Public Celebration of Mass Resumes

05-13-2020Pastor's LetterFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is with great joy that I announce to you that we have finalized a plan to resume public Masses at San Francisco de Asis Catholic Church. Please take a few moments to carefully read through the following questions and answers.

When will Masses be celebrated?

Beginning May 16 & 17, we will resume our normal weekend Mass schedule: Saturday evening English Vigil Mass at 4:30pm, Sunday morning English Masses at 8:00am and 10:00am, and Sunday afternoon Spanish Mass at 12:15pm.

Beginning Tuesday, May 19, we will resume the public celebration of daily Mass at the following times: Tuesday and Thursday at 12:15pm, and Wednesday and Friday at 8:15am. There will be no daily Masses on Monday and Saturday mornings to ensure a thorough cleaning of the Church before and after the weekend Masses.

Although every effort will be made by church staff and volunteers to disinfect pews, doors, and restrooms between Masses, a completely sterile environment cannot be perfectly maintained and each parishioner is encouraged to take proper precautions for their own personal safety.

Are we required to attend Sunday Mass?

No. The bishop is continuing the suspension of the Sunday Mass obligation at this time. No one is obliged to attend Mass or to receive Holy Communion at this time. If you are worried about putting yourself at risk, are at risk, have flu-like symptoms, or someone you live with has flu-like symptoms, please stay at home. You will not be committing a sin by missing Mass or refraining from receiving Communion. 

How many people are allowed to attend each Mass?

Giving an exact number is difficult for us to say. Since our Church is very large, and we are rarely at full capacity (Christmas and Easter being the exceptions), we can seat most of our normal Mass attendees with appropriate social distancing protocols in place. We have blocked off every other pew and have marked off six foot barriers between sections of usable pews. This should spread out Mass attendance quite a bit. In addition, there is a large enough distance between pew aisles leaving enough room for people to enter and exit the pews on either side at the same time without breaking proper social distancing protocols. In addition, all the doors of the Church, including the side emergency doors, will be open for people to enter and exit. 

When inside the church, where are we allowed to sit?

We ask that when you arrive, you find a pew that has a usable section that reflects the number of people in your family. For example, if there are only 2 of you, please do not a take a pew that can hold a family of 8. This means that at this time you may have to sacrifice your “normal spot” within the church.

Will we be able to receive Holy Communion at Mass?

Yes, with proper health and social distancing restrictions. Communion will only be distributed under one species: the Body of Christ. The use of chalices is suspended at this time. Those who minister Holy Communion will do so wearing masks and they will sanitize their hands immediately after making contact with another person during distribution. Those who desire to receive Communion on the tongue may do so in the kneeling position only. The extra height advantage gives the minister of Communion a greater opportunity to avoid making contact with a person’s mouth and breath. However, the minister will sanitize their hands immediately after giving Communion to someone on the tongue.

If we do not feel comfortable coming to Mass but still want to receive Holy Communion, is that possible?

Yes. For the time being, we will only be live-streaming the 4:30pm Saturday evening Vigil Mass and will distribute Holy Communion outside the south entrance of the Church (in a similar fashion to the past two weekends) from 5:30-6:15 pm. The Mass will be finished by 5:15pm and a 15-minute buffer time will allow for those who were physically present at Mass to exit the parking lot to create a safe environment to begin distributing Holy Communion outside. We ask that all people who would like to receive Communion after this Mass to please remain parked in the parking lot until parish staff and volunteers are ready to assist with the directing of traffic lines. It will cause a number of traffic safety issues if people begin to line up before the Mass attendees have had a chance to leave. We want to ensure the safest system possible. 

We are working on getting an HD camera installed in the Church. We hope to have it installed within the next few weeks. This camera will allow us to live-stream and record all Masses celebrated in the Church.

Can we bring Communion to the sick and homebound?

Unfortunately, at this time, Communion cannot be distributed to the sick and homebound except by a priest and only if the person is terminally ill or actively dying. 

Will Mass look and feel like it did before the pandemic?

No. Mass will look and feel different.

First, we are asking parishioners who attend to please wear masks throughout the entire Mass with the exception of the moment when they receive Communion. When you go up for Communion, please remove the mask from the ears, avoiding contact with the front of the mask.

Second, until further notice, the Mass will be celebrated in a simple form. A number of things will be omitted: the sign of peace, physical contact during the Our Father, presentation of the gifts, and our typical collection process (including children’s collection). Donation baskets will be placed inside the Church at all of the entrances for those who would like to drop off their contribution envelopes. In addition, until further notice, Masses will be celebrated without music. For the sake of brevity and the potential concern of the spread of Covid-19 through the aerosolization of the virus through singing, until further notice, Masses celebrated with people will be recited. The only parts that will be sung, will be the parts that the priest sings alone with a very simple, “Amen,” response from the people.  

Third, we are asking all those who attend to avoid any kind of additional gathering and conversing before and after Mass. We are also asking that parishioners avoid making physical contact with anyone outside their immediate family unit. This includes both inside and outside the Church. In addition, for their own safety, priests and deacons will not be in the narthex greeting people before or after Mass.

We know that avoiding social interaction with fellow parishioners will be very difficult to maintain. It has been weeks since we have seen each other and we naturally want to make physical contact with each other and spend time conversing. However, it is an unnecessary risk to do so at this time. Church staff and volunteers have been instructed to politely break up any social gathering or interaction that violates appropriate social distancing. If you see someone you know, you are most welcome to wave at them or nod your head as a form of greeting. A phone call after Mass would also be a great way to safely check in on them.

Is the rest of the Parish opening up?

No. At this time, we are only opening up the parish for Mass. We are working toward a slow and gradual re-opening. Other parish ministries are still online or suspended for the moment. Confessions will continue outside and in “drive-thru” mode at our normally scheduled times, the parish office will remain open for limited hours to answer phone calls, and many of the parish staff will continue to work remotely.

Although it is a great joy to make this announcement, I also know that this process will not be perfect and will require some adjustments as we move forward. Please continue to be patient with myself, the parish staff, and volunteers as we try to make this process as smooth as possible. Please be assured of my daily prayers for you. I look forward to seeing you all very soon!

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will