PURPOSE: To establish standard practices by those who minister at the altar to assure conformity with local, state, and diocesan public health and liturgical regulations.
SCOPE: This protocol covers priest, lectors, and Eucharistic Ministers. For the foreseeable future we will not have altar servers. Cantors have been moved to the choir loft. Initially we will need only two EMs for each Mass, one to join me in the church and one for the parish hall. We may be able to add more as regulations loosen and everyone gets used to our practices.
Ministers at the altar, not family, may enter the church by the doorway leading up to the sacristy. Everyone else will enter from the front doors/elevator to assure one-way movement and people not passing each other in opposite directions. Each minister will have a forehead temperature check, must review the posted employee COVID Check List for symptoms/exposure, and wash hands with soapy, running water before entering the church.i ii
When you are ready to go into the sanctuary before Mass you will need to take off your mask, and gloves if you are wearing them – neither may be worn in the sanctuary. We will, for now, suspend the option of leaving after the General Intercessions. Once you are at your seat everything will proceed as usual. You may receive Communion in the usual manner, in the hand. I will be further away from you than usual so we will both need to comfortably reach out to one another – we will have markings on the floor. Please keep hands flat, not cupped. When Mass is over you will need to put your mask on to leave. You should leave by going back through the sacristy after dismissal. Only the presiding priest will process down the main aisle if he so chooses.iii
After having your temperature checked, reviewed the posted employee COVID Check List, and washing your hands, you may go to your place within the church wearing your mask. After the priest wishes everyone the ‘Peace of Christ’, iv you should remove your mask and leave it at your seat. When you arrive in the sanctuary you are to sanitize your hands with the hand wipes provided – for the time being a priest or deacon will retrieve and return the Eucharist from the tabernacle. After you receive Communion – please keep hands flat, not cupped – you will be given a new mask to wear while distributing Communion. When finished, return the ciborium to the altar for the priest to return to the tabernacle. Stand or kneel as usual, genuflecting before leaving the sanctuary if you are able. You may replace this mask with your own when you are back to your seat, or keep this one on for the remainder of the Mass.
For distribution of Communion, I will make a general announcement before the “Behold the Lamb of God” reminding everyone of our procedure. The congregation will come forward as usual except by sections rather than all at once. The EM in the church will be asked to go to the ‘Blessed Mother side’ and distribute Communion as usual to the section that would normally approach that station. The floor will be marked. When you are done, you will move to the main aisle and distribute Communion to that section. I will be on the other side of the main aisle doing the same thing moving in the same direction. This allows everyone to receive the same way they always have and keeps people from standing next to or passing by each other. As EMs you are all familiar with moving to another station to assist, so nothing really changes for you either.
For the EM in the parish hall, there will be one aisle in the middle of rows of chairs. You should begin distribution to one section at a time by inviting those on your right to come forward first. We will not have seating in the hall until we have reached capacity in the church.
Everyone wishing to receive Communion will be asked to remove their mask before they approach you – they should not do so when standing in front of you, nor should they put their mask back on immediately after receiving as there should be no distractions when receiving. They will also be asked to sanitize their hands before coming forward, and keep hands flat, not cupped.
Those who wish to receive will stop at floor markings and will be a bit further from you than usual so you and communicant will need to comfortably reach out toward one another just as you and I did. Everyone will be told that if you cannot reach each other comfortably the EM should step forward, not the communicant. Reception is in the hands only, and gloves may not be worn. Everyone will know that. If they present anyway – they will be too far away to receive on the tongue – you may refuse by saying: “ I am sorry, I cannot give you Communion if you are wearing gloves.” They need to remove gloves from both hands.v
Keep in mind that giving Communion takes less than 7 seconds with only 5 words exchanged. That, with a little extra distance, should make everyone confident to receive without undue risk of picking up the virus.
If anyone needs Communion brought to them, we will go to them in the usual way.vi
Because seating is limited to 40% capacity you might consider sitting together, especially if you have come to Mass alone.
Adopted 05/13/2020/ Revised 05/23/2020
i Text in italics is a new addition, or replaces older text.
ii The following has been deleted: With the exception of anyone who has a health exception, everyone must wear a face covering/mask. Each minister will have a temperature check on the forehead with an infrared thermometer. Each minister must wash their hands at the sacristy sink. Best to sanitize clean hands.
iii The following has been deleted: There will be no processions as everyone will exit the church by sections to avoid congestion.
iv The following has been deleted: you should remove your mask, sanitize your hands as is our practice, and come into the sanctuary. If you do not have personal hand sanitizer, we have a limited supply in the sacristy. Gloves may not be worn while distributing, or receiving, Communion. After you have received, you are to put your mask back on after a moment of reflection, and I will hand you the ciborium. For the time being we will have only one EM with me in the church and one in the parish hall where Mass will be projected to make up for some of the seating lost in the church.
When in the sanctuary you will no longer, for now, approach the tabernacle – I will do that. You will take your places to receive as is our practice following the markings on the floor: the EM to go to the parish hall will stand with the lector, the EM who will stay in the church should stand on the opposite side to assure proper distance. As you approach, please each defer to whomever arrives first in choosing which side. I will be further away from you than is usual for Communion so we will both have to comfortably reach out to one another. Communion may be received only in the hand. Please keep hands flat, not cupped.
v The following has been deleted: “I am sorry, please step aside.”
vi The following has been deleted: When you return to the sanctuary the ciborium should be placed on the altar and EMs should remain in and leave the sanctuary in the usual way. I will return sacred vessels to the tabernacle. Sacred vessels will be sanitized after each Mass. The congregation will disperse by sections, so you will depart in the usual way with your section.