Since the decision to suspend public Masses and gatherings due to COVID-19, the Archdiocese has been singularly focused on keeping people safe and doing our part to help mitigate the spread of the disease, consistent with guidance from state and local officials. Our priests and parish leaders, school principals, teachers and staff as well as our various social justice ministries have stayed strong during this pandemic and continue to be engaged with the faithful in various ways. Schools have conducted virtual classes, parishes have celebrated Mass via live streaming, programs such as marriage preparation have continued and parish food pantries are doing everything humanly possible to meet the dramatic increase in people seeking food.
The announcement by the Governor this morning that the Commonwealth was beginning the process of re-opening is welcome news. The Archdiocese has consistently stated we will work collaboratively with local and state officials during this crisis and we will continue to comply with their guidance and mandates devised to restart community activity while continuing to fight the virus and keep people safe.
Shortly after the Governor’s announcement we communicated a series of steps to our parishes that they must follow to adhere to both the state and Church requirements to re-open. That document is available by clicking here.
The guidance, established by a working committee of priests, deacons and laity accompanies the decision today that parishes can resume Mass as of Saturday, May 23. Strict guidelines require that no more than 40% of the Church capacity can be in attendance, social distancing must be followed for pews and restrictions for the safe distribution of Communion must be in place. Weddings and funerals may proceed but with the similar restrictions.
As stated in the Archdiocesan document released today, “If a parish within the Archdiocese of Boston, after careful and deliberate preparation, considers that they are able to meet all of the State, Municipal, and Archdiocesan guidelines, they may request permission from their Regional Bishop or Episcopal Vicar to begin Masses as early as Saturday evening, May 23. Many, or even most, parishes may well need more time to prepare, and may choose Sunday, May 31 (the Feast of Pentecost), as the date for their reopening. Parishes should not resume Masses before they are ready, and the decision to delay the resumption of Masses until May 31 may very well be the best decision for a parish. No matter what the start date, no parish should have Mass unless they can do it safely, and in compliance with the guidelines.”
The dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation will continue for the foreseeable future. Cardinal Seán strongly encourages people in vulnerable populations, especially the elderly and those with complicating physical conditions, to continue to watch Mass from their homes, on their parish’s social media or on CatholicTV.
The days ahead will continue to be challenging for all. Our parishes, schools and ministries will be meeting these challenges in unprecedented ways. The return to the celebration of Masses and the sharing of the Eucharist will be welcome activities for the people of the Archdiocese as we proceed patiently and with caution in this first phase of reopening. We hope and pray that the steps undertaken by our public leaders and by the Church will be effective in preventing a new surge of the virus and we will remain vigilant in our efforts to keep people safe.
Learn more about Coronavirus (COVID-19) by clicking here.
Father Steven Clemence