Dear Parish Family:
I hope this finds you and your families safe, healthy and well. I write today to finally share some good news with you about parish life under COVID.
None of us could have imagined 14 months ago how long the pandemic would last, how deep and wide its losses would extend, and how great the sacrifices it would demand. While we are not out of the woods yet, we are grateful to finally see light ahead.
As you probably know, on May 13, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention revised its COVID recommendations for people who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. (Fully vaccinated means two weeks past the second of the two-shot vaccines or the single-dose J&J vaccine.) Yesterday, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia issued new guidance for parishes in light of the CDC changes.
Since COVID began, my priority has been the health and safety of everyone who worships and serves at St. John Chrysostom. So we have been extremely cautious in our parish protocols, even when it meant forgoing some beloved traditions and elements of the Mass. I am grateful for your support and cooperation in bringing us safely to this point.
Today, we get to take a big step forward.
First, although it has been a total joy to see your faces back in church, let me emphasize that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains suspended, and that your health should always come first in making those decisions. Our live stream Mass schedule has not changed. That said, please note these changes:
Effective immediately, masks are no longer required in church or the Parish House (offices, Stevenson Center or Blessed Sacrament Chapel) for people who are fully vaccinated. This applies to all clergy (all of whom are fully vaccinated), lectors, Communion ministers and altar servers, and to all events in church: Masses, funerals, weddings and baptisms. Masks are still required in church and across campus for people who are not fully vaccinated. And of course, you are welcome to continue wearing a mask if you prefer to do so.
Parents, please note: You may determine whether your children need to wear a mask in church, whether they are in the pew or on the altar. However, updated COVID policies for Mother of Providence Regional Catholic School and our Summer Parish Religious Education Program are still pending from the Archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education. Until we are notified otherwise, all current protocols for MPRCS and Summer PREP, including the wearing of masks, remain in place.
Beginning June 1, life will open up even more:
All distancing and capacity limits in the church will be lifted. The ropes will come off the pews; the Holy Water fonts will be refilled; and the Offertory Procession at Mass will return.
- Communion Ministers will continue our longstanding practice of sanitizing their
hands before distribution of Holy Communion. I have also requested that these
ministers be fully vaccinated before serving.
- Congregational singing at Mass will resume as soon as our music ministries are able
- The Parish House will reopen to the public from 9 to 5 weekdays, and the Parish House Chapel will reopen for Adoration from 9 am to 4 pm weekdays. (Please wear a mask if you are not fully vaccinated.) Frozen casseroles and meals for St. John's Hospice and Caring for Friends may still be dropped off without contact on the designated table in front of the Parish House during office hours.
In the months ahead, we look forward to the return of ministry meetings, rehearsals and events across our campus. Stay tuned for these announcements and plans.
In closing, I want to extend my deepest thanks to all of you for your faithful example and support throughout these unprecedented and difficult months. I have been moved by your heroic efforts to keep everyone safe, care for your families, follow your faith, and continue to serve our brothers and sisters across the community despite your own hardships.
COVID is still with us, so please stay safe. You are in my prayers. May God bless each of you and your families. I hope to see you all very soon.
Fr. Ed Hallinan