Great news! I am pleased to announce that, with the permission of our Bishop and diocesan officials, we are able to celebrate Masses inside our churches, with a congregation. All parishes have agreed that their churches are to be places promoting a healthy and safe environment; thus, we must all follow strict guidelines designed to keep us free from the COVID virus. Here are some bullet points that highlight our re-entry, which ushers will assist us with:
-- As of this writing, 25 percent of the maximum capacity of the church can be inside
-- If more than this number appear for Mass, we will serve communion to those waiting outside in the parking lots right after Mass (like we have done for the past two weekends)
-- Except for persons who reside together, we maintain a minimum six-foot distance from others at all times
-- Mandatory masks except for the point of reception of holy communion
-- Certain doors or restrooms are closed for entry
-- Hand sanitizing for all who enter the church
-- Required written contact tracing forms to be completed in church before being seated for all who participate in Mass
-- For now, we cannot have holy water, missalettes, choirs, ministers other than the priest in the sanctuary, processions of the gifts, chalices offering the Precious Blood to the faithful, physical signs of peace, hand-shaking, greetings by the priest at the door following Mass, and any congregation of persons after Mass (we pray that hopefully one day, these practice can be restored).
-- Also suspended for now is the administration of holy communion by extraordinary ministers to any home- bound person.
If you wish to read all of the details, click on the link below this message to read the comprehensive safety plan for our churches.
Again, our Bishop has dispensed us from the obligation to participate in Mass on Sundays or holy days of obligation. If you are in a high-risk category due to age or underlying health conditions, or if you are feeling sick, you do not have to attend the Mass and you ought not to if your health would jeopardize others. Don't worry: we'll still continue our streaming Mass on the websites and our Sunday television Mass at 9:00 AM on Spectrum cable and Verizon Fios for Schenectady subscribers.
Let us thank God in prayer that we can now participate in Mass again in our churches, as we offer our prayers for those who still labor under the effects of this virus. God's peace be with you, and I'll see you soon.