Please watch this video or read this letter in its entirety before you sign up for Mass which you can do below. Thank you -Fr. Rodriguez
May 31, 2020
Dear Parishioners of Sacred Heart and St. Benedict’s Catholic Church,
Happy Pentecost! I pray that this message finds you and your families well and still filled with the joy of Easter. As we commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit, we celebrate and renew our mission as a Church. Since our last public Masses on Sunday March 15, much has transpired. It was not without great sacrifice that our church implemented the protocols of the “Stay at Home” order and closed our doors. The trial of this pandemic has been made all the more bitter for us by not having the solace of the sacraments and the strength of gathering together as a community. However, much has also happened to bring us hope and I am thrilled to share with you some of the next steps for us as a church.
Looking Ahead and Preparing to Reopen
This past Monday, May 25, the State of California issued guidelines for houses of worship to begin in-person religious services. Building upon these governmental guidelines, on Friday May 29, our Bishop Daniel Garcia issued his own guidelines which we are to follow in order to safely and sustainably return to the public celebration of Mass. The great news is that we will be having Mass soon, however, things will look different. There will be restrictions and adaptations that need to be in place for your health and safety. We of course must do all we can to prevent individual cases among our parishioners, but we must also do our part to prevent a new surge in cases that would force us to close our doors again.
When will we have Mass again?
Our goal is to begin having public Mass on Monday, June 8, in accordance with the Bishop’s guidelines. We hope to have our first Sunday Masses on June 14, the feast of Corpus Christi. Prudence dictates that we start small and with a limited attendance and schedule. Please be patient as we slowly increase the number of Masses we offer and the number of people who can attend.
How many people can go to Mass?
At St. Benedict’s we are able to have a total of 100 people present at a Mass. At Sacred Heart, will accommodate a total of 50 people present at Mass.
How will we decide who gets to go to what Mass?
Initially, we will use an online sign-up system to avoid too many people coming to any one Mass and having to be turned away at the door. You will be able to call the office if you need help signing up. We will share more details when the system is ready.
Do we all have to go to Mass? What if I am particularly vulnerable? What if I am not ready to go out and go to Mass?
The Bishop’s dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in effect. No one is obligated to go Mass during these days. Indeed, we urge anyone who is 60 years of age or older, anyone who is immunocompromised or particularly vulnerable in any way to stay at home. Many people might be nervous or anxious about coming to Mass, or perhaps want to wait to see how it goes first. That is perfectly fine. Take your time and come when you are ready.
Will the parish continue to Live Stream Masses?
Yes. In line with what was just mentioned, many people will still stay at home. To continue to support them, our parish will still make Live Streams of Masses available.
Will I have to wear a mask? Will there be health screenings at the door?
Everyone will be expected to wear a mask or face covering during the entire Mass. The only exceptions are children under 2 years of age and the priest-celebrant. But even the priest has to wear a mask during the distribution of Holy Communion. Everyone entering the church will have their temperature checked. Additionally signs will be posted asking anyone experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19 or otherwise not feeling well to stay at home.
Will we be able to receive Holy Communion?
Yes. We will be distributing Holy Communion at Mass. We will update you soon as to the specifics of how to walk up while maintaining social distancing and how to handle your mask while receiving Holy Communion. We will not be distributing Holy Communion under both species, i.e. we will not be distributing the Precious Blood at this time.
Will I be able to receive Holy Communion on the tongue?
Due to the risks involved in receiving Holy Communion on the tongue during this pandemic – risks not just for the communicant receiving, but also for the minister distributing and the others who will also receive – the Bishop has asked us all to receive Holy Communion on the hand only. Bishop Danny makes this request after much thought, prayer and consultation. It is temporary and is not made out of a liturgical preference or ideological opposition to receiving on the tongue. Filial respect for the wishes of our Bishop as a successor of the Apostles is a holy virtue and is in accord with a reverent reception of our Lord who gives himself up on the Cross in filial obedience to the Father. With that in mind, if your hesitations at receiving Holy Communion in the hand remain serious, please allow me to individually address them outside of Mass so as not to make the moment of Holy Communion a scene of tensions and misunderstandings.
Will I get to sit in my favorite pew?
Probably not. In order to maintain social distancing, seating will not only be marked out, but you will be asked to sit in the next available place so that everyone enters the church in an orderly way. You will also be dismissed in an orderly way at the end of Mass so that we don’t bunch up in a bottleneck at the door to leave the church.
Will there be hand sanitizer at the church?
Yes. There will be even more dispensers available at the doors for you to use than before but we do encourage you to bring your own hand sanitizer so that you can use it in the pew or whenever else you would like to during the Mass.
Will the restrooms be open?
The restrooms will be closed unless someone has an emergency. Restrooms must be sanitized after each use. Taking the time to plan ahead so it won’t be necessary to use the restrooms at the church will not only greatly reduce work for our staff but also reduce the risk involved for yourself and others.
Will there be music? What about singing?
When we have music, it will be provided by an accompanist and a cantor only. We can’t have whole choirs at this time. Also, since singing greatly increases the spread of the virus, we invite you to prayerfully listen to the music provided rather than singing along. All the hymnals and missalettes have been removed to prevent the spread of the virus through these items.
What will be the schedule of Masses?
We will not immediately return to a full schedule of Masses but will steadily increase the schedule of Masses as we grow in familiarity with all the procedures. We are still finalizing what the first two weeks will look like and will send out the schedule soon.
Will the church doors be open all day so I can drop by and pray?
We will not leave the church doors open right away. We are focusing all our efforts on offering scheduled and well organized services. With that in mind we will not only offer Mass but offer times of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. Once we are comfortable with our processes for scheduled events we will make plans to open the church doors for longer periods of time.
Some Words of Thanks
My sincere thanks to Bishop Daniel Garcia for his prudent and decisive leadership during this time. I thank the administrative team at the Diocese of Monterey who have worked tirelessly to support our parishes with our financial needs and to help us understand and implement all the various guidelines for our church and office. Since the initial events of this spring unfolded, Fr. Rodriguez, Fr. Dat and I have been praying for you daily. I thank them for their good counsel, hard work and companionship.
Finally, I thank all of you, our parishioners, for your patience and encouragement during these days, particularly in the face of the uncertainty as to what happens next and when it might happen. I also thank you all for the witness of your faith. To hear so many of you speak of your hunger for the Eucharist and for Confession has strengthened my joy as a priest, having consecrated my life to God in order to minister these sacraments to you.
Let us continue to pray for all those who are sick from this illness, those working on the front lines in all their various capacities, and all those who find themselves burdened by financial hardship or by fear and anxiety.
Peace and All Good,
Rev. Stephen Akers
Sacred Heart – St. Benedict Catholic Community
To sign up for Mass click here