Hello Parishioners and Friends,
It is with great pleasure that I announce, our churches will be open this weekend beginning on Saturday, May 30th, Pentecost Sunday, for the 4:00pm Mass and all Masses going forward! It is hard to believe it has been almost 10 weeks since we have been able to celebrate together in our churches.
In light of the growing coronavirus crisis, our Bishop, Thomas J. Tobin, suspended public Masses and other liturgical services on March 17, 2020. With prayer and God’s Grace, we will be able to gather again as a community in our churches. As we prepare to open out churches, we have taken great care to adhere to the safety guidelines and protocols of our local government and health officials. You will notice many changes when you come to church this weekend and those changes will be in place until further notice. Please take time to read through the material provided and observe all markings and signage. This is for your health and safety as well as the health and safety of our whole community. It is up to each of us to take care of each other.
With the valued assistance of Dr. Timothy Flanagan, the Bishop has prepared guidelines to assist us in the process of reopening our churches. Working with the Office of the Governor and the RI Department of Health, these guidelines closely align with the directives of the *USCCB in order to protect the health and safety of our community. “The attention and cooperation of all the faithful in this preparation process will bear fruit for the parish and allow us collectively to do our part to avoid a severe second wave of the virus.” Below are a few of the guidelines for us upon “re-opening” our churches:
Necessary conditions for the resumption of public Masses:
Face-coverings/masks are to be worn by the faithful in and around the church (except for those under 2 years old).
Physical distancing of at least 6 feet apart, is to be practiced in the church and on the church property at all times. Reminders and directives for physical distancing will be signified by signs, tape, and/or other means.
Entrance and Exit
We will be called to make certain sacrifices when we return to the assembly of the church. When you arrive to enter the church, only specific main doors of the church will be open for entry. These doors will be clearly marked. At St. Theresa Church, the main front doors to the church will be open and at St. Christopher Church the side door adjacent to the main parking lot will be open. Any other side or back entrances will be locked. You may not enter through the other doors; they are for exiting only. It may seem an inconvenience to you as you come to the church from the parking lot; however, it is out of great care for you that we limit the number of entrances so as to prevent the spread of germs and be sure we are following the guidelines of the church capacity. If you are handicapped or disabled in any way, park as close as possible to the main entrance or have someone drop you off at the door.
Capacity for the Church
Parish churches are not to exceed 25% of total capacity for the church. Therefore, to maintain proper distancing guidelines, we will only be allowed a limited number of people in the church for Mass. That current limit is 90 people for St. Theresa and 75 people for St. Christopher. Many factors can change this approximate count, such as but not limited to, people coming together who are able to sit without having to social distance. These numbers are subject to change at any time.
Holy Water Stoups
Holy Water stoups will be empty. Upon entering the Church, we have been accustomed to approaching the baptismal font or Holy Water stoup, dipping our fingers into the water and blessing ourselves as a remembrance of our Baptism. The current health safety restrictions will not allow us to use the Sacramental of Holy Water in this way; however, it is most appropriate to continue the gesture of making the sign of the Cross when entering the church
We will temporarily halt the use of our hymnals and missalettes to reduce the risk of contamination with reusable products. As a convenience for our parishioners, we will be providing printed worship aids for one-time use. They are to be used once and then disposed of after each Mass or brought home with the parishioner to avoid any possible contamination. If you have a smart phone, you may choose to follow the readings online during Mass. Resources online for the readings can be found on website http://usccb.org/bible/readings/051720.cfm (*The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). This type of technology may be used to access on-line worship aids temporarily during this time.
Sign of Peace
During the Mass, to exchange the Sign of Peace, parishioners may acknowledge in a physically distant way, i.e., a nod of the head or peace sign with the hand.
The procession of the gifts will not be available at this time. The gifts will be at the Altar.
Ministers of the Holy Communion and Altar Servers
To reduce the risk of contamination and to keep the required 6-foot distance, Ministers of the Holy Communion and Altar Servers will not be required until further notice.
Distribution of Holy Communion
For the distribution of Holy Communion, new patterns of approaching the Altar might need to be configured to better allow for proper distancing. As of now, we will continue to approach the Altar by way of the main aisle only and return to the pew by means of the side aisles. Holy Communion may not be distributed with gloves, nor may it be received in the hand if someone is wearing a glove. Instead, proper, and diligent hand hygiene should be observed before and after receiving Holy Communion. Receiving of the Host will be in the hand only. Please note: You are not required to come up to receive Communion. Our Lord is always with us and we can all participate in an Act of Spiritual Communion. Further instruction regarding the distribution can be found in our bulletin.
To the extent possible, those in line for Holy Communion should maintain a 6-foot distance between each other.
To the extent possible, Father Shemek and Deacon Tim will remain 6-feet apart from each other.
