The parishes of this diocese continue to balance the spiritual and temporal well-being of all people, especially the most vulnerable, under Bishop W. Shawn McKnight’s latest decree regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the decree, which took effect June 16, the bishop lifted until Sept. 11 the obligation for all the faithful of the diocese, as well as all who are present within its 38 counties, to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.
However, he stated in the decree that the faithful who do not attend Mass in person are required to participate in the Sunday or holy day Mass livestreamed, or by praying and meditating on the Scriptures with the recitation of a Rosary or Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
Bishop McKnight’s updated instructions came in response to Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s lifting of statewide regulations, leaving the determination of public health requirements to local officials.
Under the bishop’s decree, people who are infected with COVID-19 are not permitted to enter church properties.
All are directed to check their temperature at home before going to church.
Important safety measures should remain in place in all Catholic churches to help protect congregants from infection and slow the spread of the virus, according to the judgment of the local pastor, parochial administrator, or parish life collaborator.
People who come to church for Mass and other activities are highly encouraged to practice social-distancing, use facemasks, and otherwise observe health measures that promote the common good.
People who are age 65 and over or are otherwise at increased risk for contracting the COVID-19, as well as people who live with or take care of people at increased risk, are encouraged not to attend Mass in situations where proper social-distancing is not taking place, or where masks are not being used.
People who do not attend Mass on Sundays are encouraged to consider attending on a weekday if it would be easier to observe the proper social distancing and other health recommendations.
Bishop McKnight said the faithful should eagerly look forward to the day when all may safely return to active participation in the Mass.
“The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass remains the source and summit of our Christian life,” he stated. “Receiving Holy Communion and worshiping as a community are privileges that should never be taken lightly or casually excused.”
The bishop recommended that all people over age 2 wear facemasks upon entering the church, during the celebration of Mass except when in place in the pew, during the Communion procession, and upon leaving the church.
“This is an act of Christian charity,” he stated. “While it might not be comfortable, we can offer this discomfort up as a penance and as an act of solidarity with people who suffer from chronic health issues.
“It is especially important for children to see adults making sacrifices for the common good,” he added.
Bishop McKnight stated that all who do not attend Mass on Sunday or a holy day of obligation should do one of the following in its place:
Parishes are highly encouraged to continue livestreaming Masses at least through Labor Day weekend (Sept. 5-6).
For an alphabetized-by-parish list of livestreamed Masses, visit: https://diojeffcity.org/blog/2020/04/18/sunday-masses-being-live-streamed/.
The bishop also directed parishes and schools to strictly follow the public health requirements, directives or orders of local government officials for gatherings of the faithful, “including for the celebrations of Mass, weddings and funerals, other liturgies, devotions, school and catechetical activities, social events, sports activities, and meetings.”
Furthermore, the Offertory Procession, the Sign of Peace, and reception of Holy Communion from the chalice remain suspended until further notice.
Accommodations have been added for people who feel strongly about receiving Holy Communion on the tongue.
A special allowance is given for weddings to be celebrated outdoors, but only in proximity to the parish church or chapel.
High-use areas in churches, including doors, pews used by the assembly, and restroom facilities are to be cleaned with disinfectant after each liturgy.
Hymnals and other books are to remain in storage for the duration of the pandemic.
Holy water fonts are to remain empty.
Hand sanitizer should be made available throughout church and school facilities.
These and other directives in the decree reflect recommendations of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control.
“The common good demands that the public health requirements and recommendations of the state are to be observed whenever possible,” Bishop McKnight stated.