When We Return to Mass.

As of the writing of this article, we do not have a date to resume public masses.  The numbers used in this article are our current best guesses provided by the diocese, however, some details may change. 

Here’s what we know so far.

When Governor Murphy issues an executive order permitting the re-opening of various segments of society, limits on the size of public gatherings will likely be restricted to 10 people or less, although larger gatherings in “places of worship” may be permitted if strict physical distancing is maintained.

Because  we will still be required to practice the current 6ft. social distancing restriction, the total number of individual parishioners at mass will be limited to about 80.  Families will be able to sit together, so a Mass with many families may have an effectively greater capacity.  In no case will the number of participants exceed 125 including lectors, ushers, volunteers, etc.  This number is currently set by the diocese at 25% of normal maximum capacity.

When official word is given for the resumption of worship, we will be notified of the specifics. The information in this article is intended to help us prepare, plan and communicate with St. Joseph’s parish community.

The initial reopening of worship is known as Phase I.  During this phase, the following policies and procedures will be in effect.

1.    The faithful remain dispensed from the obligation to participate in Mass on Sundays and Holy Days.

2.    Those who are at high risk for contracting COVID-19 or who would place themselves at higher risk if COVID-19 would be contracted must stay home.

3.    The elderly and families with young children (who may find it difficult to maintain a six-foot distance from others) should stay home.

4.    If you have a cough or feel sick, do not come to the church.

5.    When you arrive at church use the hand sanitizer provided.

6.    Parishioners are to enter the church through the main doors on Shore Road and will exit through the double doors near the elevator on one of the other side doors.

7.    Parish volunteers will  clean and disinfect commonly-touched surfaces in the church before and after each mass.

8.    Missalettes and other materials will be removed from the pews.  Parishioners are reminded to remove bulletins, trash, etc. from the pew when they leave. 

9.   In accord with current public health recommendations, the faithful wear must cloth face coverings when in public, including when they come to church. Surgical masks or N-95 respirators are not recommended. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

10.  In Phase I, a Catholic church or chapel may hold public Masses of more than 10 persons (taking account of local health guidance), as long as it maintains strict physical distancing. For a public Mass, to maintain strict physical distancing THE FOLLOWING PREPARATIONS ARE REQUIRED BY THE DIOCESE:

a.    The faithful are to maintain a 6-foot distance from each other at all times.  

b.    Members of a single household do not need to practice physical distancing with each other and so may sit together in the same row.

c.    In areas where the faithful might stand in line (for example, waiting to go to confession; receive Holy Communion; use the restroom), use the markers on the floor or wall to indicate proper spacing between persons.

d.    Assistance will be provided by competent volunteers (wearing masks and gloves) at the entrances of the church to help direct traffic, to ensure that the faithful are able to keep 6 feet from each other while entering and exiting the building.

e.    The faithful will be invited to communion by rows at the end of Mass to avoid crowding at the exits or in the communion line.  Please follow the usher’s directions.

f.    Please maintain physical distancing everywhere on the church property (on the church steps, in the parking lot, etc.).

g.    Restrooms will remain open but will be limited to emergency situations only.  Please remember to use the restroom at home before heading out for mass.  Young children must be accompanied to and from the restroom.

h.    The choir will not sing during phase I.

i.    The crying room will be locked and unavailable during mass.

11.   CHANGES TO THE CELEBRATION OF MASS:

a.    No one who is sick is allowed to participate in mass, including the priest.

b.    Altar servers are not to minister during Phase 1.

c.    The priest celebrant and other ministers shall not  wear masks or gloves during the celebration of Mass.

d.    To the extent possible, all ministers (the priest, a deacon, lectors and musicians, etc.) must maintain a 6-foot distance one another.  

e.    There will be no offertory procession (bringing up the gifts).

f.    Ushers will take up a single collection being carefull to maintain a 6′ distance to the greatest extent.

g.    Holding hands during the Our Father is not permitted except among family members. The invitation to the faithful to exchange a sign of peace is to be omitted.

12.    THE DISTRIBUTION OF HOLY COMMUNION
Holy Communion is to be distributed AFTER the celebration of the Mass – this respects the symbolic and liturgical integrity of the Mass (which should be celebrated without mask or gloves); gives a greater freedom to the faithful to determine whether or not they will come forward for Holy Communion; and also provides for additional precautions to reduce risk.

a.    Be careful to maintain a 6-foot distance from each other as you come forward for Holy Communion.

b.    The Precious Blood is not be distributed to the faithful.

c.    Ministers distributing Holy Communion will use hand sanitizer immediately before approaching the tabernacle. And will  don a protective mask or cloth face covering.

d.    The priest (and other ministers if present) proceeds to the place prepared for distribution of Communion. Each stands next to a table with corporal and hand sanitizer in order to distribute Communion.

e.    The faithful should remove any face coverings and gloves before coming forward for Holy Communion.

f.    Holy Communion may not be distributed with gloves, nor may it be received in the hand if a member of the faithful is wearing gloves.

g.   During Phase 1 – the faithful are encouraged to not receive Holy Communion on the tongue.   A pastor/priest may instruct those who wish to receive Holy Communion on the tongue to wait until the end since more hand purification on the part of the priest may be required.

g.    If the priest, deacon or Extraordinary Minister touches the hand or tongue of the person receiving Holy Communion, they must place the ciborium on the corporal and proceed to sanitize their hands before distributing Holy Communion to the next individual.

h.    The faithful may depart after making a brief prayer of thanksgiving using only the EXIT doors and maintaining physical distancing – Ushers will be available to assist in giving directions.

As new information becomes available you will be notified.