UPDATED: Parish Guidelines for Public Masses

Archdiocese of Denver
UPDATED NOVEMBER 24, 2020

As the Archdiocese of Denver continues to work to balance protecting the health and safety of our communities with ministering to the spiritual needs of our faithful, we have issued guidelines for parishes for celebrating public Masses during this current public health pandemic.

IMPORTANT: The dispensation from the Sunday and Holy Day obligation remains.

The Archdiocese has worked with health experts, elected officials, and our priests, deacons and parish staffs to develop these protocols.

How the guidelines are implemented will vary parish to parish depending on parish size, available facilities, and county-specific health orders. Please learn how a parish is operating during this time before going to a public Mass.

Key Updates:

  • Catholics who are healthy should be examining the risk factors in their lives and discerning if they have valid reasons to stay home from Sunday Mass. If not, they should be attending a Sunday or daily Mass  with respect to their parish’s scheduling protocols. (See ‘Who should go to a public Mass?’ section below, and Read: Dispensations: An Excuse to Skip Mass?)
  • General attendance guidelines for Masses have been set by the Archdiocese, but actual attendance limits will be set by each parish with respect to local restrictions and ensuring proper social distancing can still be maintained between families.
  • A separate line for distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue is permitted, but please adhere to the protocols put in place by the parish.

The current guidelines are effective October 1, 2020. Below is an updated Q&A for parishioners.

The dispensation from the Sunday and Holy Day obligation is still in effect. Further details and guidance will be provided before that changes, but Catholics should be doing an examination of their consciences to discern if they have serious reasons to continue staying home from Sunday Mass. If not, they should be resuming more regular Sunday attendance, space permitting at their parish.

Questions for discernment:

  • Do I have any health risk factors, or are there people who I live with or care for who have increased risk factors, that create a legitimate reason for me to not attend public Masses? Or, have I been using the dispensation simply as an excuse to stay home?
  • The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that individuals can be “excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants).” (CCC 2181) Has the pandemic created a serious reason for me that I should continue to stay home from Mass?
  • Is my willingness to go to Mass similar to my willingness to enter into other public spaces? Have I have resumed other activities, but not attending Mass?

IMPORTANT: People who are sick, symptomatic, or have recently been exposed to the coronavirus should stay home as it is an act of Christian charity to safeguard the health of others.

Attendance at Masses will still have restrictions to ensure proper social distancing between families. Capacity for services will be determined by local regulations and by the number of people and households who can be safely distanced from each other in any space.

Each parish will determine what scheduling and attendance procedures are necessary, so it is important that you stay connected to your parish via the parish website, email, Flocknote, social media, etc.

Catholics who aren’t able to go to Mass should continue to keep the Sabbath holy with intentional time in prayer including engagement in the readings for the day, which may be enhanced through watching a pre-recorded or livestreamed Mass and making a spiritual communion.

What

There are still some TEMPORARY liturgical changes including no hand holding, physically exchanging a sign of peace, or use of holy water. A solo cantor or choir of no more than four people can be used, but congregational singing should be limited.

The distribution of the Precious Blood is still suspended, but distributing Holy Communion on the tongue is allowed if it is in one separate line and happens after everyone else has received. Please follow the instructions of your pastor for lining up and receiving in a safe manner.

MASKS: Out of compliance, caution, and charity for one another, the faithful should continue to follow the mask-mandate for their area during public Masses. For the priest and deacon, it seems prudent to wear a mask for the procession, during the distribution of communion, the recession, and when greeting people after Mass.

Where

Archbishop Aquila has granted a ‘Dispensation of Place’ for parishes to be able to utilize other spaces for Masses including gymnasiums, parish halls and outdoor spaces. Parishioners are asked to avoid congregating in entry ways and should be mindful of social distancing in narrow hallways, bathroom entrances, etc., especially if multiple spaces are being utilized.

How

Acting with love and charity towards each other, we will continue to take appropriate steps to keep our parishes as safe as possible, and we ask for everyone’s cooperation and understanding as pastors and their staffs navigate this challenging time.

Stay connected with your parish to learn their specific policies and protocols for attending Mass and remember that there will be differences from parish to parish.

Let’s keep our trust in the Lord, to see this through until we can gather again in full.

COMING UP: Preparing your Home and Heart for the Advent Season

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The Advent season is a time of preparation for our hearts and minds for the Lord’s birth on Christmas.  It extends over the four Sundays before Christmas.  Try some of these Ideas to celebrate Advent in your home by decorating, cooking, singing, and reading your way to Christmas. Some of the best ideas are the simplest.

Special thanks to Patty Lunder for putting this together!

Advent Crafts

Handprint Advent Wreath for Children 
Bring the meaning of Advent into your home by having your kids make this fun and easy Advent wreath.

Materials
Pink and purple construction paper
– Yellow tissue or construction paper (to make a flame)
– One piece of red construction paper cut into 15 small circles
– Scissors
– Glue
– Two colors of green construction paper
– One paper plate
– 2 empty paper towel tubes

1. Take the two shades of green construction paper and cut out several of your child’s (Children’s) handprints. Glue the handprints to the rim of a paper plate with the center cut out.

2. Roll one of the paper towels tubes in purple construction paper and glue in place.

3. Take the second paper towel and roll half in pink construction paper and half in purple construction and glue in place.

4. Cut the covered paper towel tubes in half.

5. Cut 15 small circles from the red construction paper. Take three circles and glue two next to each other and a third below to make berries. Do this next to each candle until all circles are used.

6. Cut 4 rain drop shapes (to make a flame) from the yellow construction paper. Each week glue the yellow construction paper to the candle to make a flame. On the first week light the purple candle, the second week light the second purple candle, the third week light the pink candle and on the fourth week light the final purple candle.

A Meal to Share during the Advent Season

Slow-Cooker Barley & Bean Soup 

Make Sunday dinner during Advent into a special family gathering with a simple, easy dinner. Growing up in a large family, we knew everyone would be together for a family dinner after Mass on Sunday. Let the smells and aromas of a slow stress-free dinner fill your house and heart during the Advent Season. Choose a member of the family to lead grace and enjoy an evening together. This is the perfect setting to light the candles on your Advent wreath and invite all to join in a special prayer for that week.

Ingredients:
– 1 cup dried multi-bean mix or Great Northern beans, picked over and rinsed
– 1/2 cup pearl barley (Instant works great, I cook separate and add at end when soup is done)
– 3 cloves garlic, smashed
– 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
– 2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
– 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
– 1 bay leaf
– Salt to taste
– 2 teaspoons dried Italian herb blend (basil, oregano)
– Freshly ground black pepper
– One 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, with juice
– 3 cups cleaned baby spinach leaves (about 3 ounces)
– 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, extra for garnish

1. Put 6 cups water, the beans, barley, garlic, carrots, celery, onions, bay leaf, 1 tablespoons salt, herb blend, some pepper in a slow cooker. Squeeze the tomatoes through your hands over the pot to break them down and add their juices. Cover and cook on high until the beans are quite tender and the soup is thick, about 8 hours. 

2. Add the spinach and cheese, and stir until the spinach wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. 

3. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve with a baguette.