Though many of the restrictions on gatherings have been lifted in the state of Minnesota and for our churches, we are still strongly encouraging everyone to remain vigilant when it comes to matters of health and safety. Please continue to maintain social distancing as much as possible in the pews and especially remember to do so in the communion procession. It is probably a good idea to remain six feet even from family members in the communion line, or others might subconsciously start to follow your spacing and the gap gets tighter.
We do not require masks at our Masses, but it is encouraged that you still wear them – at least as you enter or exit the building. The bishop’s latest letter recommends only removing them for Holy Communion. I find it interesting that at the Masses I had on the first weekend after restrictions were lifted, approximately 80% of those attending wore masks. The very next weekend, I would estimate that only 20% of people wore masks. Please remember as well that it is not appropriate nor productive to “shame” those who do not wear masks. We should all strive to treat everyone with dignity and respect.
A few other updates in regards to the sacraments and life at the church during this time:
When going to confession, we would encourage you to go behind the screen. If you do choose to go face-to-face (when that is an option), we would request that you wear a mask. I know I do not generally wear a mask in the confessional as I anticipate most of those who come to use the screen.
It is fine to schedule baptisms at this time, though some families (or priests) might prefer to do them outside of Mass to help remain within the restrictions for spacing and total allowed capacity. Check with your parish.
Visits to the homebound or sick can be somewhat of a challenge. Some care facilities are still not allowing visitors and we must respect those policies. Visits to the home can be possible, but caution is required as these individuals are some of the most at risk for complications of COVID or other illnesses. That being said, if someone is dying or in danger of death, please contact us. Even if a visit is not possible or advisable, we would still want to pray with you and for you. And if a visit is possible, receiving the sacraments in those moments is beautiful and powerful.
Funeral Masses are now permitted and I would encourage them. Even if you do not want to have something large, doing something small for the immediate family can help with the grieving process and bring hope and prayer into a difficult situation. Funeral luncheons are for the most part still not allowed at this time. Alternatives such as catering at home or at an outdoor venue might be possible, especially if the numbers are not large.
If you have questions or concerns, feel free to contact the parishes and ask. We are all in this together going through everything for the first time. As we continue to adjust and adapt it is good to hear from you and better to meet your needs as best we can in the circumstances we face.
Fr. Timothy Gapinski