keep close watch on the frequency of infections and the availability of testing and tracing of the Covid-19 virus.
Please keep praying as we all move forward together!