What should I expect when I go back to Mass?

By Tim Lilley
The Message editor

On May 8, Bishop Joseph M. Siegel announced that public liturgies – including weekday Masses, funeral and wedding Masses, and scheduled Confessions – may resume across the Diocese of Evansville beginning May 18. Sunday Masses may resume beginning the weekend of May 23-24.

Please check with your parish regarding the Mass and Confession schedules beginning May 18.

The Diocesan Office of Worship has provided parishes across our 12 counties with detailed instructions on procedures that must be followed for Masses. Following are highlights of those instructions that will help you as you prepare to return to your parishes for Masses and Confession.

Among the most important guidelines are the suggestions that those age 65 and older, and those of any age with underlying health issues, should continue to stay home and worship via Masses streamed online. In his May 8 announcement, Bishop Siegel noted that the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass has been extended for all Catholics through at least August 15.

As a result, nobody should return to Mass if they are not comfortable doing so. Parishes with the ability to do so have been asked to continue streaming Masses online whenever possible.

The following instructions are intended for those planning to return to Mass right away:

About the church you plan to attend – please note the following instructions your parish has received:
o Before Masses can resume, parishes must demonstrate the ability to sanitize churches and items with the CDC properly approved sanitizer immediately after each Mass.
o Only one entrance should be used for entry.
o Place hand sanitizer near the entrance to the church. Encourage those entering and exiting to perform hand hygiene.
o Hymnals should be removed for pews as they would be difficult to sanitize after each use.
o All social distancing protocols must be maintained, including during distribution of Communion

Other instructions:

Seating - Depending on the layout of a church, parishioners should be seated in every other (or every third) pew. Also, family units (those who live under the same roof) should be permitted to sit together.
Facemasks – you are strongly encouraged to bring your own facemasks and wear them inside the church. (Facemasks may be removed to receive Communion.)
The Sign of Peace – The Sign of Peace continues to be omitted
Holy Communion from the Chalice – Holy Communion from the chalice remains suspended until further notice

Other basic protocols for Communion – Priests, deacons and extraordinary ministers distributing Communion may wear facemasks.
o Those who desire to receive Holy Communion may do so at the normal time
o Those who have any concerns with receiving Holy Communion are not obligated to do so, and they can choose not to receive until they are more comfortable
o Those who are not receiving Holy Communion for whatever reason should not come forward for a blessing
o Maintain the six-foot social distance from others as you come forward for Holy Communion and when returning to your pew
o Holy Communion in the hand is highly encouraged during this time. Be sure to cup your hands to facilitate the safe placing of the host
o All communion ministers will be sanitizing their hands before distributing Holy Communion. If they should accidently touch someone’s hand when giving the host, or if someone receives on the tongue, the minister will immediately sanitize their hands
o The faithful who receive Communion should, as best as possible, sanitize their hands before and after receiving. People are encouraged to bring their own bottles of hand sanitizer to use.

Pastors will be providing parishioners will specific instructions for Masses celebrated in their parish. Please contact the parish you plan to attend with any questions regarding these guidelines.

Editor’s note: Following are other important resources related to the resumption of public liturgies:

CDC Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces

EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19