SAINT MARTHA PARISH RETURNS TO CHURCH!
As you learned on Thursday, May 14, we will soon be returning to the public celebration of the Mass - the “source and summit” of Christian life.
You learned in that earlier note that weekend Masses will begin, using the regular schedule for Mass and Confession, on the weekend of May 30-31. Daily Masses will begin, also using the regular schedule for Mass and Confession, on Thursday, May 21. All Masses will be in the big church.
Below, you will see the specific measures that will be in place. As you will quickly surmise, Mass won’t seem quite like before. Sadly, this is a time when nothing is unaffected by COVID-19. We ask you, please, to accept this limitation in humility, charity, and peace. They will help us protect health. They also will give assurance to those who attend, and to the larger community that will be watching this reopening with interest.
As you read this material, please remember that all of us are dispensed from the obligation to attend weekend Mass - meaning we can choose to go to Mass, but none of us is obliged to attend. And please remember also that we must not judge a brother or sister whose choices in this regard are different than our own - we might have no idea why a person feels it best to attend, or not to attend.
As a final prefatory note, please remember that none of us is accustomed to this new set of procedures. We all need to remain flexible and generous. And we need to remember that, depending on how it goes initially, we may find that some of this gets changed later.
Before Leaving Home
As you know, all persons are dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, at least through the end of July. Even without Mass, however, the Sabbath should, to the extent possible, be observed as a day of prayer, rest, family, quiet, peace.
A person who has symptoms of any illness, or who has been exposed to the COVID-19 virus within the past fourteen days, or who has a fever of 100.0 or higher, must not come to church.
A person who is sixty years of age or older, or who has chronic health conditions, or whose immune systems is compromised, or who would not be comfortable worshiping at church, is strongly encouraged not to attend Mass at the church.
Such a person should continue to watch an electronic presentation of the Mass. We intend to continue presenting the Saint Martha Mass on Facebook and YouTube. As you know, other options include the Saint Thomas / Saint John Outreach Mass at 6:00 a.m. or 10:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings on TV53, as well as EWTN Masses on cable television and other alternatives on-line.
Before coming to Mass, a person must have a mask and should wash hands. If possible, a person should bring some sanitizing wipes and a small personal container of hand sanitizer.
There will be no hymnals or missalettes in the pews. An alternative would be to follow along using the myParish App on your mobile device. Look for the "Worship Aid" button. The weekly Worship Aid, which contains the songs, readings, and responses, is also available on the parish website. If you have a copy of Magnificat or This Day, or if you own a missal, you can also bring it to follow the readings and responses.
Children of all ages are always welcome at Saint Martha. Please consider, though, whether to bring small children who are in the age interval where they are old enough to be mobile, but too young to have the self-control necessary to maintain social distance.
Coming to the Church
A person coming to Mass must bring a mask to church and must wear it all times when within the church, including as the person enters and exits. The mask may, however, be momentarily lowered or raised as the person transfers the consecrated Host to the mouth after receiving Communion in the hand.
A person coming to Mass must remain six feet from any other persons at all times when within the church. This distance need not be observed with regard to persons residing in the same household. A person may be within six feet of another person momentarily to allow the reception of Communion.
At some point it may come to pass that we have reached our capacity of approximately 150 people. In that event, you may be turned away and asked to return for a different Mass. If you receive this direction from a priest, a sacristan, or an usher, please do not argue the point. Please instead remember that each of these persons is your fellow parishioner who is working to keep everyone safe so that we can continue, from this day until forever, to attend the Mass.
Physical Changes Within the Church
The capacity of the church is sharply reduced during this time. Pews will be marked as open or closed, with two closed pews between each open pew. Within the open pews, families living in the same household may sit together, but all other persons should maintain at least six feet of social distance. To accomplish this, we will, at least for now, treat the occupancy limit of the church as approximately 150 persons – 15% of the normal thousand-person capacity. (From Thursday, May 21 through Friday, May 29, it will be smaller still. During those nine days, it will be approximately 50 persons – 5% of the normal capacity.)
