Updated Covid-19 Safety Precautions
As of May 19, 2021, Bishop Mark has updated the Guidelines we are asked to follow in Response to COVID-19. We remind everyone that our COVID -19 safety measures have been of real benefit. As indicated by health experts, if you are able, you are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Though no longer mandated, individuals may wish to continue wearing a mask when they gather with others in their parish for Mass or other activities.
Many pastors are reporting a significant increase in the numbers of people who are returning to Mass in person now that they have been vaccinated. While restrictions are being eased, dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday and holy day Masses remains in place. It is anticipated that all the dioceses in Pennsylvania will end that dispensation at the same time; probably after the summer season is over.
With that in mind, parishioners who have not been attending Mass are encouraged to begin again. Maybe the first time back could be a weekday Mass with fewer people.
Parishioners are also encouraged to receive the sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation. For many, it has been a long time since they last received the sacrament. The old saying, “confession is good for the soul,” is true. Confession provides a fresh start. It is a way to regain one’s spiritual balance.
Bishop Mark has asked that the following protocols take effect with the vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Pentecost, that is, the evening of Saturday, May 23, 2021. These directives pertain especially to liturgical celebrations within a church. However, they also apply to other functions (e.g. Bible study groups, prayer groups, faith formation programs and activities, dinners, festivals, bingo, etc.)
Common sense should apply and each person may continue to observe precautions that are no longer mandated. This may be the case for those who are waiting to be vaccinated. Questions concerning these directives/protocols should be brought to the attention of the Vicar General or the Bishop.
- Individuals, including priests, deacons, and liturgical ministers are no longer required to wear masks when in church or other church facilities.
- Pastors and parishioners should respect the return of others to regular worship at Mass and other liturgical and non-liturgical functions. No one should inquire of anyone as to whether they are vaccinated.
- Those who are not fully vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear masks while in church, both for their protection and that of others.
- Parents should make an informed decision about whether their children participating in liturgical ministries need to continue wearing masks.
- Parishes should have a supply of disposable masks available for individuals who need one.
- Persons who are feeling ill should stay home.
- Masks are recommended when a priest, deacon, or extraordinary minister brings Holy Communion to shut-ins, especially when it is known that the recipient is ill.
- Parents should make an informed decision about whether their children participating in school Masses need to continue wearing masks.
- The use of all pews in churches is now permitted.
- Spacing between pews is discontinued.
- The practice of reserved seating at Mass is discontinued.
- Choirs may be seated together in their usual place.
- Altar servers, lectors, song leaders, and musicians may be seated in their usual places within the church.
- Wiping/sanitizing pews and other hard surfaces in between Masses is discontinued.
- Hand sanitizer is to be available at church entrances, in the sanctuary and near all places where Holy Communion is distributed.
- Church cleaning should return to regular protocol. Those who are responsible for cleaning should utilize disposable gloves and sanitizer.
Worship Aids and Various Liturgical Actions
- Hymnals and other worship aids may be placed in the pews.
- Holy Water is permitted to be placed in the font(s).
- Entrance and closing processions are now permitted.
- A verbal exchange of the sign of peace is permitted among the faithful.
- Collection baskets may once again be utilized.
- Although the Holy Eucharist continues to be offered at Mass, the distribution of the Precious Blood to the faithful is not permitted.
- Clergy are to receive Holy Communion by intinction when concelebrating.
- Clergy and extraordinary ministers should use hand sanitizer before distributing Holy Communion.
- The faithful are recommended to receive Holy Communion in the hand. However the right to receive on the tongue is to be respected.
- The faithful are encouraged to sanitize their hands before and after receiving Holy Communion.
- Clergy and extraordinary ministers, at their discretion, may continue wearing masks when distributing Holy Communion.
- Permission remains in effect for priests to trinate on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and to binate on weekdays.
- The use of confessionals is permitted. If there is inadequate ventilation within the confessional, priests may arrange for another space in the church for hearing confessions.
- Clergy may greet the people before or after Mass, but should refrain from shaking hands.