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Bishop Rhodes celebrating Mass in the St. Francis Chapel

Guidelines for the Celebration of Mass and Other Liturgies

Guidelines for the Celebration of Mass and Other Liturgies at the University of Saint Francis

Revised May 20, 2021

In light of the CDC’s May 13th advisory for those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and in light of recent actions by local health authorities, the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend is rescinding its previous COVID liturgical policy (dated April 6, 2021) and replacing it with the directives below. In addition to the CDC’s update, our changes are made possible because of several factors:

  1. the fact that all Indiana adults have had the opportunity to get fully vaccinated since the end of March;
  2. although children cannot yet be vaccinated against COVID-19, the evidence shows that the health risk to children is quite small, and that the transmission rate among children is substantially less than among the rest of the population;
  3. overall cases and hospitalizations have remained low in recent months.

Because the sacramental life of the University depends on the office of the Bishop, all liturgies celebrated at the University of Saint Francis must follow these guidelines.

New Directives

Anyone (whether vaccinated or not) with a cough or fever, or who may otherwise be feeling sick, should still remain home.

Masks

Masks or face coverings are now optional at public liturgies. Health authorities recommend that unvaccinated individuals still wear masks.

Pastors who perceive sufficient support among their parishioners for the opportunity to continuing worshiping with a fully masked congregation can designate particular Mass times at which masks continue to be required.

Another possibility, if deemed adequate at a parish, is that a clearly defined section of the church could be demarcated as reserved just for those who wish to continue wearing masks. Having such provisions available and publicized as needed would be welcomed by the immunocompromised and by those families concerned about the health of their children.

Distancing

Strict social distancing is no longer required in churches. However, it is encouraged that, for the time being, a part of each church still be specifically set aside with socially distanced seating at Masses in order to accommodate those who would be more comfortable with that arrangement. At least part of this distanced-seating area may also be designated as requiring masking.

Massgoers may also be encouraged to leave some open space within pews between households and individuals, as a courtesy.

  • Where feasible, outdoor Masses may continue for the time being.
  • Any continued cleaning activities are at the discretion of the pastor. Hand sanitizer can also continue to be made available. Good hygiene should still be practiced by all – including a reminder to cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Since surface and water-borne transmission are not viewed as common means of viral spread, holy water stoups and baptismal fonts should be filled again.
  • Choral and cantor singing no longer have any restrictions from the diocese. A pastor may continue to enact particular precautions for choirs and cantors as he sees fit.
  • It is encouraged that the sign of peace resume whenever possible, but still with non-physical contact out of respect for those who would prefer that approach.

Holy Communion

The distribution of the Precious Blood to the people remains suspended. Concelebrating priests ought still to receive by intinction or via a separate chalice. It is recommended that those distributing Holy Communion continue to wear masks while doing so.

Confessions

Small confessionals may be utilized again, though maintaining the use of larger/more ventilated spaces for the time being would be good to help encourage those who would still not be comfortable with the smaller space.

For further information regarding Diocesan guidelines, refer to the Directives for Conducting Public Liturgies in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend during the COVID-19 Pandemic.