Reopening the Church
It is with great joy and excitement to know that we can soon reopen our Church. Our weekday morning masses have begun and those in attendance are so excited to be back. Our weekend Masses will begin June 6 & 7. All our Masses have limitations and accommodations to maintain social distancing, being mindful of everyone’s health. The Archdiocese has issued guidelines for reopening Masses. We have consulted with parish staff, school staff, along with members of our Building and Grounds and Parish Council to help identify how we can best implement the guidelines at St. Agnes. I want to share with you how you can prepare yourselves to be part of our Mass once again.
The Dispensation From Archbishop Naumann Continues
First, all of you are still dispensed from the Sunday obligation to attend Mass. You should stay home if you suspect that you have been exposed to the coronavirus and have to self-quarantine for the prescribed time. Additionally, if you are among any at-risk groups, such as those over the age of 65 years old or with underlying health conditions that make contracting the virus more dangerous, you should also refrain from attending Mass. Lastly, if you are just uncomfortable or uncertain about being in public or church for an extended time, please stay home until you feel more comfortable attending Mass.
Masses at St. Agnes with Attendance Limitations
We have held the Confirmation Mass for our 8th graders in the Grade School and the School of Religion last weekend. This weekend we are holding Masses for our RCIA class to come into the Church, as well as our First Communion Masses for our 2nd graders. As I have mentioned, our mass schedule will change slightly. We are assessing our staff and volunteer situation and feel that due to the numbers of volunteers we have thus far, we will have the following schedule beginning June 6 and 7.
● Weekday Masses: Monday through Friday: 6:45 a.m.
● Sunday Masses: Saturday Vigil: 4:30 p.m. – Confessions 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm – Sunday: 8:00 a.m. & 10:00 a.m. –
The Archdiocesan social distancing guidelines call for two empty pews between every pew with people. Except for those who live in the same house, individuals must maintain a six-foot spacing from other individuals or household groups. After consulting with our staff, Building & Grounds and Parish Council, early estimates suggest that our capacity using these guidelines will be approximately 50-70 people for each Mass, more obviously if a household fills a pew. You are encouraged to bring a personal size of hand sanitizer for your use before and after Holy Communion. To accommodate our limited capacity and the desire that I know you all have for the Eucharist, we ask the following:
● Due to the prescribed socially distance guidelines we will initiate a Sign-Up Genius to attend a Mass. We will send out a link next Wednesday, June 3, to Sign-up Genius. The form will ask for your name, envelope number, and the names of those that will be in attendance with you. (We ask this in the case we learn that someone in attendance may have been exposed to the virus. Knowing who was at that Mass, makes notifying those in attendance of the situation a bit easier)
● We are encouraged to attend Mass in the parish where we are registered.
● Wearing a protective mask is required by all in attendance upon entering the Church and throughout the course of the Mass. You can remove it once you have left the Church building.
● You may want to take advantage of weekday morning Mass options if you have the personal flexibility to attend
● Only two doors will be open for entering the Church, the circle drive doors and the double door entrance adjacent to the parking lot. Both doorways have ramps and handicapped accessible; only these two doors will be used to exit the Church as well
● Volunteers will meet you at the door, ensure that you did indeed sign-up to attend that mass, and check you off the list
● An usher or volunteer will direct you to an open pew. We will fill the pews in the Church beginning with those nearest the altar and work our way back until pews are filled
● If you are a minister who is scheduled for a Mass, please only attend your assigned Mass for that week (The Liturgy Committee is working on a new schedule for those comfortable exercising their ministry)
● Masses will be kept under 45 minutes.
● The mass will be shorter, hymns will not be sung by parishioners, but only the cantor
● Mass parts like the Alleluia or Gloria, normally sung will now be spoken
● Commonly touched items like hymnals, children’s books, and missals have been removed
● The sign of peace continues, but only as an internal, prayerful gesture rather than a public expression, no shaking of hands
● Holy Communion will be brought to you by the Priest and minister in the pew by navigating through the empty pew in front of you
● If listening to Mass in your car while in the parking lot tune into 90.5 on your FM dial, park in spaces indicated with a white cross
● All vehicles should leave an empty space between each other
● Attending mass in your car requires you to stay in your car during the mass, Holy Communion will be brought to you; you should be standing outside your vehicle’s door, unless physically unable
● Upon receiving Holy Communion in Church, you should be seated to ensure a proper distance is kept between you and the minister
● Reception of Holy Communion is only permissible by cupping your hands to receive the Body of Christ
● Remove your mask only after all those in your pew have the Body of Christ in the palms of everyone in your pews, and the minister/priest has left the pew; at that point you can raise your mask with one hand and consume the Body of Christ with the other
● Bulletins will only be made available at dismissal time
● At dismissal time ushers will release you opposite of how you entered; those seated last will exit first, pew by pew. We will dismiss those seated on the Virgin Mary side of the Church down the center aisle and out through the circle drive doors(#6): those seated on the St. Joseph side of the Church will be dismissed out the side aisle, and out through side doors (#5)
● We ask you to not linger in the back of the Church, upon entering or exiting
● Upon entering and exiting the church use hand sanitizer
● Commonly touched items like the doors, pews etc will be sanitized at the end of every mass
● We ask that you try to take care of personal needs before leaving home for mass to ensure the least exposure possible to a commonly used surface
● For the immediate future Fr. Bill will no longer greet or say goodbye in the back of Church
● Being mindful of social distancing servers will not be utilized during a Mass
● We have identified a few volunteers to help sanitize the Church between masses to ensure the health and wellness of all parishioners attending Mass
● Training sacristans, ushers, Extraordinary Ministers, lectors, and cantors on new procedures relevant for their role. More volunteers are always welcomed
For those individuals uncomfortable coming to the Church, or have watched the YouTube version at home, we will try distributing Holy Communion in a similar drive by procession as Confessions. From 9:00 am – 9:30 am under the Parish Center awning, a minister or two will be available to distribute the Eucharist to you. If physically able, we ask that you either stand outside your car as you drive-up or simply walk up to the minister.
The actual chapel will continue to be closed at least through the summer.
What You Can Do to Get Ready
Right now, there are several things you can do to ready yourself and your family for public Mass:
● Prayerfully reflect on your openness to attending daily masses to create opportunities for those who can only attend on weekends
● Continue to take advantage of the drive-up confession on Saturday
● Download an app (such as Laudate) with the readings and Mass prayers since we will remove all hymnals and missals
● Review these guidelines and share them with family members
● Prepare your family to receive the Body of Christ in the hands only
● Make sure you have a face mask to bring to church and wear during Mass (we will have only a limited number of masks available for those who forget)
We will continue to offer a Sunday Mass via YouTube, Facebook and through our parish website. We have moved the time to 8:00 am to coincide with our normal mass time. It has been watched by a lot of parishioners and friends, and honestly, we have been requested to continue this practice due to the comfort or discomfort level of being around large gatherings in the virus climate we are currently facing.
Looking Forward to Ministering to You in Person
As I’ve told you during our recorded Masses, I have missed being with our St. Agnes parishioners and ministering to you in person. I eagerly await when we can celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass together once again. In the meantime, I ask that the Blessed Mother and St. Agnes grace all of us with patience and understanding as we enter into this wonderful time to reopen the Church and Mass to you, our St. Agnes family