Parish Reopening Guidelines

Effective Immediately: All Churches In, Fresno, Madera, Merced, Kings And Tulare Counties Are To Be Closed – Including Parish Offices.

Governor Newsom has ordered the stopping of all inside church services, effective immediately.

** Kern, Inyo And Mariposa Counties Are To Remain Open Per Diocesan Covid-19 Guidelines.


Below are the only church services that can be accommodated at this time:

  • Inside live streaming or taped church services. A maximum of ten persons can be onsite/ inside the church- this number includes all essential crew and religious personnel to complete the live stream or taped church Mass.
  • Outside church Masses can continue if the outside temperature is 90 degrees or under.
  • A Maximum of 100 parishioners are allowed at any one Mass gathering- No exceptions.
  • Due to the temperature of summer- please have lots of water available.
  • Bathrooms must also be open and cleaned regularly after each Mass.
  • Facemasks are required- No exceptions- (Per previous Diocesan COVID-19 Guide).
  • 6- foot distancing is required- No exceptions.
  • NO SINGING IS ALLOWED- EVEN OUTSIDE- NO EXCEPTIONS.
  • Due to mask requirements please set up a station- side area with water and shade for persons feeling heat exhaustion or if fainting occurs.
  • Congregants are encouraged to bring their own chairs.
  • All sacrament Masses are allowed outside- Baptism, Wedding, Funeral, First Communion and Confirmation- if the proper social distancing and all safety guidelines are adhered to.
  • No drive through Masses are allowed.
  • Only essential office personnel can come to work at this time.
  • The church offices are CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC – NO EXCEPTIONS.

A more detailed amendment to the Diocese of Fresno COVID-19 guidelines (below) will be out before this week’s end with additional guidelines regarding COVID-19 outbreak guides and specific concerns.

GOD Bless you, be strong and be healthy!

Most Reverend Joseph V. Brennan, D.D.

Getting Started

“We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works.
We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NABRE)

1. Introduction

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It has been quite the journey for all of us. The ‘shutting down’ and ‘sheltering in place’ mandates were drastic, immediate and difficult. All of that certainly took us by surprise and I suspect we can resonate with this year’s Holy Week message from Pope Francis as he spoke of the storm that we did not anticipate. He also reminded us that in the midst of this storm too, we have not been ‘in the boat’ alone and abandoned. Jesus himself encourages us to reach out in faith as he calms the storm with a word and rebuke.

I am so happy to write to you and say that we are on the cusp of reopening. By necessity, this reopening will be incremental and prolonged, literally one step at a time. The following guidelines have been put together to help all of us in that process so that we may open up again in a safe and responsible way. These guidelines have also been crafted to help all of our locations to be in compliance with whatever regulations and mandates come to us by way of civil authorities, be they city, county, state or federal. With that in mind, and now that these diocesan guidelines have been published, you may begin the process of reopening at your earliest convenience even if we do not do so at exactly the same time. Again, this is with the understanding that all diocesan and civil requirements are observed. We hope for and anticipate an official, that is, diocesan wide reopening for the Feast of Corpus Christi on the weekend of June 13 and 14, 2020.

I know that this has been a long time coming. I also know that you have been under a lot of stress and pressure. You have been heroic and creative in your response to all of this, most especially in the way that you have discovered new ways to nourish and sustain your faith and help others to do so. You are so good and I am so grateful!

God bless you, always and all ways.
In Christ,
Bishop Brennan


2. Epidemic, Pandemic And Outbreak Preparedness

General Guidelines

Measuring The Church Building For Proper Social Distancing

The maximum capacity indoors is to be calculated using the posted building capacity. Attendees (including assembly, clergy, and ministers) must not exceed 25% of building capacity or a maximum of 100 participants whichever is lower. This capacity excludes the crying room and any other closed space, and should be posted for all parishioners to view: online, social media, on signs on the church building, etc. This mandate is in effect until further notice by the Bishop.

