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Dearest Sacred Heart Family,
It is with great joy that I am able to announce that we will begin to reopen for public Masses in the Diocese of Gaylord and specifically at Sacred Heart. We will be returning to in-person Masses on Wednesday, May 20, 2020, at 8:30AM. Many of us are looking forward to being able to celebrate together, and there is much cause for excitement, but we are still in the midst of a pandemic, so please consider all factors in our own life as well as all of the following information in deciding if and when to return to any public gathering.
There are a number of protocols that will be put into place. While you may not personally agree with every measure being instituted, please consider that they are being implemented for the common good of all parishioners and guests. Also, please be aware that these protocols may be adjusted at any time, based on information and directives given by Bishop Raica's office. The staff and many volunteers needed to make this all happen safely and efficiently appreciate your patience and understanding.
- Please keep in mind that Bishop Raica has dispensed everyone in the Diocese of Gaylord from their Sunday obligation until September 6, 2020. There are a number of ways to keep the Sabbath holy without attending Mass in person. Sacred Heart will continue to livestream the Sunday 10AM Mass indefinitely, and many other parishes in the Diocese and across the country also offer the opportunity to participate in Mass from your home. If you have ANY reservation about attending Mass in person, please STAY HOME. It is not worth putting you, your family, and others at risk.
- Public Masses at Sacred Heart and across the Diocese of Gaylord may not exceed 25% capacity. At Sacred Heart this means no more than 50 people in the church. We are fortunate to have our social hall, which can accommodate another 75-100 people, so our plan is to livestream the weekend liturgies into the hall. Once we have reached our capacity in the Church, families will be asked to move to the social hall. The Eucharist will be distributed to those attending in the hall. If we exceed our seating capacity in both the church and the hall, you will be asked to attend a different Mass.
- Do not come to Mass if you are sick or vulnerable in any way. If you still wish to attend Mass, please consider that, according to the protocols set forth by the Diocese of Gaylord, attending any weekday Mass or a broadcast/livestream of Mass are additional ways of fulfilling your Sunday obligation.
- Take your temperature at home. If you or any member of your family has a temperature at or above 100.4, you and all members of your household must stay home. If you have been symptomatic or have been exposed to the virus within 14 days, you and the members of your household are not permitted to enter the church. These guidelines come from the CDC and have been reiterated by our Diocese.
- You are encouraged to bring your own hand sanitizer, as your hands should be sanitized before and after receiving Communion, which can be most easily accomplished while in the pew. There will be some hand sanitizer available as you enter and exit the church, but will not be easily accessed in the Communion procession.
- All attendees over the age of two are required to wear a mask for one's own protection and to protect other people. This protocol will be strictly enforced. If you are an individual who cannot wear a mask for a medical reason, please loosely cover your mouth and nose while entering and exiting the church and while moving for communion.
- Please respect proper social distancing. In the church building every other pew will be unavailable. Those who live in the same household may sit together, but please maintain 6 feet (approximately the length of one kneeler) between each family/household unit. In the social hall chairs will be set up in pairs. If your household unit is more than two people, children may choose to sit on laps or on the floor. Please do not move chairs around as that will make disinfecting and preparation for the next celebration more time consuming for staff and volunteers. Thank you for this courtesy.
- The collection will not be taken during Mass in the usual way. Please put your donations/envelopes in the basket as you enter the church. Thank you, as always, for your generosity.
- In order to expedite the disinfection process and to limit touched services, there will be no books, hymnals, worship aids, or handouts available in the church. A limited number of bulletins will be available to be handed out by ushers wearing gloves and masks after Mass, and will always continue to be available on our Sacred Heart website, but you are asked to limit what you touch.
- Holding hands during the Our Father is NOT permitted, and the Sign of Peace is suspended.
- You are never required to receive the Blessed Sacrament at any Mass. If you are uncomfortable doing so, simply do not come forward. Rather, use that time for prayer and Spiritual Communion.
- Communion will only be offered in the form of the Body of Christ. There will be four Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion at the weekend Masses--two in the church and two in the social hall. Please do not leave your pew until ushers, wearing masks, direct you. This way we can do our best to maintain social distancing while in procession. This may mean that Communion will take a bit longer, so we ask you to remain patient.
- In order to prevent the spread of droplets as much as possible, before the Communion procession begins the celebrant will say to the whole assembly, "The Body of Christ." All respond, "Amen." This will eliminate the need for speaking between the communicant and Communion minister.
- You are encouraged to receive Communion in the hand. To all extent possible, make a profound bow at the last pew before approaching the Communion minister. At that time you can pull your mask below your chin and present your hands. After reverently placing the Eucharist in your mouth, please immediately replace your mask and return to your pew. Those receiving in the hand will receive during the mass. Those requiring reception by mouth are asked to remain in their pew and will receive after Mass. Note: gloves may not be worn when receiving the Eucharist in the hand.
- After Mass, please remain in your pew until an usher has dismissed you. This may take some additional time, but will help accommodate the 6-feet distancing as you exit the church. You may be asked to use an exit door that is not the door you are used to or would prefer. We ask that you follow the ushers' instructions for the health and safety of everyone. Thank you again for your patience.
- Those parishioners wishing to receive the Eucharist by mouth, as they are dismissed after Mass, should form a line (spaced 6 feet apart) in the aisle nearest the Tabernacle.
- In order to expedite the cleaning and disinfecting process, everyone is asked to leave the church/social hall as quickly as possible and not to gather in the buildings or on outdoor walkways to hold conversations with friends or others not from their household.
- Daily Masses will be very similar to those on the weekend, but will likely not have ushers guiding and directing people. This may need to be addressed as we go forward, depending on the number in the congregation those days. Note: daily Masses will not have overflow into the social hall, so if we exceed the 50 person limit, you may be asked to return the next day.
- Our Mass schedule will return to normal:
Weekend (all in the church with overflow streaming in the social hall):
Saturday at 5PM
Sunday at 8AM
Sunday at 10AM (also livestreamed to the public)
Weekday (all in the church only):
Monday at 12:15PM
Tuesday at 5:30PM
Wednesday at 8:30AM
Thursday at 8:30AM (Holy Hour at 3:30PM)
Friday at 8:30AM
There will be more details coming as we gain some insight and experience into our current situation, but these are the expectations that we have at this time. If you are not comfortable with or wish not to comply with these requirements, Bishop Raica has offered a dispensation from Mass until September 6, 2020. You may also continue to watch our livestreamed liturgies by visiting our website (sacredheartelkrapids.org) or our Facebook Page (facebook.com/ElkRapidsSacredHeart). Also, please be respectful to those volunteers who are working to keep all of our parishioners and guests safe and healthy. I look forward to joining you again very soon.
Yours in Christ,
Jamie Hardesty, on behalf of
Rev. Robert J. Zuchowski and all the staff at Sacred Heart