Preparing for Mass with a Congregation
Effective June 16, Bishop Libasci has updated the guidance in Celebration of Mass with a Congregation to allow for a capacity of 50% of the occupancy of the church building, consistent with revised advice from New Hampshire public health officials. All other protective measures described in Celebration of Mass with a Congregation remain in place.
When and where can I attend Mass?
Public Masses will resume on the weekend of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (June 6 - 7) in some parishes and on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi (June 13 - 14) for other parishes. Daily Masses may start sooner. Check with your local parish to find out the schedule in the parish, including Mass times.
What will be the process to attend Mass?
Due to capacity restrictions that pertain to large gatherings, the number of people who will be able to attend each Mass may be far less than normal (50% occupancy). This will require great patience and charity on all our parts. It is possible that you will not be able to get in to the Church. Those who are not able to be accommodated because 50% occupancy has been reached should be able to attend Mass from outside or, if there is another place used for overflow at Christmas, for example, may be directed to the place properly set up to accommodate them. Those already inside the main worship area could, perhaps, be asked to give up their seats if people who need them have been unable to enter. All this will vary from parish to parish depending on space availability and participation.
Parishes have calculated how many seats are available and marked them as appropriate. You will likely be directed by an usher where to sit or you will see visible pew markings though families will not be separated.
What safety precautions can I expect for returning to Mass?
- Charity begins at home and in order to protect other people at church, masks must be worn by all except children younger than 2 years old or anyone who has trouble breathing, is incapacitated, or who is otherwise unable to remove the face-covering without assistance,
- Social distancing will require that all must maintain the six foot distancing rule to enter and exit the Church and to receive Holy Communion – pews will be marked to allow distancing during the Mass,
- Ushers, signs and/or floor directions will indicate where to enter, exit and stand,
- The Holy Water fonts will remain empty – please do not touch them,
- Sanitize hands on entering the church,
- All hymnals and Missalettes and worship aids will be removed,
- There will be no choirs or congregational singing,
- There will be no offertory collection within the liturgy; however, another collection point will be designated by the parish and electronic giving remains as a contactless method to support your parish,
- The exchanging of the Sign of Peace continues to be omitted,
- Just before receiving Communion, lower the mask and then immediately after receiving Communion the mask must be properly re-positioned,
- The distribution of the Precious Blood continues to be suspended,
- The priest celebrant and other ministers will not be wearing masks or gloves during the celebration of Mass. Instead, they will remain more than 6 feet from the congregation during the entirety of the Mass with the exception of distribution of Holy Communion,
- There will be a Holy Communion station that will include sanitizing materials for use any time contact is made while distributing the Sacred Host,
- Kneelers should be left down to allow for increased attention for these areas by designated parish staff or volunteers after your departure, and
- All frequently-touched surfaces (including seating areas, electrical switches, door handles, restrooms, objects and utensils) will be cleaned and disinfected at the end of each Liturgy.
How will I be able to receive Holy Communion?
Consistent with the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and our normal practice for Communion, receipt of Holy Communion may be standing or kneeling, on the tongue or on the hand, at the choice of the communicant.
Does everyone have to attend Mass?
No. The Faithful are still dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass during this time. Your parish probably will continue livestreaming or recording Masses. In order to protect yourself and others, it is very important that you stay home and not go to a church if you:
- Have tested positive for COVID-19 or been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19,
- Have a cough, fever, difficulty breathing or feeling sick, or
- You are particularly vulnerable or at high risk to COVID-19 according to the Centers for Disease Control, either due to age or underlying health conditions.
Can I still receive Holy Communion if I am not yet comfortable returning to public Mass?
Yes. If Holy Communion is being distributed in your parish before the final blessing (at its usual time), distributors of Holy Communion have been requested to remain after Mass to distribute to those who were not physically at Mass. If your parish is distributing Holy Communion after the final blessing and dismissal, you can receive the Eucharist at the same time as the rest of the congregation. Please be mindful of social distancing upon entering the line for Holy Communion.