Principles For Distancing Gatherings

  • All clergy and ministers must maintain a six-foot radial distance at all times.
  • Seating for the assembly must allow for a minimum of six-feet between households in all directions. Members of the same household must arrive together and may be seated together with no distancing.
  • Every other pew should be closed off to allow for proper distancing.
  • Block off areas where people should not be sitting or standing.
  • Only essential persons need to assist with Mass, such as ushers, greeters, servers, and volunteers.

Cleaning And Disinfecting Protocols

  • Hand sanitizer should be available at all entrances for parishioners to utilize or they can bring and use their own.
  • Restrooms must be sanitized after each service, and the number of people inside the restrooms at once be limited.
  • Custodial staff and volunteers should wear single use gloves and eye protection while cleaning or handling any used linens or vestments, which should be discarded after each cleaning. Hands should be washed for at least 20 seconds immediately after gloves are removed. They should also have basic eye protection from the solutions being handled.
  • For disinfection, diluted household bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol (according to CDC guidelines), and most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be used.
  • For soft (porous) surfaces, such as carpeted floors, rugs, and drapes, remove visible contamination if present and clean with appropriate cleaners. For seating that has cloth benches or kneelers, a disinfecting spray can be used to sanitize between services.
  • Alcohol-based disinfectants are recommended for wood surfaces. Bleach-based cleansers may damage wood surfaces.

Individual Controls Measures And Screening

  • All employees and volunteers will be screened before entering the building. Anyone who displays any symptoms should be sent home and not allowed to enter.
  • If someone is known to be caring for someone with symptoms of COVID-19, they too may not participate in the services until such care is completed and they have quarantined for 14 days.
  • Members of the assembly are asked to self-screen at home; signs should be posted in all areas, listing the symptoms of which they should be aware.

Supplies

It is suggested that each parish have a 15- day supply on hand of all necessary items for staff and volunteers before the first mass is celebrated. A complete list is found in the guidelines. The Pastoral Center has disposable face masks available for parishes. Contact the Risk Management office to request supplies.

The Holy Mass: Options for Mass

Parishes who have adequate space for mass outdoors, either in chairs or in cars, must consider the following:

  • Check with local authorities in advance of any worship services outside to ensure it is allowed.
  • Temperatures above 90 degrees or threat of rain will eliminate the option to have Mass outdoors.
  • The appropriate number of restrooms must be available for parishioners. They should be instructed before Mass of the location and how many can be in the restroom area at the same time.

Drive-In Services

Parishes with very small churches or without the resources or staff to properly disinfect the church building safely are allowed to celebrate a drive-in style service using the following guidelines:

  • Weather conditions are as listed above.
  • Assess and formulate parking procedures on the parish property. Determine the number of stalls that can be utilized and only allow that number of vehicles in the parking lot. It will be important to notify parishioners ahead of time that some may be turned away once the lot is full.
  • Vehicles must be a minimum of six feet apart. Every other parking stall should be used. Lots used may only be on pavement or bare dirt.
  • Establish a radio frequency to broadcast the service on, or prepare a speaker system that is large enough to be heard by all in the space. In this case, windows would need to be partially rolled down, therefore the six-foot distance will be crucial, and strictly adhered.
  • The parking lot should be guided by ushers and volunteers who maintain social distance. Parking attendants should be immediately distinguished from other parishioners.
  • During the service, the parking attendants should constantly view the parking lot to monitor the social distancing and help those who are in need of any assistance. For liturgical adaptations, see section three of this document.

Outdoor Masses

Parishes with adequate space, such as a parking lot or gathering space, may consider celebrating Mass outside using the following guidelines:

  • Weather conditions are as listed above.
  • All guidelines for social distancing and wearing masks listed above must be followed.
  • Chairs used should be either metal or plastic chairs that can easily be cleaned. Parishioners should be encouraged not to bring their own chairs; if they do, they must be the only ones using their chairs to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Cones, tape, or some other type of distinguishing markers need to be set up in advance to set out space for people to be at a distance of six feet at all times. These should be organized in rows, to provide an efficient method of entering, exiting, and Communion distribution.
  • Provisions must be made for any parishioners who have difficulty walking, making sure all pathways are safe and handicap accessible.
  • If a location other than parish property will be used for outdoor Masses, contact the Risk Management Office for approval and certificate of insurance

Celebrations Other than Sunday/Weekday Liturgies

All celebrations must adhere to the same safety guidelines listed above. Participants may not exceed the calculated capacity of 25% of building capacity or 100 participants, whichever is lower.

