Reopening the Church

It is with great joy and excitement to know that we can begin our plans to reopen our Church for our weekday and weekend Masses, with limitations and accommodations to maintain social distancing and be 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 what we do know and what you can do to prepare. Beginning Monday some churches in the diocese are opening again with the restrictions continuing around the size or volume of the gathering. Here at St. Agnes we will again open the Church for Mass, but at a purposefully slower speed than other parishes, to help ensure your well being.

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 several sacraments that we would like to address during the month of May. We have our school Confirmation and First Communion Masses that we plan on holding the weekends of May 23-24 and May 30-31. We would like to have our RCIA candidates Mass on Saturday, May 30. We anticipate holding our first Mass for parishioners the weekend of June 6-7. Our weekday masses would begin on Tuesday, May 19. 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 for the foreseeable future. We will reassess the situation as we go along. 

  • 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. 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 SignUp Genius to attend a Mass. 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, we can then begin notify those in attendance of the situation.)
  • 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
  • Upon receiving Holy Communion you should stay 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, and then you exit out through the same doors that you used to enter you the Church
  • 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
  • Both Fr. Bill and Fr. Bruce 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

Next Steps Under Development

We are working diligently to prepare for the Confirmation and First Communion Masses, the Mass for the RCIA candidates as well as your return to St. Agnes. We are working on the following items right now. We will provide updates as our staff, council and committee members explore options and make recommendations on:

  • Use of a radio transmitter to broadcast the Mass to those who could not enter the Church, stay  in their cars in the parking lot, and listen to the Mass on a FM radio station
  • All vehicles should leave an empty space between each other; we are considering marking spaces to make it easier on you
  • Attending mass in your car requires you to stay in your car during the mass, the collection and Holy Communion will be brought to you
  • If receiving Holy Communion you should be wearing a mask
  • Identifying 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 roles

Adoration Chapel

The actual chapel will remain closed for now. The Church will be open for visitation from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. daily beginning Monday, June 8 for those who wish to pray in the church.  Please maintain social distancing.  We will invite you to sanitize your space and door handles when you leave with supplies that we will provide.   Specific pews will be made available during this time, so please sit only in the open pews.  The church will be sanitized additionally throughout the day by our custodial staff.

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, starting from 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
  • 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 will  move 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 

And in closing I want to wish all the Moms out there a blessed and Happy Mother’s Day. I pray you will be spoiled and pampered and shown how much you are appreciated and loved!

God Bless,
Fr. Bill