PARISH GUIDELINES FOR THE RETURN TO PUBLIC WORSHIP

Easter message from our pastor- Father Charbel
April 13, 2020
Announcements for the week of May 24th-May 31st…
May 18, 2020

Our bishop has announced the joyful news that public celebration of Holy Mass and the hearing of Confession has resumed at our parishes. With this welcomed announcement also comes the responsibility of how we can properly worship while maintaining safety. As you can imagine, there will be many changes from the normal way liturgical life functions at St. Agnes.

The parish will open for public worship on the May 16th for the 4pm anticipated Mass and continue regularly for weekdays. While daily Mass that is normally scheduled in the mornings (6:00am) remains unchanged, please note the schedule change for weekends:
– Saturdays 4pm (Confession 3:00-3:45pm)
– Sundays 8am, 10am (Traditional Latin Mass), 12pm

This will be for the foreseeable future to allow time for cleaning of the church after all public liturgies (help will be needed and appreciated for this task). Church attendance is on a first-come basis and attendance will be monitored to maintain the 25% capacity allowance during this first phase. There are 125 marked spots for seating, not taking into account families who may sit together in the same pew. As of now, there are no plans for any sign-ups for Masses unless increased attendance numbers require it. Those who are sick or vulnerable (60 years of age or older, those with comprised immune systems, and/or those with underlying health conditions) should remain at home. At this time, there is no obligation to attend Sunday Mass or Holy Days of Obligation in the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

Arriving at church
When arriving at the parish, please have face masks for every person (this includes children 5 & up) and hand sanitizer. The wearing of face masks is required for the faithful upon entering church which is the expressed directive of the bishop and our pastor. The faithful should all enter through the side entrance on the north side of church by the parking lot.
Please do not bring items containing bleach into the church as such things could damage pews. Pews will be marked for seating to maintain social distancing; families may sit together. Seating will be from the front of church to the back, so we ask that you take the first available pew.

Procedures for Mass
Face masks should be worn throughout the duration of Mass. There is to be no physical contact at the Sign of Peace or hand holding during the Lord’s Prayer. The procedures for the faithful processing to receive the Holy Eucharist are to observe social distancing. When it’s time, parishioners should remain seated until being directed by the ushers. All will be funneled to the middle aisle in a single file line. There will be two marked stations at the altar rail for which the communicant may stand or kneel. Bishop Duca has recommended that Holy Communion be received in the hand at this time, however nobody will be denied receiving on the tongue. (For this latter practice, face masks should remain in place until immediate reception.) Gloves are not allowed for those receiving in the hand. After receiving this sacred host, please return to your pew around the outside, not back through the middle aisle.

After Mass
It is asked that afterwards, the faithful begin to exit the church to allow for cleaning. Please exit the church through the side entrance on the north side by the parking lot. When exiting the Church, please observe social distancing. There should be no congregating on any areas of the parish grounds.

Parish Office & Activities
While the church is open for public worship, all other meetings and gatherings will remain suspended until further notice. The Adoration Chapel remains unopened at this time. While the parish office will operate under normal hours, parishioners are encouraged to conduct all business via phone and email if possible. Any visitors for necessary appointments are required to wear a mask.

This page will be updated as more information is made available. We greatly thank you for your patience and understanding during these difficult times and appreciate your cooperation. Although not under the most ideal circumstances, we look forward to worshiping God with our parish family.

God bless you!

(Here is the formal announcement from the diocese for the directives issued by Bishop Duca)

BISHOP MICHAEL DUCA STATEMENT ON RE-OPENING CHURCHES 
FOR CONGREGATIONAL WORSHIP
 
May 11, 2020 

To the Clergy, Religious and Lay Faithful of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, 

For several weeks now, Catholics have been unable to participate physically in the celebration of Mass. Despite the empty pews in our parish churches, our local clergy are to be commended for Continuing the Mission and for bringing the Good News to others in new and various ways!   We also thank our Governor John Bel Edwards and our local leaders for their clear communication and effective measures to slow the progress of this virus that have made the Phase One changes possible.   

