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Diocesan Directives for Reopening

Directives and Information, COVID-19
Updated – May 18, 2020
Directives for reopening
FROM – Bishop Mitchell Rozanski
I was pleased to learn that the opening of churches will be part of the first phase of the state’s reopening measures. In recent days we have asked parishes to begin planning for their reopening, taking into account limited capacity and social distancing, as well as cleaning procedures after every public use of the church.
It is important that our churches must be in full compliance before we resume public Masses. With that in mind I am issuing the following directives.
Parishes will be allowed to resume public Masses this Saturday, May 23 with the first vigil Mass after 4:00pm only if they have provided the Office of the Bishop written assurance that they have met all the state, municipal and diocesan guidelines, and received a response giving permission to resume.
It is not unreasonable that some parishes may require additional time and therefore not open until the following weekend, May 30/31.
The previous diocesan restrictions and state guidelines will continue including;

Omission of the Sign of Peace
No communion by the cup
Communion in the hand only
Holy Water fonts to remain empty and covered
Social distancing (6ft minimum) to be abided by at all times
Masks will be required
Diocesan guidelines issued May 15, 2020

Parishes may add weekend liturgies to accommodate the limited allowed capacity, but not before 4:00pm on Saturday.
Parishes should limit the number of persons involved with liturgy to the priest, a deacon, lector, organist and a cantor- no choir. Eucharistic ministers should only be used to the extent they are needed. And social distancing in the sanctuary must be maintained.​ For the time being no altar servers.​
All members of the congregation need to wear masks and they must put them on prior to leaving their vehicle, with a few exceptions:

Children under the age of two should not wear masks.
Parents should judge for children between the ages of two and five whether they should wear a mask.
All people who claim an exemption because of health can forego wearing a mask. They do not have to provide documentation.
The priest and others with him in the sanctuary do not need to wear masks in the sanctuary as long as strict socially distancing is maintained. They do have to wear masks when assisting with the distribution of Holy Communion.
We ask that those coming to our churches bring their own hand sanitizer if at all possible.

Time must be allocated between Masses and any time the church is open to the public to conduct a cleaning before the next Mass or public use.
Once permission is given to resume public liturgies this will extend to daily Masses as well as funerals and baptisms. The Rite of Reconciliation may also take place with the required 6ft separation and wearing of masks by priests and penitents.
The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick may resume under the following conditions;

If this is performed in a hospital or healthcare facility, the guidelines for protective measures, including garments, prevail.
If this is not performed in a hospital or healthcare facility: If available, latex gloves should be worn unless the patient or priest has an allergic sensitivity to latex. Additionally, if available, protective eye wear (a pair of glasses will suffice) should be worn. Eyeglasses or goggles or eye protectors can be re-used BUT MUST be cleaned immediately after each visit with Lysol/Clorox wipes or washed with soap and water.
If the priest uses his gloved hand, the glove is to be burned or buried after the visit.
If Holy Communion is given, it is to be distributed in the hand.
Maintain social distance (six feet) with everyone in the room, except the patient.

Even with the resumption of public liturgies, those who are most vulnerable should not attend Mass in-person; rather they should continue to watch our televised Mass the “Chalice of Salvation” or their parish’s streaming or cablecast Masses.
I am extending the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass even after we reopen out of an abundance of caution and concern for the most vulnerable who are most susceptible to contract this virus.
Finally all other parish social gatherings are still not allowed as are home visits by pastoral ministers.
Updated – May 15, 2020
Parish guidance on preparing to re-open
On Monday May 18 we anticipate specifics of the state’s planned phases to re-open and what limitations those phases will mandate as we move forward. It is important that parishes start planning. Through our Boston representatives we have lobbied to have the forthcoming capacity mandate expressed in a percentage of a church and/or parish center/gym’s current full capacity rather than a fixed number. Given the worship space variances and Mass attendance numbers, every parish may need to take a different approach in complying with guidelines. You need to start with;

An understanding of your church’s seating capacity, as well as any other large gathering spaces that might be utilized. What are the most active entrances and traffic patterns.
Your estimation on the number of people who might attend based on past attendance.

The previous diocesan restrictions and state guidelines will continue including;

Omission of the Sign of Peace
No communion by the cup
Communion in the hand only
Holy Water fonts to remain empty and covered
Social distancing (6ft minimum) to be abided by at all times
Masks will be required

Bishop also anticipates extending the general dispensation.
What can parishes do now?
Order the necessary cleaning materials along with hand sanitizers/wipes and masks.

Most parishioners will already have masks as they are required in public, but it would be safe to have single use masks available.
There are also many sewers making and donating cloth masks.
Here is one site to request cloth mask donations
Hand sanitizers should be available at every entrance. Encourage parishioners to bring their own. Alcohol content of 60% or higher.
Further guidance on proper cleaning protocols will be issued Monday.

Review your worship space in light of anticipated limited capacities and allowing for social distancing. Identify and address high risk areas

Turn-off water fountains and cover them.
Remove hymnals and other prayer cards, Mass guides etc.
Make sure doors at entrances can be left open for contact-free entry and departure.
Determine entrance and exit patterns and procedures for proper social distancing. Can doors be utilized for just entrance or exit so as to create one way traffic pattern.
Mark restrooms for emergency use only
Determine if church windows can be open to allow fresh air into the church.
At the minimum start by blocking off every other pew.
If you are concerned that you have Masses that may exceed state capacity, is it possible to add Masses?
What about alternative sites?
Use of parish center/gym for liturgy or overflow(can you connect sound systems)
Outdoor alternate sites can be considered however parishes should be mindful of the need for sound systems and Altar set-up as well as weather considerations, seating and bathroom access.
Expanded usher responsibilities
Every parish will need ushers to facilitate protocols
Number needed will be based on number of entrances
Given the increased duties, current ushers may need to be supplemented with young members. Consider asking parishioners with law enforcement backgrounds to help out as they tend to have experience dealing with the public in controlled situations.
Identify and begin working with ushers on keeping count of Mass attendees and ensuring that all attendees have masks and that social distancing is maintained.
Obviously families can sit closer together, but there must be 6 feet between family groups and the next attendee(s).
Consider marking the aisles in your worship space with tape indicating the 6 foot distance, this will help with the distribution of communion and the exiting of the congregation at the conclusion of Mass.
What if parishioners show up after you have reached your capacity? Will there be an overflow location that ushers can direct them to use?
How can you collect offertory
No baskets can be passed hand-to-hand.
Baskets with extended arms that ushers can use are OK.
Baskets at the entrances for parishioners as they arrive to drop off their envelopes/offering would be another option. This is best collected at the beginning to avoid back-ups when people are exiting church. These baskets should be clearly marked.

Other considerations

Identify space to resume Sacrament of Reconciliation
Consider a scheduled time(s) that your church will be open for private prayer.
It will need to be monitored for compliance
A cleaning protocol must be developed
Resumption of in church funerals, baptisms and weddings
Must abide by state capacity guidelines

Develop with maintenance staff a cleaning strategy.

Pastors will need staff/volunteers to thoroughly wipe down high exposure areas after every Mass and church opening.
Make sure product eliminates coronavirus and of application requirements and is at minimum 60% alcohol content.
Additional guidance will be forthcoming.

Review rectory/parish office operations and staffing.

Schedule staff to maintain social distancing and limited direct exposure.
Limit public hours during initial phases.
Diocesan HR Department will be providing additional guidance.