- Most Rev. Robert W. McElroy, Diocese of San Diego -"What to Expect When You Return to Mass"
A Message from our Pastor on the Reopening of OLG for Public Celebrations of the Eucharist
As you know, Bishop McElroy has given the parishes in the County of San Diego permission to return to the public celebration of the Eucharist starting June 8. At OLG, our first public celebration of the Mass since the “shut down” of Mar 16 will be Mon, June 8, at 8:00 am.
Before I outline some of the changes you can expect when you arrive for Mass, let me reiterate the fact that, for the foreseeable future, Bishop McElroy has dispensed all Catholics in the Diocese of San Diego from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass and holy days of obligation. To quote Bishop McElroy, “All of us must urge sick or especially vulnerable members of our community (because of age or compromised immune systems) to refrain from coming to Mass, not only for their sakes but for the sake and safety of the worshiping community.” Those sheltering at home can view any number of Masses broadcast over the Internet or on television.
Leaving home for church
Before leaving home for church, be certain that you and the members of your household are not sick. Anyone with a temperature of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or other symptoms such as a persistent cough or sore throat should remain at home.
All are advised to use the restroom at home to avoid having to use them at church, wash their hands, and come hydrated as the drinking fountains in the church are disabled.
Make sure that you and the other members of your household age 2 and above have facial coverings (face masks) and that you put them on before exiting your vehicle to come into church. Face masks are required for entry into the church and must be worn throughout Mass and remain on until you enter your vehicle to depart.
Finally, because seating has been limited by state and county officials, those attending Mass at OLG must have made a reservation in advance. Be sure you bring your printed reservation form/s with you.
When you arrive at the church, please be aware of the 6-ft physical distancing required between your household and others. If you encounter friends as you make your way to church, by all means, acknowledge them with a nod or wave, but do not stop to chat and catch up.
Doors to the church will open thirty minutes before Mass is scheduled to begin. Access will be through the main, front doors only.
A staffed “hospitality table” will be available nearby with a thermometer to take your temperature, if you so desire, to place the names of those who arrive without a reservation on a “stand-by” list, and to provide parishioners with bottled water, if necessary.
After showing your reservation form/s to the volunteer ambassador, everyone in your household should sanitize their hands with the hand sanitizer found in the main entrance of the church. (Note: All other entrances to the church will be closed and used only as exits once Mass has ended.) The baptismal font will be empty, and holy water stoops have been removed.
The Mass will not include a collection, as the passing of baskets is not permitted. For this reason, those wishing to contribute to the support of the parish may leave their offering in the special baskets that will be available in the main entrance of the church. To skip this step, consider online giving as an option!
Proceed to an empty pew and take your seat. Half the pews will not be available for use, and only three people who are not part of the same household may occupy a pew. Those who are of the same household may sit together, as usual. Physical distancing requirements have drastically reduced the seating capacity of our church. Under normal circumstances OLG can seat 1,150 persons. Initially, we are permitted to have only 100 persons present for each Mass. By mid-June or so, we expect this number to change, allowing us to have nearly 300 persons present for each Mass.
Because of these limitations, it is critical that everyone with a reservation be present and seated by 10 minutes before Mass begins. At that point, those who have arrived without a reservation and who have placed themselves on the “standby list" will be admitted until all the available spots are full. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to honor the reservations of those who arrive late (i.e., after those on the “standby list” have been seated).
The church floor will be marked to help you keep 6-ft from the person in front of and behind you.
The pews have been cleared of all items. Worship aids, if needed, will only be used one time. Singing during the Mass by the congregation is not possible for the time being as studies have shown that the coronavirus is broadcast much further when singing than when speaking. For the time being, our cantor will be our voice raised to God in praise, and he or she will be singing from the sanctuary, more than 6-ft from the closest parishioner.
When the congregation has assembled, the cantor will sing no more than two or three verses of a gathering hymn or entrance psalm. The usual ritual greetings will follow.
With the permission of the bishop, General Absolution will be imparted at all Masses June 8-14 so that Catholics who wish may receive Holy Communion. This means that all of us will begin our celebration with a “clean slate”. The normal church requirement of an “auricular confession” for a particularly grievous sin will be explained and fulfilled later.
After the Glory to God (Sunday’s only), the Opening Prayer of the Mass will be prayed.
The usual Liturgy of the Word will follow, with only the cantor singing the responsorial psalm and Gospel acclamation on our behalf. The homily will be shorter than usual.
The Profession of Faith will be recited (Sundays only) and the Universal Prayer will follow.
There will be no Offertory Procession or collection.
The priest or deacon will prepare the altar as well as the gifts of bread and wine for the celebration of the Eucharist. Mass continues in the usual fashion.
At the usual time for Holy Communion, the priest and deacon alone will receive the Body and Blood of Christ. The consecrated hosts for the assembly will be taken to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and the altar will be cleared.
After a period of time for private prayer, the priest will pray the Concluding Prayer. If there are announcements, these will then be made. The blessing and a modified dismissal of the assembly will follow. All may be seated.
The priest and deacon will then go to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel to remove their outer Mass vestments, put on face masks, sanitize their hands, and retrieve the consecrated hosts. Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist may also assist, depending on the number of persons present for Mass. Our usual communion “stations” may be modified; listen for instructions.
As you approach the Minister for Holy Communion, bow as you normally would and extend your hands having made a throne for the Body of Christ. When the Minister says, “The Body of Christ,” respond “Amen.” Take the consecrated host in your hand, step to the side, lift your mask, reverently consume the Eucharist, lower your mask, and then proceed out any of the doors of the church to your vehicle. Please do not stop to visit with others after Mass until we no longer have a requirement to observe physical distancing.
If a member of your household is ill or infirmed, Bishop McElroy has given permission for a member of your household to bring Holy Communion to that person. A pyx is required. Please visit with the sacristan before Mass for more information.
Copies of the parish bulletin will be available at all the doors for you to take. It is also found on the parish website.
These are unprecedented but exciting times! Please be patient with us and with one another in these initial days as we resume the public celebration of the Eucharist. These changes are new for all of us, clergy and laity alike.
I invite you to keep your parish in your prayers. I will continue to keep all of you in mine.
Our Lady, full of grace, pray for us!
Fr. Peter McGuine