Dearest Parishioners:
Have you become comfortable in quarantine? I sometimes worry we have! My concern is not really sloth or gluttony. No, I’m not worried about us spending all our time eating chunky monkey ice cream while in yoga pants, binge watching Netflix. And sure, there’s always the temptation to become frustrated and angry at our fellow prisoners.
Have we become prideful or egotistical while locked away? At the beginning of pandemic, we saw the images of folks fighting over pork chops or toilet paper hoarding. These were the images of being concerned with me, myself and mine. Others are not necessarily seen as friends and neighbors. Instead, they are threats to space – dangers as talking, coughing and sneezing potential plague carriers.
Now things are changing. Now we’re about to reclaim our three-dimensional presence to one another with all its annoyances. We’re soon to be called out of our homes, our lives, our spaces to assemble once more to worship as a body of Christ. We might need some encouragement and accompaniment to begin on the road to resume our place as an Incarnational people, not as a people comfortable with the antiseptic virtual ritual.
As you know, Governor Edwards has started to lift our long-standing stay-at-home order, and Bishop Duca has given us all permission to resume public celebrations of Mass based upon the Governor’s recommendations. For those who are comfortable, it’s time for us to come back together; for the eager beavers and those ready to come back, it’s going to look different. This time is not about us individually; it’s about what we’re going to do collectively.
So what will Mass look like at St. Margaret? Well, here goes:
First, remember that the Sunday Mass obligation continues to be dispensed for all Catholics indefinitely. Those who are especially vulnerable, those who are ill or who are not feeling well, and indeed anyone who does not feel comfortable attending Mass is encouraged to stay home. PLEASE, if you’re ill or have any COVID symptoms, stay at home! It’s our responsibility to help each other.
On a normal weekend, we have four full Masses. However, based upon the Governor’s directive, our Church can only house 25% of its normal capacity. If everyone came back at one time on the same weekend (knowing that everyone won’t immediately), we need sixteen Masses to accommodate our parishioners! While Fr. Brad and I might be supermen, we’re not that good!
We’ve decided, at least temporarily, to thus change our Mass schedule. Starting May 16, we will add several daily Masses and two weekend Masses to accommodate our parishioners. Saturday, we will have two Vigils at St. Margaret – one at 4:00PM and another at 6:00PM. Sunday we will have 8:00AM Mass at St. Thomas, and three Masses at St. Margaret – 10:00AM, 12 Noon and 5:30PM. Daily, Monday through Friday, we will have two Masses, one at 7:00AM and another at 6:00PM. This will give us 16 Masses. Of course, not everyone will be able to attend weekend Mass, nor may you even be able to attend your normal preferred Mass. This is all temporary. Be patient! If you’re flexible, consider attending a weekend Mass to give those who work the opportunity to come on Sunday. What’s important is that we’ll get to worship together and we’ll be able to participate in Eucharist. We going to ask, for now, that you only attend one Mass per week.
We’re also designating the 6:00PM Saturday Mass for our “not so young adults” who are healthy. So if you’re feeling well and you’re over 60, consider this Mass as a good option for you!
To make sure we plan accordingly, we’re going to ask you to sign up for Mass. St. Margaret will only be able to accommodate about 70 persons during this phase of re-opening; St. Thomas will only be able to accommodate about 50. We’re using a platform called sign-up genius to organize attendance. Here’s how it works. A link will be available on our website and our Facebook page to sign up. Click on it and it’ll take you to the sign-up page. We will post a new sign-up every week on Thursday at 9:00AM for the signup for the upcoming week. Find the Mass you and your family would like to attend, click it, and sign up you and every member of your family individually. And then plan to come! If we’ve reached the capacity for that particular Mass, it will show up as full. If you have trouble signing up, or if you don’t have internet access, you can call the parish office at 225.567.3573 or email us at [email protected]
Physical distancing is a new norm! Remember to stay six feet away from other folks in the congregation that you don’t live with so as to prevent any future infections or spikes in viral outbreak. Physical distancing should be practiced at all times.
There are three things you should bring to Mass – a mask, hand sanitizier for your personal use, and your envelopes filled with your collection, of course!
Try to get to Mass at least 20 minutes early. At St. Margaret, you will only be able to enter through the rear entrance of the Church. Use the ramp with the handrails for access. At St. Thomas, you will only be able to enter through the main, front entrance. Please wear your mask at all times. When you arrive, we will ask you to do a small screening. First, we’re going to make sure you’ve arrived at the Mass you’ve signed up for. We will take your temperature using a touchless thermometer. If you have fever greater than 100.4, you will be asked to not enter the Church to worship at that time. We’ll have some large sinks near the entrance and we’re going to ask you to vigorously wash your hands (praying the Our Father slowly, and that should be a good enough wash!) before entering and to take a squirt of sanitizer too, all to keep us safe.
