Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Thank you for your patience and prayer during the pandemic lockdown. Your support has been a powerful witness to me and to our whole community of the grace and strength of our shared faith.
Bishop Guglielmone has now issued guidelines for our return to Mass and our parish pastoral team has met to discuss how best to implement them. Please take the time to read this letter and observe the regulations for returning to Mass.
Remember that, although there is now some relaxation of the pandemic lockdown, the COVID-19 virus is still present and it is deadly. It is necessary for all of us to abide by the regulations given for the protection of ourselves and our families, but also for the protection of the most vulnerable among us. I should not need to remind you that many in our congregation are elderly and are therefore among the most vulnerable.
The first thing to keep in mind is that your obligation to attend Mass on Sunday has been suspended until further notice. If you are sick stay home. If you have underlying health issues that put you at risk you should not attend Mass. If you are elderly or feel anxious about attending Mass you do not need to come to Mass. It is not a sin to miss Mass in these circumstances. However, you should not use the suspension of obligation to just skip Mass! You should desire to return to Mass and we are working with you to make that possible.
Secondly, please note that the sacraments may be celebrated, but all other church activities are still suspended. When you do come to Mass do not congregate and socialize before or after Mass. The ushers will be instructed to ask you to disperse if you do. Please cooperate with them.
Mass Times: Starting on Monday, May 11, I will celebrate daily Mass in the Upper Church every weekday at the usual times with the exception that the Friday 8:30 am Mass will now be at 10:00 am.
Weekend Masses resume the weekend of May 16-17, and Mass times remain the same: 5:00 on Saturday, 10:30 on Sunday morning and 5:00 on Sunday evening. The weekday Masses will include music and a short homily that repeats or echoes the Sunday homily.
The Bishop’s guidelines stipulate that we may only admit 25% of our building’s seating capacity. For Our Lady of the Rosary this means only 100 people may attend any particular Mass. In order to accommodate everyone, we ask that you plan to attend Mass once a week. Attending one of the daily Masses should be your first choice. This will allow more room for those who can only attend weekend Masses.
Planning Mass Attendance: We ask, therefore that you plan your Mass attendance in advance. For weekday Masses you may simply turn up, and the first 100 will be granted admittance.
We are uncertain how many people will choose a weekday Mass, so for the first week at least, if you plan to attend a weekday Mass, we’ve designed the Mass times to accommodate certain categories of people. The masses are not limited to people in these categories, but it is an informal attempt to spread the attendees across the weekdays. Therefore, please note these categories for your planning:
- Monday – 8:30 am – attend before going to work
- Tuesday – 12:00 noon – attend during lunch break
- Wednesday – 6:00 pm – attend after work
- Thursday – 10:00 am – for families with kids at home
- Friday – 10:00 am – reserved for parishioners over the age of 65
This are suggested guidelines. We will not enforce this strictly.
However, for weekend Masses we ask that you use the internet facility Sign Up Genius. Go HERE to learn more about Sign Up Genius. You should sign up to attend a weekend Mass of your choice by Friday noon of the week you wish to attend. You will need to sign up each week to reserve a place.
The greeters at Mass will have instructions to only admit those who have signed up in advance. If your name is not on the list, we will ask you to attend a weekday Mass that week. If you do not use the internet you may call or text Beth Jones and she will sign you up for a weekend Mass. Beth’s phone number is (724) 458-0196.
After you sign up for a weekend Mass you will receive some simple instructions to help facilitate admission to church and dismissal. These rules are the best we can do to work together. Please abide by them in order to help your fellow parishioners. As we move forward, if these protocols need to be adjusted, we will do so and keep you informed.
Behaviors at Mass Here are some extra guidelines as we return to Mass:
- The church will be cleaned and sanitized before each Mass.
- To keep our distance, admission to church and dismissal will be done by small groups in an orderly manner as directed by the ushers.
- Holy water fonts are removed.
- Hand sanitizer will be available in the narthex. We advise you to carry your own.
- Face masks will be available in the narthex.
- Wearing a face mask is strongly recommended.
- Pew missals are removed.
- Worship aids on weekends will be used only once.
- Trained ushers will seat you.
- Markers on the floor will indicate safe distancing. Only immediate family members may sit together.
- There is to be no physical contact in the exchange of the Peace or holding hands during the “Our Father”.
- Baskets will be in the narthex for you to make your offering as you leave church.
- So that the confession lines are not overwhelmed, the bishop has authorized priests to use a form of General Absolution.
- This is a special provision in church law for times of emergency.
- General Absolution under these conditions is a full absolution as it would be in individual confession.
- Individual confession will resume in June with certain conditions and restrictions for safety.
- Eucharistic Adoration will resume in June.
- When celebrating, the priest will take every precaution to keep the sacred host at some distance on the altar while still close enough to consecrate.
- The priest and deacon will thoroughly cleanse and sanitize hands before celebrating Mass, and will repeat before administering communion.
- Communion will be administered by the priest or deacon coming to you in your pew.
- If you receive communion on the tongue extend your tongue as far as you can. The priest will touch the smallest edge of the host before placing it on your tongue.
- For health reasons or simple anxiety about transmission of disease, it is permissible to attend Mass, but refrain from receiving communion.
Extra Assistance One of the crucial aspects of opening up but still managing worship safely will be our teams of ushers and greeters.
Unfortunately, many of our ushers are themselves, within the vulnerable age group. They may wish to step down from serving as ushers at this point.
At the same time, the need for ushers to be fully informed and able to assist the public is greater than ever.
Therefore, if you are under the age of sixty and would be willing to serve as an usher or greeter please be in touch. We will need ushers and greeters for both the weekend and weekday Masses, and before you get started, we will give you all necessary training and instruction.
At least until the beginning of June, Fr. Ballard will not be celebrating the sacraments publicly. He has released his own letter to you explaining his decision. Please remember him and his wife Ruth in your prayers.
Thank you for your patience during this difficult time and for your cooperation as we seek to return to worshiping the Lord in the beauty of holiness.