BRIDGEPORT—About thirty parishes throughout the diocese are preparing to resume public worship inside their church buildings this weeknd on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
Masks, social distancing, PPEs and other public health measures will be part of the experience of Mass for those who return to Mass indoors or the first time in months.
Worshippers can expect six feet of space between themselves and other individuals and families. They will also need to make a reservation to attend Mass (Mass times may change to accommodate cleaning needs) and will be required to wear a mask during the service.
They will also have plenty of fresh air inside the churches as guidelines call for entrance and exit doors to be open at the beginning and end of Mass and, weather permitting, church windows to remain open during the service.
In a May 29 letter to the faithful Bishop Frank J. Caggiano announced the beginning of the phase two return to Mass inside churches on June 13-14, after each pastor has submitted a re-opening plan to the diocese.
Indoor weekday Masses, Funeral Masses and Nuptial Weddings will also resume inside Churches after the weekend of June 13 and 14 in parishes prepared to re-open in a safe and reverent manner.
The bishop said that all parishes must make every effort to begin offering indoor Masses no later than the weekend of June 27-28, the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Given the limited seating capacity required for social distancing during indoor Masses, the bishop said that parishes can continue to offer Mass outdoors for up to 150 people (including clergy, staff, volunteers, and attendees).
He has also given approval for ongoing parking lot Masses and has encouraged pastors to continue live-streaming Masses for those who are unable to get out, while public worship slowly resumes.
The dispensation of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass for all those who are vulnerable or concerned about their health or the health of loved ones will continue until further notice.
Pews will be marked with physical distancing indicators, and ushers or other volunteers will assist with directing people to marked seating. Ushers will also ensure that no one congregates in common space such as foyers, lobbies, community and multi-purpose rooms or event spaces.
In some churches, every other pew may be used if they are 6-feet apart, while in other, smaller churches every third pew may be required to meet safety recommendations.
The overall capacity may vary depending on the size and configuration of the church as they affect the ability to meet social distancing recommendations. As a result, larger churches may accommodate up to 100, while others may safely hold less than 50.
Reception of Holy Communion on the tongue remains permissible, as required by the liturgical law of the Church, with the admonition that the faithful should be reminded of the unique risks posed by receiving the Eucharist in this manner. Overall, it is recommended that people receive Communion in the hand for the duration of the pandemic.
Other changes call for the suspension of the procession and recessional down the center aisle, and for the faithful to refrain from singing (which is believed to propel the virus forward). Likewise, there will be no sign of peace or holding hands during the Our Father.
Given the complicated logistics of safely resuming indoor worship, training programs are in place for staff, lay ministers and volunteers. The diocesan Leadership Institute has also produced a video for lay ministers, and signage has been made available to parishes to further safeguard the health of the faithful.
All of the precautions and procedures are based on state, federal and CDC recommendations and guidelines to safeguard the health of the community during the pandemic.
The bishop said he is grateful for the tremendous efforts of priests, deacons, lay ministers and others who are diligently planning for the safe re-opening of churches.
“I recognize that the last few months have been a most difficult time for all of us. I am grateful for your patience and prayers during this unprecedented moment in our history. I very much appreciate the great sorrow and loss felt by many who have longed to return to Mass. We will also need to live with continuing uncertainties about the course of the pandemic and its full impact on our society.
However, I believe that it is also the right time to move forward in hope and faith, while taking all necessary precautions and safeguards to protect life in our community as we resume public worship within our Churches,” said the bishop.
Anyone interested in attending Mass inside the Church should contact their parish online or by phone for Mass times and other instruction.
(To view guidelines on the resumption of indoor Masses, click here.
For guidelines on the reception of Holy Communion, click here. For a video tutorial for liturgical ministers, click here. For a brief overview of what you can expect as you arrive and during the celebration of Mass, click here.)