Confessions

Confessions may be heard in a church, as long as a 6-foot distance between the priest and penitent is maintained. In this case, avoid gatherings of more than the allotted number of people in the church, with people at least 6 feet apart. A location must be prepared for those waiting, using the proper distancing.
“Drive through” confessions are also possible: penitents remain in their cars with the car window open while the priests hear their confession from a 6-foot distance from the car window. Mobile phones should not be used to facilitate priest/penitent communication, since this may undermine the validity of the sacrament, and also is subject to breaches of the confessional seal. Weather conditions must be as listed above.

Sacraments Of Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation And Matrimony; Funerals

The listed celebrations may be celebrated following the same guidelines listed for liturgical celebrations, including the number in attendance, wearing of masks, and social distancing. Care should be taken to avoid physical contact as much as possible.

Parishes are advised to wait at least two weeks after opening to schedule any special celebrations. This gives time for the protocols set for the parish to be evaluated and changed if necessary.

Bishop Brennan has granted a temporary dispensation from the requirements of canon 932, permitting priests to celebrate Mass outside the sacred space of a church building. Parishes may utilize other spaces for Masses including gymnasiums, parish halls and outdoor spaces.

The celebration of the Sacrament of Matrimony still needs to be celebrated inside the church building. For more information please reach out to the marriage tribunal.

Anointing Of The Sick

Priests should only visit sick parishioners who are in dire need, that is, those who are in danger of death who have requested the Anointing of the Sick and perhaps in need of Viaticum. Again, as in all cases, every precaution should be taken by the priest in such circumstances.

3. Liturgical Guidelines

General Guiding Elements for all in attendance

  1. Parishioners over the age of 65, whose immune system is compromised, or who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 are encouraged to remain at home. The dispensation for Sunday Mass is still in place.
  2. All Safe Environment directives apply to the following guidelines.
  3. Wash hands thoroughly upon entering and exiting the Church building, as well as when entering and exiting the restroom.
  4. All parishioners over age 11 must wear a face mask while on parish grounds.
  5. Bring hand sanitizer to use as needed. Always maintain 6 foot radial distance between you and others.
  6. Please bring your donation in an envelope ready to be dropped off before or after Mass.
  7. Follow the instructions of the priest and ushers as you enter and exit the Church.
  8. Distribution of Holy Communion will only be in the hand for the time being. The Cup will not be shared, per our usual guidelines during regular flu season.

It is advisable that instructions be shared with the community via social media, email, and before Mass begins, so they are aware of the changes.

Before The Holy Mass begins: Indoors and Outdoors/drive-in

  1. Have hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap and water, or similar disinfectant readily available.
  2. Church doors (exit/entrance) should be propped open.
  3. No liturgical procession from the entrance of the church building.
  4. Liturgical books should be prepared in advance and placed either on the altar or on a book stand. Each priest uses his own books at this time.
  5. The presiding priest need not wear a mask, except during distribution of Holy Communion.
  6. Set up a corporal for each different priest to kiss the altar on.
  7. When the Mass is concelebrated, each priest should use and purify his own chalice (no communion by intinction allowed if sharing one chalice).
  8. The ciboria should be pre-filled with non-consecrated altar bread in the sacristy and placed on the credence table.
  9. Monitor the 6 foot radial distance in the sacristy.
  10. A Deacon may serve at Mass.
  11. If an altar server(s) is/are necessary, choose one(s) who is/are experienced and over the age of 12 who can maintain social distance requirements and wear a mask throughout the mass.
  12. No cantors or choirs should be used at this time. All mass responses will be recited.
  13. All rooms aside from the general worship space should be closed to the public, including the cry room.
  14. Install temporary markings (cones/tape), directing the flow of foot traffic in and out of the church, identifying only one entrance.

