A Letter from Fr. Bob
Dear liturgical parishioners,
The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend (our diocese) recently pubished revised directives for celebrating liturgy during the pandemic. Some restrictions can soon be lifted, partly or completely. Here are the highlights:
WHAT HAS CHANGED
- ALTAR SERVERS - Altar servers may now enter the sanctuary. We will, therefore, bring back the altar servers very soon, hopefully by April 25 (the 4th Sunday of Easter).
- OFFERTORY - members of the congregation may once again bring the gifts of bread and wine forward. We will start this at the Easter Vigil (April 3).
- HYMNALS - the hymnals may return to the pews! We will reinstate the hymnals at the Easter Vigil of Holy Saturday.
- The small holy water stoups (the little fonts by the entrances) and covered holy water tanks (like at St. Paul's Chapel) may be filled again when the parish feels ready. The stoups must be cleaned regularly. Large holy water fonts (like the one at St. Anthony's) can also be filled if and when the parish is ready. This will require more discussion before we take this step.
- Priests over the age of 60 may now visit the sick IF THE PRIESTS HAVE BEEN VACCINATED. They may also visit people in the hospitals and nursing homes again, if those institutions allow it, and according to those institutions' own safety protocols. Once again, this will take some discussion. The Franciscan Friars will not yet return to the First Friday Communion Calls, but we hope to do so soon.
WHAT HAS STAYED THE SAME
- CAPACITY - the diocese did not relax the rules for physical distancing (6 feet apart) and for total capacity (one third capacity). We will continue to keep every other pew blocked off and continue to observe the capacity rules.
- SINGING - Congregational singing was returned a few months ago. The people may continue to sing with masks on. The bishop has now clarified what he meant by "boisterous singing": it is, he says, the kind of "high quality, all-out, well-trained, vigorous and forceful singing that choirs do". Since our choir sings with well-trained boisterousness, the current safety protocols remain in effect.
- LECTORS - the bishop recommends that the lector continue to read explanations about safety procedures as we go along.
- COLLECTION - although the offertory procession can be restored, the ushers may still not take up the collection except under strict conditions.
- COMMUNION - the rules for distribution of communion remain unchanged.
- CLEANING - the diocese recommends that we continue to clean door knobs often. We may also continue fumigating weekly. We do not need to clean the pews all the time.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR US
The diocesan committee emphasizes that each parish must interpret and implement these directives according to their circumstances. Much will depend on the architecture of the individual church. The bishop adds, "parishes should not implement these changes until they are equipped to do so." We must avoid chaos and confusion, which means people must be given advance notice of the changes.
This means that the staff and the priests need to think these guidelines through. We must consult with the many volunteers involved. Then we need to announce the changes in the bulletin.
The bishop recommends that we celebrate Holy Week according to the older guidelines from February. This makes sense - all the plans have been made and distributed.
Nevertheless - with luck and the blessing of God - shortly after Easter we can start announcing some of these improvements. Thank you all both for your prayers and for your concrete actions to mitigate the disease throughout the past year. The good actions of many good souls are leading to a good result.
Blessings on this Friday in Lent,