Catholic Diocese of Columbus
May 13, 2020
With the anticipation of reestablishing public worship, we must do so in a way that does not irresponsibly place the health of our people in grave danger. We are still learning a lot about the COVID-19 Coronavirus, we have seen its tragic force in the death of so many people. We pray for all those who have died these months as well as for those who mourn. We have also seen heroic efforts by those particularly in the health care field but so many others who in invisible ways have provided for our needs. We are all united in sincere gratitude for the work and the sacrifices of these people.
We also pray for and give thanks for those who have prudently guided us through these difficult times at the national, state, and local levels. In particular, we are grateful for the respect, which the state of Ohio has shown, for our religious rights and liberties. At no point have they disparaged our essential right and duty to worship Almighty God at the sacrifice of the Mass on Sunday and encounter the Risen Lord in the Eucharist. Rather, partnering with our brothers and sisters in the civil order, we prudently decided that though divine worship is an essential activity so also is the protection of the common good and the dignity of human life. The medical and public safety officials have been warning us urgently that gathered assemblies of persons was gravely dangerous to the individuals present and to the common good. Faced with these dangers, we have exercised together our moral responsibility to safeguard human life and to allow the local healthcare systems to manage the care of the sick. This prudential judgment on our part required great sacrifice for all in the Church. You have also sacrificed in various ways these days. For us, as Catholics, the loss of our Sunday gathering for worship is a great sacrifice. You have made these sacrifices in a spirit of extreme charity and I am deeply grateful. These measures we have undertaken together, we are advised, have made a difference. Our plans for reopening need therefore, to respect all those sacrifices in a way that is responsible with care for the well-being of individuals and of the wider community.
As one public official told me, the COVID-19 Coronavirus will be with us for a long time and we need to learn how to live with it. Many of the dangers of gathered assemblies remain. The measures proposed in our guidelines and the work that is being done at the parish level will help to mitigate those dangers to some degree. Cognizant of your many sacrifices, I need to ask patience and flexibility as we begin this process of the return to public worship.
This week some churches are beginning to open for individual prayer. The hours will be limited and subject to the necessities of social distancing. Meanwhile Confessions continue to be available by appointment. During the week of May 25, 2020, some churches will begin to celebrate Weekday Mass publicly under limited circumstances as the Churches are ready.
On the weekend of the great Solemnity of Pentecost, May 30/31, 2020, most of our churches will begin the public celebration of Sunday Mass. Please note, many things to which we are accustomed will be different. Schedules will need to be modified for a variety of reasons. Not every Church will be prepared, and some parishes may need to work together. As a matter of fact, since the fall we have been looking at ways that we might need to adjust schedules so that priests and parishes might work together and, in some cases, we may need to do so right away. We also need to leave time to disinfect the churches and we may need to change locations to accommodate some of the larger populations. Parishes are not in competition but rather meeting the individual needs using the guidelines we are implanting. I thank you in advance for your understanding.
All Catholics in the Diocese of Columbus are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass at least through September 13, 2020. Please, if you have any concerns, do not come at this point. In fact, I encourage all to follow the public guidelines here in Ohio as much as possible. If you are in one or more of the “high risk” categories, it is still too early to come out. And, of course, if you are experiencing any signs of illness, you have a serious obligation to stay at home. Given that the obligation is dispensed, individuals who wish to participate at Mass and receive Holy Communion might consider coming at a less crowded time, perhaps during the week. The Cathedral will continue to broadcast Mass each day on St. Gabriel Radio and to stream via our diocesan YouTube channel as will many of our parishes.
We will need to be flexible with last-minute changes to schedules, and further changes may be necessary even after we begin. Out of care for you, the priest is subject to the same obligation not to offer Mass if he is showing even the slightest signs of not feeling well. No one is required to receive Holy Communion and the reception of Holy Communion on the hand is strongly encouraged. Please be respectful of the guidelines for social distancing and please understand that when the Church has reached capacity allowed for health and safety reasons, we cannot admit any more people under any circumstance.
Please take the time to read carefully the accompanying guidelines. And most of all, please pray. Pray for me, for your parish priests and the teams with whom they are working to prepare for the return to public worship. These days the Gospels take us spiritually to the table of Jesus with his Apostles on the night of the Last Supper. Reading these chapters little by little (John chapters 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17) might be a good spiritual preparation. And know that I pray for you with gratitude every day.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.
Most Reverend Robert J. Brennan
Bishop of Columbus
WHEN WE RETURN TO THE CHURCH AND TO MASS
Just as you will experience everywhere in the State as Ohio begins to gradually return to economic and social life, you will find much to have temporarily and indefinitely changed in our church and at Mass. Below are church building and Mass protocols of particular relevance to you that have been recently given by Rome and the Diocese of Columbus. You will be notified if, and when, these protocols change or are lifted.
- No one is permitted to linger or socialize in the Gathering Space. When you enter the building, you must go directly to an open pew and pray (not talk). After Mass, you must immediately leave the building altogether.
- You are to maintain a 6-foot distance from each other when entering and leaving the building.
- Disinfect your hands before entering the church.
- The Cry Room, the Blue Room, and the Red Room are closed. (The “nursery” and the Children’s Liturgy of the Word are discontinued at least through the summer.)
- Every other pew will be marked off as prohibited for seating. You are encouraged to arrive early enough to find a seat that is 6 feet from another person because no additional people will be admitted once all available spaces are filled. (Families may sit together and need not maintain the 6-foot distance.)
- The floors will be marked with tape to indicate where people are to stop when queuing occurs.
- The number of individuals permitted in the restrooms at any one time will be limited. You are to wash your hands with soap and water before leaving the restroom.
- Holy Water stations will remain empty.
- You are encouraged to wear face masks when in the church building and at Mass.
- Those at a higher risk from COVID-19 are to stay home, and are dispensed from attending Mass. Also, anyone with a cough of any sort or feeling sick is not to come to the church for a visit or to attend Mass.
- There will be no entrance procession, no offertory procession, no sign of peace, and no recessional procession.
- There will be no hymnals in the pews.
- The collection baskets will be positioned inside the doors into the church proper. Please, place your sacrificial-offering support in the basket nearest you when you enter for Mass. Baskets are not to be passed from hand to hand as we normally had done, and there will be no collection taken at the usual time. (Your continued contributions – indeed, even an increase in them – are greatly needed.)
- The distribution of Holy Communion will take place at the usual time.
- The Precious Blood will not be distributed.
- You must remove your mask when it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. Also, you must remove your gloves in order to be communicated in the hand.
- Reception of Holy Communion on the tongue is presently permitted, though that may change soon. For health and sanitary reasons, Communion on the tongue is “not preferred.”
Your cooperation is needed in order to minimize the chances of anyone coming down with COVID-19 while on-campus here. As we have been advised, resumption of public activity raises the possibility of a “second wave” of devastating consequences. Driven as it is by reasonable economic fears and troubles, the opening of offices, stores, churches, and so on still seems, from a timing-standpoint, to be somewhat arbitrary. We want to take as much of the uncertainty out of the equation as we humanly can.
Thank you. – Your pastor, Fr. Mark S. Summers. (May 7th.)