May 16, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Thanks be to God we will be able to celebrate public Masses again very soon! His excellency Bishop Raica, in his letter on May 12, has given us permission to begin public celebrations of the Holy Mass beginning on May 20. Our first public Mass will be at 8:30 am that day. I would like to thank you all for your constancy in prayer, for your dedication to this parish and for all of your words of encouragement during these past few months. We know that this has been a time of great suffering. No doubt many have struggled with anxiety and fear, faced with such an uncertain future. One thing that we do know to be certain is that the Lord is faithful! The Lord loves us and desires to provide for us everything we need, so we have nothing to fear.
While the news that public Masses will be reinstated is most welcome, we all know that it will not look the same as before. There will have to be many inconveniences and many adjustments made in order to ensure continued safety and health for our parish family. Thankfully, I can report that in all of my travels to all the homes in the parish I did not come across a single diagnosed case of Covid-19. We will be working tirelessly in order to keep it that way. We must all do our part to help. As we embark on this new moment together, we ask that you would be patient with us as we strive to live the fullness of the Sacramental life again, while at the same time upholding the safety and the dignity of all our parishioners. With that in mind we would like to communicate the following information regarding return to public celebrations of the Holy Mass at St. Mary Parish.
- While suspension of public Masses has been lifted, per the Bishop’s letter, the faithful have been given a dispensation from their Sunday obligation to attend Mass through Sunday, September 6th. Therefore, all the faithful are welcome to attend Sunday Mass, but are under no obligation.
- At this time, we will only be using 25% of our capacity and all will be asked to maintain the 6 ft. social distancing set by the Governor of the State of Michigan. This means that approximately 100 people will be allowed in the church. An additional 90-100 will be allowed in the parish center for live stream at each Mass. Individual households will be able to sit together, but we ask that 6ft. of social distance be maintained between members of other households. Ushers will be available before Mass to assist parishioners to their seats. Please remember that if all cannot be accommodated on Sundays, weekday masses will also suffice through September 6th.
- The following specific guidelines will be in place at St. Mary’s for preparation, arrival, participation, Communion, and departure from each public Mass. Please read carefully:
- Those who are symptomatic or who have been exposed within 14 days to the coronavirus are not permitted in the church. Members of the same household must remain home as well.
- Before coming to church, everyone is requested to “self-screen” by taking their temperature at home. If a person’s temperature is at or above 100.4 (CDC guideline) they and all members of their household must remain at home.
- Those who are at risk, have underlying health conditions, or who are not comfortable being in public are welcome to remain home for their own health safety. Live-stream Masses will continue to be provided on our parish website.
- Please bring your own hand sanitizer (if possible) to use before and after Communion.
- We are asking all the faithful to please wear a mask at this time if possible (Young children will be at the discretion of their parents). Please provide your own mask if possible. We will have a limited supply of disposable masks available for those who do not have one.
- Please plan to arrive at least 5-10 minutes before Mass so seating and numbers can be monitored. If you arrive after Mass has started, you will be seated in the Parish Center so as not to distract the priest or other parishioners.
- For entry into the church we are asking everyone to enter the doors at the West end of the Church off the parking lot by the Gym. All other doors will be locked. This is to facilitate accurate monitoring of the number of attendees. Upon receiving Communion, you may exit any door.
- There will be no offertory collection during the mass. Instead, we will have collection baskets stationed at each of the main exits: in the gathering space and the two doors at the back of church. You may put your envelopes in these baskets upon entering or exiting the church.
- The reception of the Eucharist will be after the final blessing at the end of Mass. This is to facilitate smooth exit from the church in a way that will limit social contact.
- When coming for Communion, first sanitize your hands immediately before. If you do not have your own sanitizer, we will have touch-less dispensers as you walk up to Communion. It is encouraged to receive by the hand; extending your hands to keep a safe distance from the priest. Please pull your mask under your chin before receiving and then after receiving, replace your mask immediately. Wearing gloves at the reception of the Eucharist is strictly prohibited.
- The Eucharist may be received on the tongue, but for those who wish to do so we ask that you come up at the end of the line for Communion.
- After receiving the Eucharist, we ask that you leave the church directly and please pray your prayer of thanksgiving as you exit the church instead of returning to your pew. This will allow our sanitization crews to prepare the church for the next celebration.
- The Eucharist will be brought by the priest to the parish center after those in the church have received.
- Anyone who has watched a televised Mass and would like to receive communion may come to the church directly after the 4pm Vigil Mass or 11am Sunday Mass, or directly after any Mass during the week. Please plan to arrive within 10 minutes after the end of Mass and go to the Parish Center (Gym).
- Please do not socialize or remain in the church or Parish Center after Mass in order to allow the cleaning crews to begin cleaning immediately.
- The school, kitchen, cry room and chapel will be closed to the public in order to keep the cleaning time short.
- Finally, we are in great need of volunteers to be on sanitization teams to clean the Church after all weekend Masses. We need 4-6 volunteers. It should only take about 20-30 minutes after each Mass and all cleaning materials will be provided for you. You can call the office at 547-6652 or signup online: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/5080F44ABAF2-stmary.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we all navigate through this difficult time together. We also thank you in advance for compliance with these instructions, remembering that while you may not be at risk, in charity we strive to die to ourselves and to be considerate of our brothers and sisters in Christ. One of the blessings of this moment that we are living is that we will be challenged to realize what the Mass is really all about. It is about worshipping God and receiving Jesus in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Please know that you are all in our prayers and we pray that this pandemic come to a swift end.
As you can imagine, since we have yet to see how any of this will work out, we will most likely need to make adjustments after seeing how things go on the first weekend. We will be communicating any further instructions and adjustments as needed. Please continue to keep all of us at St. Mary’s in your prayers and we greatly look forward to seeing you!
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Peter Wigton