People will be able to attend Mass in the Diocese of Allentown as soon as it is safe to do so, and detailed planning and preparation is underway so everyone is ready for that long-awaited day.
Guidelines are in place to ensure that if the faithful choose to attend Mass and other Sacraments in person, they can do so with the assurance that all reasonable steps have been taken to protect their health.
Priests are being trained in new protocols, including how to distribute Holy Communion safely. Precautions will be taken to ensure that the distribution can occur reverently, but also in a manner that protects the health of the people involved.
Mass attendance will be voluntary in the “yellow phase” of reopening. Those who do not feel safe, or who have compromising health conditions, should not attend. The dispensation from the Mass obligation will remain in place temporarily, and online livestream Masses will continue.
The decision on when to allow public attendance at Mass will be based on the Diocese’s main priority – the safety of the faithful, and the safety of priests who will be celebrating Mass, officiating at weddings and funerals, and administering other Sacraments.
There may be a phased reopening if counties in the Diocese move to yellow status on different timetables.
At first, some things will be different at Mass, just as things will be different at businesses and elsewhere as the reopening occurs.
The faithful will be required to wear masks. Strict social distancing will be required, and ushers will help ensure that protocol.
Mass attendance is likely to be restricted to a certain percentage of a church’s seating capacity.
There will be no hymnals, to help prevent the spread of the virus. It’s possible that only certain entrances and exits will be in use, and that the faithful will be dismissed by pew to limit large gatherings after Mass.
Parishes are securing cleaning supplies and sanitizer. Holy Water fonts will remain empty. There may be some Sunday parking lot Masses, rather than indoor Masses, in parishes where that is possible.
Bishop Alfred Schlert has already held two Zoom meetings with diocesan priests to familiarize them with the new guidelines and to help ensure that parishes are ready to begin the path toward normal operations when the time comes.
“The Diocese of Allentown is actively planning for that day when it is safe to resume public worship,” Bishop Schlert said. “I look forward to the day when we can all celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass together, as a Family of Faith Centered in the Holy Eucharist.”