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Pastors outline 'new normal' for return to Mass

Some parishes taking reservations, but all will require the faithful to wear masks

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Screenshot of video posted by Our Lady of Guadalupe Church explaining how the parish will resume the celebration of Masses with the public while adhering to social distancing guidelines necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Photographer: via YouTube

Screenshot of video posted by Our Lady of Guadalupe Church explaining how the parish will resume the celebration of Masses with the public while adhering to social distancing guidelines necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.

MIAMI | Little Flower in Coral Gables and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Doral are taking reservations. Blessed Trinity in Miami Springs sent out a survey. St. Augustine in Coral Gables is asking parishioners to register for the Sunday Mass they wish to attend.

The “new normal” of life with the coronavirus began May 26, 2020 in the Archdiocese of Miami, as churches once again welcomed congregations to daily Mass — congregations limited by the need for social distancing.

This link on the website of St. Augustine Church and Catholic Student Center in Coral Gables leads to a registration page for parishioners wishing to attend the various Sunday Masses after these resume the weekend of May 30-31, 2020.

Photographer: via YouTube

This link on the website of St. Augustine Church and Catholic Student Center in Coral Gables leads to a registration page for parishioners wishing to attend the various Sunday Masses after these resume the weekend of May 30-31, 2020.

Links posted by Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on its website explain new protocols for Mass attendance as well as the reservation system for parishioners.

Photographer: via YouTube

Links posted by Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on its website explain new protocols for Mass attendance as well as the reservation system for parishioners.

That’s not much of a problem on weekdays, when daily Masses draw far fewer worshipers. But when Sunday attendance is limited to between 25 and 30% of each church’s capacity, it does pose a problem, which is why the surveys and reservations are being taken. Pastors are trying to gauge how many people will be coming to each of the Masses on Sunday and trying to figure out ways to accommodate those who might not fit in the actual church.

Many churches, including Our Lady of the Lakes in Miami Lakes and St. Andrew in Coral Springs, will be adding their parish halls to the worship space. Parishioners arriving after the church is filled will be led to the halls to watch the Mass on a livestream.

The same will be done at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Miami, which is adding both of its parish halls as well as an outdoor altar area and the parking zones behind the halls.

“Wherever you are, we’ll have Communion,” Msgr. Kenneth Schwanger, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, assured his parishioners in a video where he explained the new rules.

Parishioners at St. Patrick in Miami Beach will have to listen to the Mass in their vehicles if there’s no room inside the church. Then, “during the prayer of the Our Father, head to the statue of the Blessed Mother and Child fountain located at the corner of Garden Avenue and Barry Street where you will be able to receive Communion,” said St. Patrick’s pastor, Father Roberto Cid, in his weekly message to parishioners.


SIX FEET APART

In all those places, however, a strict six-foot separation will be maintained among the people seated in the pews and standing in line for Communion. The simplest way pastors have found to do this is by blocking off every other row so that it remains empty. Some are also placing strips of tape or other markings to let people know where to sit.

“All adults will be six feet apart,” Msgr. Schwanger said. That includes husbands and wives, although their children will be allowed to sit between them.

Screenshot of survey posted by Blessed Trinity Church in Miami Springs to gauge how many parishioners will be attending the various Sunday Masses when these resume the weekend of May 30-31, 2020.

Photographer: via YouTube

Screenshot of survey posted by Blessed Trinity Church in Miami Springs to gauge how many parishioners will be attending the various Sunday Masses when these resume the weekend of May 30-31, 2020.

Father Giovanni Peña, pastor of Prince of Peace in Miami, has divided the socially distanced worship space into sections: one for families, one for couples, and another for singles. That should alleviate the burden on ushers trying to figure out who belongs together and who should be seated apart.

At Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, the pastor is asking families to arrive at church together if they want to sit together.  

At St. Andrew Church, the message from Msgr. Michael Souckar, pastor, was simple: “Those who live together may sit together.” 

Most churches also are restricting the flow of people into and out of church by designating some doors as entrance-only and others as exit-only. Pastors are asking the faithful to wait to be dismissed after Mass and not to congregate in lobby or outdoor areas.

Priests won’t be shaking parishioners’ hands after Mass, and neither will parishioners be shaking each other’s hands during the Sign of Peace or holding hands during the Our Father.

In keeping with Archbishop Thomas Wenski’s directives, the faithful must wear masks at all times, except when receiving Communion. That’s when the priest or deacon will wear his mask, as will the extraordinary minister of Communion.

“We wear masks everywhere,” Msgr. Schwanger noted in his video. “The whole world has to wear masks now. Put a couple extra in your car. You have to have a mask. You can’t be at Mass without a mask and you must be six feet apart.”

Screenshot of video posted by Our Lady of Guadalupe Church explaining how ushers will check parishioners' reservations for attendance at Sunday Masses while coronavirus restrictions are in place.

Photographer: via YouTube

Screenshot of video posted by Our Lady of Guadalupe Church explaining how ushers will check parishioners' reservations for attendance at Sunday Masses while coronavirus restrictions are in place.


NO GLOVES

Gloves are optional but banned while distributing or receiving Communion. In most churches, parishioners will have the option of receiving on the tongue or in the hand. To ease people’s fears about contagion, however, some churches are asking parishioners who choose to receive on the tongue to do so after those who receive in the hand, or to stand in a separate line.

Most churches plan to have hand sanitizer at the entrances but ask the faithful to bring their own and use it before going up to receive Communion. A few churches plan to check parishioners’ temperatures to make sure they’re not running a fever when they come to Mass.

Offertory processions and collections are also out for the moment. Most churches will place baskets near the doors for parishioners to drop their donation envelopes as they exit. Better yet, they are being asked to donate online, via the parish website or a smartphone app.

In the video he recorded, Father Israel Mago, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, spoke for most archdiocesan priests when he told his parishioners, “That’s how we feel right now, joyful for the opportunity to come back to our church, to come back to our spiritual home.”

He asked them to view the new norms and protocols not as inconveniences but as opportunities “to demonstrate with our actions, with our obedience and with our kindness to one another that we are truly sons and daughters of God.”

Msgr. James Fetscher, pastor of St. Sebastian Church in Fort Lauderdale, also reminded his parishioners that they are still dispensed from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass.

“While we are excited at the thought of seeing you, if you are sick or frail or frightened, please stay home,” he wrote in the May 24, 2020 bulletin. “Good judgment and reason should guide your decision as to when you should resume coming to Mass.”

ONE FINAL SONG

The return to Masses with a congregation also means the end of some pastors’ very creative and quite popular outreach efforts, such as weekly online messages, scripture reflections and livestreamed holy hours.

Among the most watched of these were the songs, performed each of the six weeks of Easter, by Epiphany Church’s priestly duo, pastor Father Jose Alvarez and parochial vicar Father Alex Rivera. Here’s a look at their final offering. 

 

Comments from readers

Andrew Meszaros - 05/28/2020 04:35 PM
“... neither will parishioners be shaking each other’s hands during the Sign of Peace or holding hands during the Our Father.” Perhaps most Catholics don’t know that the Sign of Peace is an optional feature of the Novus Ordo, but over the years it has been used everywhere with no exception, to create a general lapse into disorder at one of the most sacred moments of the liturgy (Agnus Dei). And the “hand holding during the Our Father” is a sentimental relic of the 1970’s, that has nothing to do with the sacred action. I am old enough to remember when priests used to encourage the congregations to hold hands. I sincerely hope for a permanent suspension of the custom.

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