Weekly Bulletin Column
From Fr. Michael Reding
August 23, 2020
Masses and Communion at Saint Thomas the Apostle:
Online and Onsite
Beginning next weekend (August 29 & 30), we will offer three opportunities for our parishioners to encounter Christ in the Eucharist at Saint Thomas the Apostle.
As we have since March 22, we will offer a high-quality Mass online. This allows worshippers to remain safely at home without masks and will continue to include music inviting participants to sing.
In addition, for those who celebrate Mass online, we will offer an opportunity to come to church to receive communion and depart. For those who choose, you may come to the upper parking lot between 10:00 and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. Communion will be distributed rain or shine outside under the portico on the east side of the school building.
And for those who would like to celebrate Mass onsite, we will offer a Mass on Sunday mornings at 9:00. Mass will be celebrated outdoors in the backyard, weather permitting. If rain prohibits us from celebrating Mass outdoors, we encourage you to celebrate Mass online instead. We will not offer an indoor celebration at this time due to health concerns and due to construction that will be happening in the church. If onsite Mass is canceled due to weather, we will send an eblast to parishioners by 8:30 a.m. on Sunday and will publish a notice via Facebook.
For those coming to celebrate Mass onsite at 9:00, we recommend that you park in the lowest level of our parking lot. From there, it will be easy to enter the east doors of our gymnasium, pass through the gym, and enter the backyard. We ask that you bring your own chair or blanket to sit on. This assures you that your seating will be sanitized. For those unable to bring seating, we will have a few sanitized chairs available.
We are confident that we can safely accommodate and socially-distance 100 people for worship in the backyard. Our first Sunday will allow us to assess this number more thoroughly, and if it’s safe, we may increase that number. Consequently, we ask you to sign up in advance if you are planning to come for Mass onsite. This will help us know how many people to expect and will provide us with information for contact tracing should it later be discovered that a person attending Mass has the coronavirus. You may sign up for onsite Mass beginning on Monday through our website or by calling the parish office.
Masks will be required for those who attend Mass onsite. Please bring and wear your own; we will have a few available for those without. Hand sanitizer will be provided as you arrive; you may also choose to bring your own. There will be no congregational singing at this Mass because singing expels respiratory aerosols with greater force than speaking. When you arrive for Mass, we ask that you follow the directions of ushers who will help to ensure that groups of people are sufficiently distant from one another. Since we do not have good restrooms accessible from the backyard, we encourage to “go before you come.”
Finally, a couple of reminders: the CDC recommends that people over 65 years old and those with underlying health risks should avoid congregating in places with large numbers of people. Archbishop Hebda continues to dispense all Catholics from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. Lastly, remember: this is a new venture for all of us. While we will take all precautions to protect our worshipper’s health, there may be other details that are not perfect on that first Sunday. We ask for your patience and flexibility as we seek to worship the Lord in new circumstances.
A key question in that survey was the first one which asked, Which statement most accurately reflects your feelings about the current celebration of Mass online at St. Thomas the Apostle during the COVID pandemic?
- 66 percent of you said The celebration of Mass online meets my needs both spiritually and my feelings about my safety and the safety of the community. Maintain what we are doing.
- 21 percent of you said The celebration of Mass online meets my needs, but I would like the opportunity to receive Communion outside of Mass.
- 12 percent of you said The celebration of Mass online does not meet my needs. I would like the opportunity to celebrate the Mass in person.
164 of you left comments at the end of the survey which we found to be very helpful. Among the most frequent themes we heard were:
- Appreciation for the online Mass
- Appreciation for our parish’s cautious approach to the pandemic
- Appreciation for the survey and our attentiveness to parishioner input
- If we celebrate Mass onsite, we should do so outdoors
The discussion of our pastoral council was wide-ranging and everyone was respected and heard. In the end, they recommended that:
- We continue to offer a high-quality online Mass as we have been doing
- We begin to offer one Mass per Sunday outdoors, weather permitting
- We offer an opportunity for parishioners who have celebrated Sunday Mass online to come to Saint Thomas to receive communion and depart
The council felt that this is a prudent course that responds to our people’s desires while also protecting the safety of our parishioners and our staff, some of whom have underlying health conditions that place us at higher risk for serious illness or death from COVID-19.
As in the past, this decision is not cast in stone for all time. I expect that we will continue to monitor the situation with the virus, and, of course, as the weather gets cooler, we’ll need to reassess.