It has been over one hundred days since the many changes brought about by the Covid -19pandemic. Working together we have done well in mitigating the spread of the virus as we continue to exercise caution. It is important to note that testing tells us that the virus is still with us in a significant way. For example, even though it was good news that half of those recently testing positive for Covid-19 in Onondaga County have no symptoms the bad news is that they can pass it on. Called “asymptomatic transmission” it is, in the words of the New England Journal of Medicine, “the Achilles” heal of Covid-19 pandemic control. With that we have a way to go before we have the control we need. As one health experts noted using baseball terms, we are only in the second inning of the pandemic. With that moving forward safely to resume Masses is a slow and complicated process. Safety, as we consult the science of things,is my first concern. Simply saying, as has been noted in instructions around the country, that if you choose to go to church you accept the risk is not acceptable to me. If I cannot guarantee that it is safe, I cannot proceed forward. I am responsible for everyone’s safety not only as a pastor but as a Christian. I have come to that conclusion in answer to the question: What would Jesus have me do?
So, given all of that you might ask: Where are we as a parish in terms of “resuming public worship,”worship that is now approved for twenty five percent of our church capacity which is about 100 to 125 people a Mass at either St. Patrick’s and St. James.The short answer is that we are not ready.
Where do I begin to explain why when considering the risk factors?
First, any celebration of Mass requires two things beyond a team of trained volunteers who accept greater risks as a volunteer. Everyone coming to Mass must receive, read and accept the conditions for coming to Mass. Those conditions include not only making reservations, bringing a personal hand sanitizer and wearing a mask but sitting wherever a volunteer will direct them. When accepting the terms of wearing a mask it means at no time removing it for upwards of forty minutes, (it is a challenge),except to receive communion. Those coming to church also must accept that there is no singing and no use of missalettes which will be removed from the church.
Second, I must sign off on 16 points of safety and have those approved by the Diocese.
There is more such as no congregating outside of church before or after Mass but I’m sure you get the idea. This is not Mass as you have ever experienced it before
As I continue to consider if and when to proceed please keep the following things in mind.
- The dispensation from your obligation to attend Mass, given by Bishop Lucia, remains in effect. Therefore, you are not obligated to attend Mass; doing so is your personal decision considering the risks.
- Gatherings have inherent risk of spreading Covid-19.Any decision to attend a public gathering of any kind shouldbe made carefully.
- Always consider any preexisting conditions that put you in a higher risk group as well as symptoms of a new respiratory illness: cough, shortness of breath, fatigue with muscle aches, chills, headaches, sore throat, the loss of taste or smell before you consider attending a public function.
- Be aware that our experience of Mass will not be the usual not only wearing a mask,including sitting in your favorite spot as churches are required to fill a church section by section, row by row.
- Keep in mind the number of resources online as will through your cable outlet for Masses or spiritual helps. The Bishop has acknowledged that these will remain the primary way the majority of Catholics will stay connected to their faith until the pandemic reaches a conclusion.
Finally, as the pandemic will continue to challenge us along with the second challenge of our struggle with national issues of racism and equal justice continue to pray for the many concerns that are around us. Together in pray, faith and action we can do so much from the part of this world that we call home, neighborhood, town, or village.If you ever have questions or concerns your calls and emails are welcome.