May 13, 2020
Governor Hogan today announced that starting Friday May 15th at 5 pm, Phase I of the state reopening plan would go into effect. In his announcement he contradicted previous statements in saying Phase I would allow indoor religious services at 50% capacity. The previous statement of the plans said this would only be allowed in Phase II. The Archdiocese had already announced policies for Phase I that only allowed for Wedding or Funeral masses with no more than 10 people in attendance. We have been told that this policy is in force until further notice. [see below for the Archdiocese Letter dated 5/14/20]
Obviously, the sudden change in the Governor's plan has caused confusion and left many churches unprepared to have open 50% capacity services on short notice. We have already been planning to mark off our church pews to keep people at the mandatory distance from each other and to use only every other pew, in order to comply with the limited attendance indoor masses when that is allowed. When the Archdiocese allows this we will announce it.
When Mass in our Church is again possible, please understand that we are forced to operate at reduced capacity to accommodate attendance. Please be patient and cooperate and help us observe this restriction as best we can. Also it will be mandatory for those attending mass to wear a mask or face cover during the service. There will be no kiss of peace physically exchanged, and communion will only be given in the hand. You are asked to hold your hand open to allow the minister to drop the host in your hand, please do not try to take it from the minister. The celebrant and communion ministers will follow all sanitary precautions. Also, the celebrant and ministers will enter the sanctuary from the sacristy and there will be no processions in and out the center isle. You are also asked to keep safe distance as you enter and exit the church.
I know this will all feel very strange and uncomfortable but it is necessary to do the most we can to protect each other as we begin the process of having public services again. If you feel sick or have any hesitation about returning to mass at this time you are excused of any obligation and encouraged to be prudent. We are in the process of working to have a live stream capacity installed in the church and hope we can have that soon. We will continue to do what we have been doing to make resources available on our website to help you keep connected and united in prayer with our parish community as we navigate this difficult time. Please remember we need your prayers for our parish community and your willingness to mail in your financial support as many of you have so generously been doing, so that we can keep our parish functioning during this unprecedented and challenging time.
In Christ's Peace, Fr Au
Letter from the Archdiocese of Baltimore
May 14, 2020
Dear Friends in Christ,
As we have been sheltering at home for several weeks during this pandemic, we have missed greatly being together.
As we look toward Phase I of a reopening plan for the church and for everyone in Maryland, I want to remind you that we want to make the sacraments and the Mass as available and accessible to you as possible. At the same time, we must reopen in a way that is safe and looks toward the common good.
We owe it to our people to be responsible and we have made our decisions mainly out of pastoral love, care and concern for individuals and for the common good.
The Archdiocese recently released a set of guidelines for Phase I regarding three areas: Wedding and Funeral Masses and the Sacraments; Resumption of Parish Ministries; and Resumption of Parish Operations.
We also created a video to help you understand “What to Expect When You Return to Mass.”
In Phase I, churches will again be open for private prayer and adoration. Confessions will be available – keeping in mind safe distancing and maintaining privacy. Weekday and Sunday Masses will continue to be celebrated without the presence of the faithful, until we can gradually open up attendance in Phases II and III.
This is an instance where pastoral instincts and cooperation with the government for the common good dovetail. And so, we have maintained a cooperative stance with the state government and we intend to do so going forward. We have also been working regionally with the bishops of Delaware, West Virginia and Virginia, and the archbishop of Washington. Although we may not all be on the same timeline due to regional details, we want to be on the same page as much as we can be.
Even if we cannot yet all reunite in church to receive the sacraments, remember that our Lord does not abandon us. We all are getting kind of impatient. This must be a point for all of us of patient endurance to get through this pandemic.
I most pray for the unity of the church through all of this so that when we do open up, we'll be able to take care of one another. And there will be a day when we open stronger, not weaker.
Until then, you and your families remain in my prayers.
Faithfully Yours in Christ,
Most Reverend William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore