By Jay Nies
Out of abundant concern for the common good and especially for people who are most at risk from COVID-19, Bishop W. Shawn McKnight has extended through November the existing norms for limiting the virus’s spread.
In an Aug. 21 official decree, he lifted until Nov. 27 the requirement for all the faithful of the diocese, as well as all who are present within these 38 counties, to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.
He had previously dispensed the faithful from their Sunday obligation through Sept. 11.
He reiterated that Catholics who do not attend Mass in person are required to participate in the Sunday or holy day Mass via livestream, or by praying and meditating on the Scriptures for that day in addition to praying the Rosary or Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
For a list of links to parishes’ livestreamed Masses, visit diojeffcity.org and click on the “Livestream Mass Links” button.
Daily Scripture readings can be found online at: usccb.org/bible/readings.
The bishop decided to continue the norms for COVID-19 under the recommendation of the Diocesan Presbyteral Council, an official advisory body made up of priest representatives from throughout the diocese.
“We continue to pray for an end to the pandemic so that we can return to worshiping the Lord as one people under one roof,” Bishop McKnight stated.
“Until then, I implore those who are fit to attend Mass in person to follow all of the health directives from the state and their local health departments,” he said.
He further counseled the faithful to stay in touch with and actively assist people who are still most affected by the pandemic and the resulting social isolation, especially those who are elderly, infirm or homebound.
“This is part of our obligation as followers of Christ,” said Bishop McKnight. “God wants people to recognize not only our parishes but also us as individuals and families as centers of charity and mercy.”
For the good of all
Further directives regarding social distancing and suspension of several aspects of the Mass remain in effect least through Nov. 27.
The decree states that 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.
People who come to church for Mass and other activities must practice social distancing, use facemasks, and otherwise observe health measures that promote the common good.
All people over age 2 must wear facemasks upon entering the church, during the celebration of Mass except when in place in the pew, during the Communion procession, and while leaving the church.
Facemasks must also be worn in the pew in the event social distancing isn’t possible.
“Some of the priests on the Presbyteral Council remarked that it is becoming more difficult to observe social distancing in the pew because more people are returning to Mass on Sundays,” said Bishop McKnight. “This new decree establishes that facemasks must be worn at all times when moving about in the church, and in the pew if six feet of distance cannot be observed.”
He said that this is a worthwhile sacrifice and an act of Christian charity.
“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,” he said.
The Offertory Procession, the Sign of Peace, and reception of Holy Communion from the chalice remain suspended until further notice.
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.
People who are age 65 and over or are otherwise at increased risk for contracting 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.
Time in the desert
Bishop McKnight urged the faithful to continue longing for the day when all may partake freely of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in person.
“We are people whose destiny is defined by the Holy Eucharist,” he said. “When the time comes, we all must return to active participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the source and summit of our lives as Christians.”