What to expect when public Mass resumes

Closing the doors was simple – opening them back up will take thought and understanding 

Denver Catholic Staff

As painful as the decision was to suspend all public Masses in the Archdiocese of Denver, the process was straight-forward and necessary for the common good. 

When health restrictions are eased and we are able to start gathering together again, it is important for everyone to understand that things won’t immediately go back to normal. 

Health experts and elected officials are currently determining new guidelines and restrictions for the next weeks and months, and at the same time the Archdiocese of Denver is planning for how public Masses will be celebrated with respect to any new regulations 

We know the desire to return to your parishes, participate in the liturgy, and receive the Eucharist is incredibly strong, but we ask that everyone approach this next phase with a patient, loving and charitable mindset.  

The specific details of when public Mass will resume and how it will look are still being determined, but here are five things for everyone to be prepared for. 

1. Attendance will be limited. We know restrictions will remain on holding large gatherings, so we are working with parishes to determine a fair way to cap attendance for Masses. It is important for people to register to receive communications from their parish so they will know how their parish is going to handle how many people can attend any given Mass and who those people may bee.g., sign-up systemsassigned days, etc. No one should expect to be able to attend Mass with regularity.

2. Social Distancing will be practiced. Expect that your parish will have pews/rows that are taped off, and that families will be asked to keep six feet of separation from other familiesBe prepared to wear a mask to Mass to guard against germ spread. If you are showing any symptoms of sickness, please stay home.  

3. Liturgical changes will be in place. Similar to protocols established in early March, extra precautions will be taken, like suspending the distribution of the Precious Blood and receiving Holy Communion only on the hand.  

4. A general dispensation from the Sunday obligation will remain. For at-risk groups, those who have symptoms, and anyone who feels safer staying at home, no one will be required to attend. Because your family might only be able to attend Mass on an irregular basis, and not necessarily on Sundayplan to continue to keep the Sabbath holy by participating in livestream and pre-recorded Masses

5. There still will be a risk for anyone who attends a public Mass. Even with best health practices and strict social distancing, anyone who enters a public space should recognize there is a risk of contracting the coronavirus. Improved cleaning will occur at our churches, but no one should expect that they will be any safer from germs than other public spaces.

Finally, let’s strive for progress and not perfection. There will no doubt be challenges and frustrations. Your family might not be able to attend Mass the first few weeks it resumes. A parish might have a sign-up blunder and things won’t go according to plan. But we believe following these guidelines is a reasonable sacrifice. As we see numbers flatten and decrease, we are beginning to sense the situation improving. For the interest of the common good, and ultimately to best serve our own community, we do not want to contribute to a rebound effect that would actually push normalized Mass attendance even further into the future.

So if we all work together, we can ease back into this and continue to incrementally add more people and options. However, if we look for ways to get around the regulations, we will likely create situations that force us to take steps back.

*Information in this article accurate as of April 21, 2020. 

COMING UP: Thomas Fitzsimons: The unsung Catholic Founding Father 

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As our nation celebrates the day of its independence and subsequent founding as a country on July 4, a look back some lesser-knowCatholic history of this historic event seems warranted.  

George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin: these are names every American knows. Pull out your wallet and you’ll likely see at least one of their faces on the money you carry aroundAnd while this nation was founded on principles rooted in Christianity, none of these men were Catholic. In fact, of the men history calls the Founding Fathers of America, only two were. 

Many may already be familiar with Founding Father Charles Carroll, a Catholic and signer of the Declaration of Independence, and whose brother John was the first Catholic bishop assigned to what would become the United States. However, Carroll was not the only Catholic who played a role in the founding of our country. The other was Thomas Fitzsimons, a name that is not mentioned much (if at all) in U.S. history classes but deserves to be recognized nonetheless.  

The unwieldy named Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, published in 1887, paints a vivid picture of Fitzsimons and the way his faith informed his character. While the other Founding Fathers were meeting and deliberating about the Declaration of Independence, Fitzsimons joined the Continental Army anfought on the frontlines against the British army. 

Captain Fitzsimons commanded his company of militia until 1778, when France entered the war. British troops withdrew from Pennsylvania and began to focus on the southern states. It was at this time that Fitzsimons became more involved in politics at the state level. In 1782, he became a delegate at the Continental Congress. In 1786, he was elected as a Pennsylvania state legislator and served for three terms until 1789. In 1787, he was selected to represent Pennsylvania at the Constitutional Congress, where the United States Constitution was written and ratified. He, along with Daniel Carroll, were the only two Catholics to sign to Constitution. 

Born in Belfast, Ireland in 1741, not much else is known about Fitzsimons’ family. He had three brothers – Nicholas, Andrew and John – and one sister, Ann. He and his family immigrated to America as early as 1760, where they became residents of Philadelphia. It was here that Fitzsimons would stake his claim as a businessman and politician. 

In 1763, Fitzsimons married Catharine Meade, whose brother, George Meade, would later go into business with Fitzsimons and build one of the most successful commercial trade houses in Philadelphia. Throughout his life, Fitzsimons was in close correspondence with Bishop John Carrollthese letters revealed insights into the Catholic Founding Father’s personal life. In a letter to Bishop Carroll in 1808, Fitzsimons wrote of being married to Catharine for 45 years. Additionally, local baptismal records show that he and Catharine stood as sponsors at the baptisms of three of Meade’s children. 

In 1774, Fitzsimons began his first foray into politics when he was elected as one of 13 Provincial Deputies who were given authority to call a general meeting of the citizens. It is believed he was the first Catholic to have ever held public office in the budding United States. Even so, anti-Catholic bigotry was common at the time and did exist within some of his fellow statesmen, such as John Adams, who once said in an address to the people of Great Britain that the Catholic faith was “a religion that has deluged your island in blood and dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellion through every part of the world.” 

Fitzsimons’ first stint in public office was brief, only lasting from May to July, but it was a foreshadowing his future involvement in state affairs. As the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Fitzsimons formed a company of soldiers to fight against the British army. He was assigned to the Third Battalion under Col. Cadwalader and Lieut. Col. John Nixon, who was the grandson of a Catholic. Behind the scenes, as George Washington and the like organized committees and framed what would become the Declaration of Independence, Fitzsimons ascended to the rank of Captain and continued to serve his country as a soldier and patriot.

In addition to his tenure as a commanding officer and politician, Fitzsimons also found success in other ventures. In 1781, he helped found the Bank of North America, the United States’ first de facto central bank, and served as its director until 1803. The latter years of his life were spent primarily in private business, but he maintained a consistent interest in public affairs; even Fitzsimons wasn’t exempt from the old adage, “once a politician, always a politician.” 

Through all of these endeavors, and even after befalling troubled financial times in the early 1800s, Fitzsimons remained a diligent philanthropist. He gave immense support to St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia and was invested in the improvement of public education in the commonwealth. As one of his contemporaries wrote after his death in 1811, “he died in the esteem, affection and gratitude of all classes of his fellow citizens.” 

Fitzsimons was buried in the graveyard of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia, which is now part of Independence National Historical Park. His name may not be a household one like Washington or Jefferson, but Fitzsimons can be remembered as something of an unsung Founding Father of the United Statesa man whose life of quiet faith, humble service and admirable patriotism exemplifies the values that this country was founded upon in a simple yet profound way.