A staff member or volunteer will then ask you to be seated. They’re actually going to escort you and your family to a place in the Church. It might be in the back though you’d prefer to sit in the front; it may be on a side you’re not used to sit in. We’ll be skipping every other pew. It’s going to be different, but remember the value – we’ll be getting back together and back to Mass. I ask your cooperation in this regard. Also, the choir lofts will be off limits to parishioners; only our accompanists and cantors for the Mass will be allowed access.
Many of the Bishop’s directives that were in place when we last concluded Mass are still in place. We will not receive communion from the cup, for example. We’re going to ask you not to give a handshake to others or offer physical contact during the sign of peace. Our holy water fonts will remain drained. We’ll have fewer bulletins (get them online instead). You might even look for the hymnals and not be able to find them. Again, it’s all to help keep everyone at Mass and everyone safe!
Between Masses, we’ll do our part to wipe down and clean our Churches as best we can in an effort to keep everyone as safe as possible.
During the opening and closing procession, the priests and deacons will wear masks to protect you and us. Because of our distance away from everyone while in the sanctuary, we will remove our masks for the majority of Mass. For the distribution of communion, we’ll put our masks on. Our staff and volunteers will ask you to come forward by section and by using physical distancing norms to receive communion. You’re asked to receive communion on your hand and keep your mask on. We’ll gently place the host in your hands. We’re continuing to discourage communion on the tongue. After you receive the hosts, please move a distance away from the priest, pull your mask down, and consume the Blessed Sacrament. Please do not come forward to receive communion wearing gloves!
I know what you’re thinking – but what about the collection! Baskets will be available when you enter the Church for all first, second and special collections. St. Margaret is generous and we thank you for all you have done! Since not everyone will attend Mass on Sunday, baskets will be available at all Masses. If you are unable to attend, you’re encouraged to give your contribution online on our website or to use the locked dropbox at the entrance of the Hall of Saints.
After Mass has concluded, please do not congregate in the Church. You can exit from any of the entrance/exit points of St. Margaret or St. Thomas. If you want to visit any, please maintain six feet of physical distancing. And while I want to hug and kiss you, we’ll have to save it for a few weeks!
Here are some other sacramental things to consider:
We will resume Eucharistic adoration on Wednesdays from after 7:00AM Mass until 5:00PM. Please do not come to the Church for adoration until 7:30PM. While in private prayer, do maintain physical distancing!
During this phase of re-opening, Bishop Duca continues to prohibit Funeral or Wedding Masses. Thus, as previously directed, funerals will be celebrated only with immediate family (parents, spouses, siblings, children, and grandchildren), clergy and funeral staff present at the graveside or at the funeral home according to pastoral need.
Weddings will be celebrated only with the bride, groom, celebrant, two witness and immediate family (parents, siblings, and children) present.
Reconciliation usually is scheduled on Saturdays from 3:00PM until 3:30PM. For now, we will have reconciliation scheduled on Thursdays from 4:00PM to 5:00PM. Penitents should gather in the main Church, with proper physical distancing. The gathering room in the rear of the Church will be used as the reconciliation room. The priest will come out to call penitents back for the reception of the sacrament. You can always call me or Fr. Brad and we’ll be happy to arrange an appointment at some other time.
Fr. Brad and I are still offering the Anointing of the Sick to those who need it. We especially offer viaticum to the dying. Don’t be surprised if you see the priest who is visiting wear his mask and gloves! Also, we may encounter situations where we are denied access to patients. Because of regulations by nursing facilities and hospitals, priests may not in all circumstances be able to anoint a patient, even in danger of death. Also, as directed by Bishop Duca, we are still unable to offer Eucharist to the Homebound at this time.
For now, our baptisms will be limited to private and small family celebrations. If you need your child baptized, please call Carol at the Parish Office.
Lots of rescheduling has to happen for us! We need to reschedule welcoming our RCIA candidates, First Reconciliation, First Eucharist, Confirmation – and these are just sacramental celebrations! Our staff will be communicating with parishioners to let them know the “game plan” soon!
During this phase of re-opening, the St. Margaret Parish Office will remain closed though our staff will be working still. Please continue to conduct as much Parish business as possible either by phone, mail, or email. Reach out if you need anything! Also, during this phase, ministerial gatherings remain canceled though you will slowly see the parish once again “come to life” in a very measured way.
If you’ve survived this announcement, you’ll survive our new, temporary versions of Mass! Opening up might seem more difficult than closing down. St. Margaret is open! Put down that ice cream; change from those pajamas; be patient! And welcome home! I can’t wait to see you!
~Fr. Jamin