Reopening Our Church & Preparing for Mass
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
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 50-80 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 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 still 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. Some will be on hand if you forget your own. Some County and State guidelines have changed, but we at St. Agnes opt to continue to follow the same guidelines we currently have in place in regards to masks, social distancing and sanitizing. We saw this link to the Today show where they did a story on masks and what they can or cannot provide. We think you will find it interesting.
- 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. There will not be any congregational singing at Mass. There will only be instrumental music.
- 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 and you should be standing outside your vehicle’s door, unless physically unable
- Upon receiving Holy Communion you should stay seated if in the Church 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
- 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
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 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 Dads out there a blessed and Happy Father’s Day. I pray you will be shown how much you are appreciated and loved!