Father Shemek will be in the church greeting people prior to or following Mass, in a physically distant way.
Seating for the assembly:
Mindful of the imposed allowed limitations and the physical layout of our churches, we have clearly designated where seating is permitted (such as seating available in every other pew and any closed-off section). Those living in the same household may sit together without distancing.
Frequency of Masses
All regularly scheduled Masses will be held unless otherwise noted.
Sunday 8:00am and 11:00am at St. Theresa
Sunday 9:30am at St. Christopher
Monday through Wednesday 8:00am at St. Theresa
Thursday 8:00am at St. Christopher
Saturday 4:00pm at St. Theresa
All non-liturgical gatherings such as dinners, coffee an’, etc. will continue to be suspended.
Funerals are permitted, with some restrictions and additional guidelines. Please call the Parish Office for details.
As of Monday, June 1st, St. Theresa Church will be open during the day for private prayer Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday from 7:00am – 12noon. St. Christopher Church will be open during the day for private prayer on Thursday 7:00am – 12noon. All distancing guidelines must be observed. Please limit touching surfaces while visiting. Handwashing/sanitizing must be observed.
To serve our parish community, the parish office has remained open through the pandemic for phone calls, mail, and email only. To continue to limit the spread of infection and contamination, we will continue to have the office open for phone calls, mail, and email only until further notice.
Collection baskets will not be passed in the pews. A collection basket will be provided at the back of the church for parishioners. You may also continue to make your offerings via the mail, electronically through your bank’s bill pay system or drop-off through the mail slot located near the front door of the parish office on Stafford Rd.
Music is certainly important to our liturgical celebrations as it helps to lift the soul and express our faith. Because the faithful will be wearing masks, singing on the part of the assembly might prove challenging. At this time, our choir will not be singing during Mass. We will have our organist and a Cantor only, when available. Our cantor will not be wearing a mask. To follow guidelines for singers/musicians, the choir area will be closed off at St. Theresa to allow for the recommendation regarding singing. This area will be marked off as a reminder.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
To help stop the spread of the virus, effective cleaning and disinfecting is essential. Hand sanitizer will be provided near the entrance of the church for the faithful. The faithful are invited to bring their own supply of hand sanitizer to use before Holy Communion.
Before and after every Mass, all commonly used surfaces in the church and hall will be thoroughly sanitized. If you wish to volunteer to help with this process, please call the parish office.
Dismissal and Recessional
To avoid large numbers leaving at the same time, we will dismiss parishioners one pew/section at a time.
The Sacrament of Penance will be offered on Saturdays at 3:00pm to 3:45pm prior to the 4:00pm Mass at St. Theresa. Individual sessions are to be kept to a maximum of five minutes to allow as many as possible to participate in the Sacrament of Penance as well as to observe social distancing and health protocols. The confessional room will not be used. An area has been prepared in the Hall for confessions. Please remember to use distancing guidelines in the Hall both in the celebration of the sacrament and while waiting.
Our senior citizens, as well as individuals who have existing medical conditions, are among the most vulnerable. Those individuals older than 65 years of age (the recommended CDC age), with a compromised heath condition or caring for the sick in any way, are encouraged to stay home. Anyone who is ill, has a temperature, cough, etc., should definitely stay home as an act of justice to the whole community.
Dispensation from the Sunday Obligation
All the faithful in the Diocese of Providence have been dispensed from their Sunday obligation to attend Mass since March 2020, and this dispensation will continue to remain in effect until further notice. This is meant to ensure the well-being and safety of all, not only the elderly and those who are at risk for illness, but anyone of any age who is making a prudent decision about their own well-being as well as that of others.
Although the faithful are dispensed from their Sunday obligation to attend Mass, we will be offering our regularly scheduled Masses. Those that can attend, should attend if they are able within the set forth guidelines. If you are unable to physically attend Mass at church, parishioners must observe the Lord’s Day and are encouraged to spend time in prayer on Sunday, meditating on the Lord’s passion, death, and resurrection or participating in a spiritual or corporal act of mercy. An excellent way to do this is through participating in a broadcast of the Sunday Mass. Although we will no longer be broadcasting Mass from St. Theresa & St. Christopher Parish as of Sunday, May 31st, there are still many resources online and on TV. You can find a listing in our Bulletin online.
As we enter this new phase, keep in mind that although our church attendance capacity may make it challenging for everyone to attend Mass on Saturday and Sunday, we will continue to offer Mass during the week, Monday through Thursday at 8:00am. Please consider attending Mass during the week.
I look forward to seeing you at Mass this weekend and with God’s continued Grace, we will continue to have the use of our churches throughout the coming weeks and months and this health crisis will come to an end soon.
Yours in Christ,
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