A note from Fr. Michael
Last updated 5 / 23 / 2020
Last week, the Catholic bishops of Minnesota announced that they will permit parishes to begin the celebration of public Masses onsite under very restrictive conditions beginning Wednesday, May 27. This decision has raised lots of questions and lots of disagreements. Let’s begin with four points that are most important for us to establish at the outset:
- Archbishop Hebda has repeated again that Catholics are dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass. No one (including a priest) is obliged to attend an onsite public Mass during this time.
- According to the bishops, parishes are permitted – they are not required – to begin the celebration of public Masses onsite. In fact, in order for a parish to begin doing so, they must demonstrate that they are prepared to adhere to an extensive list of safety protocols. They may not begin until all requirements can be met.
- At Saint Thomas the Apostle, we will continue to offer a high-quality Mass online as we have done for the last ten Sundays.
- At this time, we do not have plans to begin the celebration of onsite public Masses at Saint Thomas the Apostle.
Our parish leaders began discussing this question last month. As I shared with you in my column of May 10, we knew then that many restrictions would be imposed if Masses were to be permitted. Since that time, we have received detailed directives from the Archdiocese about what will be necessary if a parish is celebrate public Mass onsite. They include:
- Attendance must be no more than 25% of the seating capacity of the church. In order to ensure this, many churches will require a system (online or by phone) of advance reservations for those seeking to attend Mass.
- People who are over 65 or have underlying health conditions should not come to Mass.
- The church (worship space, gathering space, sacristies, restrooms, passageways, railings, elevators, doors) must be thoroughly disinfected after every Mass. I saw one parish seeking sixty volunteers for this responsibility alone.
- People attending Mass must wear masks at all times.
- People must remain six feet apart at all times (unless they’re from the same household).
- People should be seated by ushers rather than allowed to select their own seat, and they should wait to be individually dismissed when Mass is over.
- People should move through the building according to a one-way traffic pattern.
- People should sanitize their hands when entering the building, when approaching for communion, after receiving communion, and after leaving the building.
- If there is contact between a Eucharistic minister and a communicant, the process should stop and both should re-sanitize before resuming.
- Communion is to be distributed after Mass has concluded rather than at the usual time in the Communion Rite.
- Communion is to be distributed only in the hand. Hosts are not to be placed somewhere for people to pick up themselves, and the Blood of Christ is not to be distributed at all.
- There is to be no congregational singing or choir singing.
- Hymnals are to be removed. Worship aids should be used only once and then discarded.
- Baptismal fonts are to be empty.
- People are not to congregate in the church or gathering space to socialize.
- Our insurer is asking that all volunteers sign a liability waiver.
- Our insurer also recommends we notify people that “attendance at liturgies is at your own risk.”
- Enforcers will be needed to ensure that all these directives are followed.
As I emphasized at the beginning, we have made no decision at this time to begin the celebration of public Masses onsite at Saint Thomas the Apostle. Our parish leaders (pastoral council, liturgy commission, and staff) will continue to monitor the situation, continue to listen to the guidance of authorities, and continue to discern if/when/how we might resume Masses onsite at some point in the future. You can be assured that we will continue to offer a high-quality Mass online, and I hope that you will continue to join with me and your fellow parishioners in that worship.
As I said at the outset of this shutdown on March 20: it’s important during this time that we be gentle with one another, care for one another, and love one another. So far, we have done that exceedingly well at Saint Thomas the Apostle. I trust and pray that we will continue!
Fr. Michael Reding, Pastor
Our response to the Coronavirus
Since mid-March, the coronavirus has prompted us to change many things in how we “do” church.
- We are no longer gathering at church to celebrate Mass. Instead, we’re gathering to worship online – in numbers greater than we used to see in our church building.
- We are no longer gathering onsite for faith formation. Instead, we’re gathering online and using quality resources at home.
- We are no longer teaching children inside Carondelet Catholic School. Instead, we’re teaching online and working hard to keep students motivated and parents supported.
- We are no longer making in-person visits to people who are homebound. Instead, we are visiting them by phone or online. And we’re no longer checking-in with only those we know to be vulnerable; we’re calling all parish households that we can.
- We are no longer physically preparing and serving meals at Simpson Shelter. Instead we are providing increased financial support so they can offer increased services in a way that is safe for all involved.
The ways we “do” church have changed. But the ways we “are” church have not. We continue to be a Catholic Community of Inclusion. We continue to offer Welcome, Worship, Wisdom, and Witness.
All onsite public Masses remain suspended.
- Catholics continue to be dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.
- We are providing streaming video of our weekend Masses. Visit our website any time after 5:00 p.m. on Saturday to view this week’s Mass.
- Facebook “Watch Parties” are another way to participate. Watch parties begin at 5pm on Saturday and at 9 and 11am on Sunday. Go to the STA Facebook page at the designated times to join in. You need not have a Facebook account, nor need to set one up, in order to participate.
- To celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, please make an appointment with Fr. Michael.
- For Baptism and Wedding planning, be advised that strict rules must be enforced for the protection of everyone involved. At this time, no gatherings of more than 10 persons are permitted. Contact the parish office for more information.
- For those seeking to celebrate Daily Mass online, we recommend the Mass at Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville.
- For those seeking to pray the Rosary with others online, we recommend Salt and Light Media.
All other parish events are suspended until further notice, including the following:
- Sunday Liturgy of the Word with Children
- Sunday Seeds
- Weekday Masses and Communion Services
- Children’s Choir
- Adult Choir
- Youth Group activities
- Grief Support Series meetings
- Men’s Basketball and Volleyball groups
- Knitting Ministry
Wednesday Faith Formation for Adults has “moved” to ZOOM Video Meetings at 10am and 7pm. If you’d like to participate, please contact Bill Nolan. If the numbers for Wednesday get too large, other days and times will be arranged. For children, contact Cheryl Taylor for information on available resources to use at home. For information regarding the Sacraments of First Reconciliation, First Eucharist, and/or Confirmation, contact Martina Hernandez .
For any Pastoral Care needs, or questions about other ministries not mentioned here, please contact Barbara Staats or contact the parish office: 612-922-0041.