Weekly Bulletin Column
From Fr. Michael Reding
June 6, 2021
The Reopening Continues…
As you are probably aware, last weekend, the State of Minnesota lifted its requirement for social-distancing in indoor public settings. This week, the City of Minneapolis lifted its mandate for face masks in indoor public settings. Both of these decisions reflect our robust rates of vaccination: nearly 80% of eligible residents in Minneapolis have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. For the State, that rate is now 65%. That’s great news!
At Saint Thomas the Apostle, this allows us to continue the process of reopening our onsite weekend Masses. This week, we have brought back all of our chairs to the church, so we can now accommodate all who want to come. As a result, we will no longer require that you register in-advance if you are planning to come to Mass.
In addition, we will follow the CDC recommendation regarding face masks. Those who are fully vaccinated may choose not to wear a mask. Those who are not vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear a mask – for your own safety and to protect the health of those who cannot be vaccinated – especially our young children. Of course, anyone may wear a mask if they choose; we will continue to have masks available for those who would like one.
Also, beginning this weekend, our Eucharistic ministers will continue to sanitize their own hands before distributing communion, but those who are receiving communion are no longer required to sanitize their hands. At this time, we will distribute only the Body of Christ, not the Blood of Christ.
We are still awaiting new guidance from the Archdiocese regarding filling our baptismal font and congregational singing. At this time, we will continue without these things because that’s the latest guidance we have. When that changes, we look forward to restoring them.
Of course, we will continue to offer Mass online and will offer communion outdoors under the portico on the east side of our building on Sunday mornings between 10:00 and 10:30 for those who feel unable to come inside.
In addition, you may have heard that the Catholic Bishops of Minnesota announced this week that, beginning July 3, they will end the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. As with other developments, this is a recognition that, for most people – now fully vaccinated – the health risk of attending Mass is becoming small. Of course, the Bishops recognize that some people will still feel that it’s unsafe for them to come to Mass. Such people, even after July 3, are not obliged to attend Mass. Some examples are:
1. You have reason to believe your health would be significantly compromised if you were to contract a communicable illness (i.e., you have underlying conditions or are in a high-risk category).
2. You exhibit flu-like symptoms.
3. You have good reason to think you might be asymptomatic of a contagious illness (e.g., you were in recent contact with someone who tested positive for a contagious illness such as COVID or influenza).
4. You care for the sick, homebound, or infirmed.
5. You are pregnant or you are 65 years of age or older (per the CDC’s recommendation for high-risk individuals).
6. You cannot attend Mass through no fault of your own (e.g., no Mass is offered; you are infirm; or, while wanting to go, you are prevented for some reason you cannot control, such as your ride did not show up).
7. You have significant fear or anxiety of becoming ill by being at Mass.
For those who are well-versed in Catholic theology, this new directive seems to be a good example of the Church’s recognition of the primacy of conscience. The general obligation for Catholics to attend Sunday Mass is restored beginning July 3, but the Bishops recognize that there may be valid reasons for individual Catholics to stay away from Mass. Such persons, after serious reflection, should follow their well-formed consciences.
All throughout this last year, I’ve felt that the inflection points are the hardest moments. Each time we shift to a “new normal,” some people have disagreed with decisions and developments. I know that there are some people who feel that these changes are long overdue and don’t go far enough. There are other people who feel that these changes are too much too soon and may endanger their health or the health of others.
As I’ve said all through these last fifteen months, I hope that we will be gentle with those with whom we disagree. As long as leaders are acting in good faith (and I believe that everyone in this case is doing so), we owe them the benefit of the doubt and our support. While it may be a joy to see things opening up and so many things restored, these decisions are not easy for leaders. I trust that we will all remain united in our presumption of good will and our support and care for one another.
Thanks to all of you who have reached out to offer your condolences, your support, and your prayers following the death of my brother, Tom. With the other demands of these days, I haven’t been able to respond to each of you personally, but I hope you’ll know of my profound gratitude.
In the seven years I’ve been at Saint Thomas the Apostle, I have experienced the death of three brothers and my dad. And each time, you have been there to hold me up in prayer and in care. More than I can possibly say: Thank you.