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: From rare books to online resources, archdiocesan library has long history of service to students

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National Library Week, observed this year from April 4 to April 10, is the perfect occasion to highlight the essential role of libraries and library staff in strengthening our communities – and our very own Cardinal Stafford Library at the Archdiocese of Denver is no exception.  

Since 1932, the library has served as a religious, intellectual, and cultural resource for seminarians and students at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver.

As the library of the seminary, we are always responsible for the four dimensions of the priestly formation of our seminarians. The library is charged with being responsible to all the divisions of the Seminary: the Lay Division (Catholic Biblical School and Catholic Catechetical School), the Permanent Deacon Formation Division, and the Priestly Formation Division, said Stephen Sweeney, Library Director. 

In addition to being one of the main resources to the seminary, the Cardinal Stafford Library serves the needs of other educational programs in the Archdiocese of Denver, including the St. Francis School for Deacons, the Biblical School, the Catechetical School and the Augustine Institute. While the library is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was previously open to anyone, giving people access to more than 150,000 books, audios, and videos. 

The Cardinal Stafford Library was named after Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, Apostolic Penitentiary at the Vatican and former Archbishop of Denver from 1986 to 1996. He was a dedicated advocate of the library and of Catholic education.

In 1932, the library was established by two seminarians, Maurice Helmann and Barry Wogan. While they were not the first seminarians to conceive the idea of establishing a library, they are considered the founders for undertaking its organization.  

Since its founding, the library has grown and compiled a fine collection of resources on Catholic theology, Church history, biblical studies, liturgy, canon law, religious art, philosophy, and literature. Special collections include over 500 rare books dating back to the early 16th century and many periodicals dating back to the 1800s. The oldest publication in the library is a book on excommunication published in 1510. The Cardinal Stafford Library is also home to various relics and holds bills personally written by some of those saints.  

Over the past few years, the library has undergone a process of beautification through various renovations that include improvements in lighting, flooring, and even furniture restoration. During these difficult times, libraries are doing their best to adapt to our changing world by expanding their digital resources to reach those who don’t have access to them from home. 

The Cardinal Stafford Library provides a community space; we subscribe to about 200 print journals and have access to literally thousands more through online resources available on campus computers, Sweeney added. “I have been the Library Director for almost 11 years. I absolutely love my work, especially participating in the intellectual formation of the faithful from all of the dioceses we serve”.  

For more information on the Cardinal Stafford Library, visit: sjvdenver.edu/library 

Featured photo by Andrew Wright