— The most important selected parts —
Governor Cuomo and other state officials have indicated that the State of New York will reopen on a regional basis, as each region meets necessary criteria based on the need to protect public health.
A return to public celebrations will be safe, gradual, and ordered. We will strive for progress, not perfection. There will, no doubt, be challenges and frustrations, and adjustments may need to be made along the way.
• Communication — parishioners must be made aware of each parish’s plans for preparation prior to reopening and their arrival at the parish campus via whatever means are practical (letter, robocall, email, and/or social media).
• Cleaning Supplies — Each parish should ensure it has adequate supplies for cleaning public spaces, including door handles, pews, etc. However, the faithful should be encouraged to bring disinfectant wipes with them to assist in sanitizing the areas they occupy, particularly in times of individual prayer.
• Appropriate cleaning of high-use areas within the church is to be done before and after each Mass.
- Pews utilized by any person must be wiped down with disinfectant.
- Restroom facilities and door handles, push plates and knobs, are to be sanitized after each Mass.
- Aisles, floors, and seating should be clearly marked to facilitate social distancing of six feet between individuals who do not share the same household.
- Aisles should be configured for one-way traffic.
- Approximately two unoccupied pews provide enough distance.
- Capacity (10people) may be limited to a specific number or percentage of the available space.
- Be sure to use methods of sectioning/marking that do not harm finishes on church furnishings.
- Hymn books and other resources must be removed from pews and entry ways (please take to home)
• Holy water fonts and stoops should be emptied.
• Hand sanitizer is to be made available throughout the church when possible.
• All liturgical ministers and ushers should wear masks and practice diligent hand-washing and social distancing.
- Ministers of hospitality should to also wear gloves to assist in operating doors, push plates, etc.
- All staff and volunteers are to be trained in regard to new procedures.
- The liturgical environment should reflect the liturgical season.
• Until further notice, Catholics in the Diocese of Buffalo continue to be dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays, in particular those who are most vulnerable.
• Livestreaming efforts that have developed over the course of the COVID-19 crisis should be continued, especially for those who do not yet feel comfortable attending Mass in public.
• Those who do not receive Communion are encouraged to make an Act of Spiritual Communion.
• Those Who Are Sick:
- The obligation to participate in Mass is not required for those who are sick.
- It is not sinful to miss Mass if one is sick; it is actually an expression of care for the health of others.
- For those who are seriously ill, the Church wants to celebrate with them the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. This can be arranged by contacting the parish office.
- If one has symptoms of the coronavirus, they should seek medical attention.
Entrance and Welcome
• Each member of the faithful over 2 years of age will be required to wear a mask.
• Celebrants do not have to wear protective covering in the sanctuary (if alone or appropriately distanced from another minister), but should wear a face mask and/or protective shield during communion.
• Ushers and other ministers of hospitality should be trained and seat people as they arrive, starting in the front of the church and moving toward the back.
• Volunteers who help to prepare the celebration of Mass must wear gloves in addition to face masks when setting up or putting things away and should sanitize their hands upon entering or leaving the building.
Liturgical Changes (mandated and temporary)
• Limits to the Number of People Gathered – 10 people.
• Altar servers are not to participate, and the use of choirs is also temporarily suspended.
• The inclusion of additional ministers (for instance, a second lector) should be carefully considered, and all should have an assigned place in or near the sanctuary ahead of time, in accordance with distancing rules.
• Processions — Entrance processions should follow a “simple form” and not take place among/through the people; the priest alone should proceed from the sacristy to the altar; all other ministers should be in their places ahead of time.
• There is to be no offertory procession, as noted above.
• Music — Congregational singing should be temporarily discontinued.
- As always, recorded music is prohibited.
- Soloist cantors and instrumental music should be employed, with no more than one or two cantors and an instrumentalist.
- Musicians must also adhere to social distancing requirements and don’t masks.
- Clean the keyboards/instruments, and cantor stand.
• One or more large baskets/receptacles may be placed near the altar. Congregants should be encouraged to place their gift in the baskets prior to Mass.
• Preferably, ushers could use long-handled baskets to collect money from each pew. Such baskets should be sanitized in between Masses.
• There is to be no offertory procession of any kind.
The Sign of Peace
• Whenever the sign of peace is exchanged, it should be done without any touch or shaking of hands.
• Some gestures that might be used are a smile, eye contact, a simple bow of the head, or a wave.
Reception of Communion
• Communion should be received at the normal time, as part of the Communion Rite at Mass, with the following temporary mandates:
• The priest/deacon/extraordinary ministers should practice good hygiene before, during and after Mass. All who distribute Holy Communion should discreetly use hand sanitizer (or if possible, wash their hands) before the Communion Procession.
• All who distribute Holy Communion must wear a mask and/or a face shield for the duration of the Communion Procession.
• The procession should form slowly, with six feet between those awaiting reception of Communion. Ushers should help to maintain this distance.
• Distribution of the Precious Blood is suspended.
• As a temporary measure due to the current pandemic, Communion is to be distributed in the hand only, not on the tongue.
• For those who do not wish to receive on the hand, spiritual communion remains a valid alternative.
• Ministers should not place communion in the hand, risking touch, but rather “drop” the consecrated host from a few inches above the hand.
• The use of gloves (for reception or administration of communion) and/or tongs or other devices is prohibited.
• Following communion, any remaining consecrated hosts should be brought back to the altar, placed on it, and consolidated by the deacon or priest. Only one person should repose them in the tabernacle.
Fellowship and Leaving the Church
At this time, fellowship is to be discouraged in all forms, including greeting the people at the doors of the church by the celebrant after Mass.
• As in the beginning of Mass, there should be a simple procession from the sanctuary to the sacristy by the priest alone.
• Celebrants/ministers should not greet people at the door, as this may encourage gathering in close proximity.
• Hand sanitizer should also be available near the exits.
• Bulletins may be printed, but consider a method of delivery that reduces contact.
• Encourage parishioners to visit the parish website or bulletin company website; consider email distribution lists to send more regular communications.
Sacrament of Reconciliation
• The Sacrament of Penance will be made available to people, where possible.
• Individual confession is the ordinary manner of celebrating the Sacrament.
• Communal Penance Services are prohibited at this time.
• General Absolution is not permitted.
• A priest confessor and the penitent should both wear a mask since by nature confession occurs in a close setting.
• The Sacrament of Penance cannot be celebrated by cell phone, FaceTime, Zoom or any other video conferencing technology.
• We also call to mind the fact that the Penitential Act at Mass forgives venial sins.