Churches in Ireland will be open for public worship from Monday 29th June. In Turner’s Cross we hope to have public Mass again at 10.00 am on weekdays, as well as our usual Vigil Mass for Sundays at 6.00 pm on Saturday evenings, and Sunday Masses at 10.00 am and 12.00 noon.
Detailed arrangements for the reopening will not be finalised until next weekend, for the following reasons.
Present indications are that total attendance will be limited to a congregation of fifty people. This is clearly not a return to “normal,” and will not facilitate a return to Mass for the parish as a whole. It is hoped that further consideration will be given to the application of this limit to large church buildings where appropriate safeguards are in place.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has said it is strange and disappointing that a 50-person limit is imposed on Churches for Public Worship and is seeking a reasonable and responsible situation to allow more people to attend Mass.
Attendance at Mass will be severely limited by the social distance requirements and limits otherwise specified by the health authorities. It may be necessary to introduce a “reservation” or ticket system for Sunday Masses, to avoid turning parishioners away when the church has been filled to the permitted limit, and where additional numbers would endanger the health and safety of all.
As the capacity of churches will be reduced during the pandemic and until further notice, we encourage parishioners, where possible, to join us at one of our weekday Masses. Some parishioners, especially the vulnerable, may choose to join in prayer from home.
PUBLIC HEALTH PROVISIONS
Compliance with public health provisions is to be seen as caring for one another in a spirit of Christian concern in this difficult time, as we welcome with joy a return to our participation in worship as a community of faith.
We began preparations to ensure that our church building will be as safe as possible in May, before the church was opened for personal prayer. As we gather together for Mass, we will do so in a cautious way at first, and there will be a need for ongoing patience and careful monitoring of the situation, and continued compliance with public health advice.
A safe and gradual return to general Mass attendance will involve new hand sanitising and disinfection facilities and procedures, compliance with public health social distance rules and careful movement within the church. The present two-metre separation requirement means that two out of every three pews are taped off and out of use, and only three people will be seated in each pew. Whilst people who live in the same household will be able to sit together, the effect of this restriction will reduce the seating capacity of the church to approximately one hundred.
In addition to explanatory notices, seating positions will be marked on each bench and floor marking and directional arrows will indicate routes to be followed and where to stand for reception of Holy Communion.
We will need volunteers, stewards to assist people at each Mass, a team to maintain hygiene and sanitising facilities and sanitise the church after each Mass or other sacramental liturgy, a team to determine seating arrangements in compliance with possibly changing public health advice and protocols, and special rotas of ministers of the Word and Eucharist for the initial church reopening phase of some months.
COVID-19 The coronavirus pandemic has affected us all over the past three months. The closing of our churches and the suspension of public celebration of Mass, except in the case of funerals with a very limited attendance, was extremely painful. The public health provisions have proved successful in limiting the spread of the virus and our health system was not overwhelmed as was feared.
While many lives have been saved, sadly the pandemic has brought great hardship to many families whose loved ones have died because of the virus, or from other causes during the period of restricted movement. In a lot of cases it was not possible for family members to be by their side, or to be present at their funeral. While this is a joyful moment for our parish as we prepare to gather again as the Body of Christ, we must always remember those who have suffered so much.