Again, the hymnals and missalettes have been removed from the church. Parishioners are encouraged to bring their own missals or copies of Magnificat or This Day, or to plan using the myParish app on their mobile device.
Holy water fonts will not be filled during this time.
Before, during, and after Mass, the only open areas will be the church, the sacristy, and the rest rooms. There will be no social gatherings in other areas of the building.
Where possible, entrance doors will be held open or propped open, to lessen the need to touch surfaces.
We won’t be using the chapel area, for weekend or weekday Masses. It will reduce the need for cleaning, and will facilitate the distribution of Communion.
We know that some elders and those with mobility issues prefer the chapel area, for its proximity to doors and its flat floor. Those persons are, of course, under no obligation to attend weekend Mass. However, since they may choose to attend, please reserve for them the back pews of the main church.
When attending a weekend Mass, please be aware that we might be recording the Mass for transmission to parishioners who are not attending yet. If we are recording, you may find equipment or persons (stationary or moving) in your line of sight. While this may be distracting, please accept it as charity for those who cannot join us, except through these remote means.
As mentioned, this is new for all of us. Please be generous in accepting direction from the sacristans and others who are directing the preparations for Mass.
To avoid issues with proper distancing, please enter the church and take a seat, rather than standing and visiting near the entrances.
Please be prepared to sit in a different part of the church than has been customary. We need to keep proper distancing, and someone may already be in your preferred pew.
At weekend Masses, members of the Knights and the CCW will assist us in getting seated. None of us is accustomed to accepting such help at an ordinary weekend Mass, but please do accept their guidance.
During the weekend Masses, the collection will not be taken up. On three pillars in the back of the church, you will see a secure lock box with a slot in the top. Persons who do not use the on-line system for contributions should drop their offerings in the container before or after Mass.
Please say a prayer that God be glorified throughout the Mass, that distractions be minimal, and that no one becomes sick as the result of this community celebration.
There will not be a formal opening or closing procession. The priest will enter shortly before Mass, and will begin and end the Mass in the servers’ area.
As indicated, hymnals and missalettes will not be used during this time. Music will be greatly simplified – just a cantor and accompanist. Because singing is a more forceful exhalation, please do not sing aloud. If you know a hymn, you may murmur it quietly to yourself.
The priest will say Mass from the altar. Servers will not assist during the Mass.
Except during the distribution of Communion, the priest will not wear a mask.
Lectors will remove their masks as they read.
As indicated, the collection will not be taken up at the weekend Masses. If you are not making on-line contributions, please place your Offering in one of the secure lock boxes on a back pillar.
The gifts will not be brought forward at the Offertory.
The exchange of peace is likewise omitted. Except for persons residing in the same household, we are not to be touching another person. Thus, if it has been your custom to hold hands during the Our Father, that gesture is likewise to be omitted.
The Precious Blood will not be distributed to the Faithful during this time. Nor will the Body of Christ be received on the tongue. (If that latter direction (or any of these) is a problem, please see Father Mike.)
Persons will not come forward for Communion. Nor will there be Eucharistic ministers. The priest will distribute Communion by passing through the empty pew in front of each occupied pew. If present, the deacon may assist in the distribution of Communion. This may take a few moments, so please be patient. While distributing Communion, the priest will wear a mask. Persons will receive Communion in the hand, and will do so while standing.
If you have sanitizing wipes with you, please take a moment after Mass to wipe off the pew surfaces you have touched.
To facilitate safe departure from weekend Masses, ushers will dismiss pews, from back to front.
As a person leaves church, the mask must still be worn. Similarly the six feet of separation must be maintained, except persons living in the same household. Ushers will assist this process.
No one is to hand out bulletins or other material after Mass
There are no receptions or social gatherings after Mass.
Please say a prayer of thanksgiving that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is again available, even with these limitations. Please pray that all be lifted up before the Lord, that the effects of His saving grace be plentiful, and that no one becomes sick as the result of this community celebration.
Between Masses, as time and other constraints allow, we will wipe down pews and pick up papers.