With restrictions slowly being eased, it is incumbent upon the Catholic Church to offer the sacraments and begin a slow, deliberate return to parish life while maintaining a safe environment. We, as a Church, must do our part to protect our congregants and assist in preventing the spread of this virus. Given the new directives from Governor Edwards, the following provisions will be in effect in the Diocese of Baton Rouge beginning 16/17 May 2020. Every pastor may start Mass with a congregation under these directives beginning with the Masses (including Saturday Vigil Mass) for Sunday, May 17th, but may choose to start any time after that with all parishes having regularly scheduled Masses by Sunday of May 24, 2020. These norms are open to further revision, expansion or restriction as circumstances change for our Diocese.   

Sunday Mass Obligation Dispensation 

The Sunday Mass obligation continues to be dispensed for all Catholics indefinitely. Those who are ill or who are not feeling well in any way should not attend Mass until they are free of their illness and its symptoms for three days. Those who are especially vulnerable (namely, those defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as those 60 years of age or older, those with comprised immune systems, and/or those with underlying health conditions), and indeed anyone who does not feel comfortable attending Mass are encouraged to stay home. Where possible, Sunday and daily Masses will continue to be streamed for those who are not yet comfortable, for any reason, with returning to a public Mass. 

Celebration of the Eucharist 

Per the directives of Governor Edwards, our churches can resume services at 25% of the declared occupancy of the worship space in this first phase of re-opening. To accommodate these new directives will require the pastor to make the needed changes in ways that fit the individual parish’s size and its resources. Some of the many decisions will include:

  • Arrangement of seating so there is proper physical distancing (six feet apart in all directions, though families and those living in the same household can sit together);
  • Possible temporary additions of more Sunday and daily Mass times to meet the parish needs; 
  • Deciding if a reservation process is needed, at least initially, to spread attendance over all the Masses available during the week.

Parishioners are required to bring and wear masks while in the worship space. The faithful are encouraged to bring small bottles of hand sanitizer for their personal use. 

Pastors and their staffs have been encouraged by a separate communication to appropriately clean churches in order to promote public health. Pastors and other liturgical ministers, will observe proper hygiene.

To observe physical distancing, a bow or gesture should replace a handshake or other signs of peace during the liturgy. Also, at the conclusion of Mass, the same norms of distancing are to be observed by clergy and parishioners alike.   

Priests, deacons and other ministers of Holy Communion will wear masks for the distribution of Holy Communion, and receiving the Precious Host on the hand is encouraged. There will be no Communion from the common chalice. The faithful are also encouraged not to come forward to receive Holy Communion wearing gloves. 

Sacrament of Reconciliation 

Regularly scheduled opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation can resume as long as masks are worn and proper distancing can be maintained for all while waiting in line and in the confessional. 

Other Sacraments 

The previous directives of 17 March 2020 remain in place for Funerals, Marriages, Baptisms, Anointing of the Sick, and Eucharist to the Homebound, for the time being. As we become more confident in our new ways of gathering, I will give pastors more options for these Sacraments. 

Parish Operations 

At the discretion of the pastor, parish offices may resume operating hours as long as no more than 25% of the parochial building is occupied. All visitors who enter a parochial facility must wear face masks at all times. The lay faithful are encouraged to conduct parish business, when possible, by phone, mail or email. 

Gathering together under these new guidelines is a big undertaking by your pastor and parish staff. Expect that each parish will begin public Masses when prepared and will adopt different options that reflect the size of the parish, number of priests, available resources, readiness and parishioner support. I invite you not to compare what is going on in another parish with your parish’s situation. Be patient with your pastor and accept that it will take a few weeks to accommodate this new reality.   

By our continued cooperation our mission will advance, and we will journey together into an uncertain future filled with the strength of our faith and our Hope in the Lord.