During The Holy Mass (celebrated in-doors).

  1. Do not shake hands at the sign of peace or hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer.
  2. Collection basket(s) should not be passed among parishioners.
  3. No offertory processions of bread and wine.
  4. The priest alone will elevate both the chalice and paten (ciborium) during the doxology within the Eucharistic Prayer, even if a deacon is present.
  5. No distribution of the Precious Blood to the faithful.
  6. All who are distributing Communion must wear a mask when giving communion.
  7. Multiple communion stations may be used as long as one-way traffic patterns and 6 foot radial social distancing are observed.
  8. Distribution of Communion for Presiders: Do not pack Holy Communion to go (No pyx allowed at this time). Do not give a blessing by making the sign of the Cross on the person’s forehead.
  9. Distribution of Communion for the Faithful: The use of personal hand sanitizer by parishioners before leaving the pew is encouraged. Communion should be consumed immediately in front of the Priest/Deacon/EMHC. After communion the mask should be raised immediately to cover both nose and mouth.
  10. After the final blessing ushers assist in the dismissal of parishioners according to the parish plan for and in a manner that allows for social distancing. \
  11. Do not distribute bulletins and other printed material(s).

After The Holy Mass (celebrated in-doors)

  1. Suspend all non-essential gatherings- no coffee and donuts at parish hall or any other location.
  2. Regularly and frequently clean and disinfect any regularly touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, tables, chairs, and restrooms (please use disposable gloves)
  3. Disinfect seats between services.
  4. Disinfect any items that come into contact with attendees and Priest(s), Deacon(s), and EMHC.
  5. If a church or place of worship provides meals for employees, volunteers, or attendees, they are recommended to have the meals individually packed for each employee, volunteer, or attendee.
  6. Maintain rigorous sanitation practices like disinfection, handwashing, and cleanliness.

4. Liturgical Guidelines: For Ministers

Lectors

  1. Those responsible for sanitizing the church, should not forget to sanitize the ambo, microphone, and any hand railings that the lector may use. The cover of the lectionary may also be cleaned if there are multiple liturgies.
  2. It is preferable that there be only one lector for both the first and second readings as well as the psalm. The psalm will not be sung at this time.
  3. The lector should wear a mask during the liturgy and remove it only when approaching the ambo, a suitable distance away from the assembly. If the lector is sitting in the sanctuary during the entire Mass, the mask may be removed before approaching the ambo

Cantors/Musicians

  1. Only instrumental or pre-recorded music should be used at this time. Only one person should be responsible for music at each Mass. There will be no cantors or choirs at this time.
  2. Care should be taken to sanitize all furniture and materials that are used, in the same way the rest of the church is sanitized. All should be encouraged to use their own copies of the music, or if available, digital copies, so that no music books are shared.
  3. In this time, although discouraged by the USCCB document, “Sing the Lord”, pre-recorded music is a valid option that can be used. If Mass is live-streamed, take care to only use music for which licensing is granted. Oregon Catholic Press has freely granted permission for OCP published music only. For more information, see https://www.ocp.org/en-us/covid-19-streaming-ocp-copyrights. To see a similar arrangement for GIA, please see https://www.giamusic.com/store/gia-cares-for-parishes.

Hospitality

There are to be no gatherings or hospitality at this time. This includes any information tables, food sales, or sign-ups that are usually seen after Mass.

Ushers

  1. Some ushers, because of age or high risk, should reconsider serving at this time.
  2. Ministers or parish staff should be at the doors while the assembly is entering, counting off the number of people entering the building. When capacity is reached, people must be asked to leave and return for another service. No one should be outside waiting for the next service.
  3. Ushers must be trained in the proper application of these guidelines, the seating plan for the church, and the plan for parishioners entering and leaving the church.
  4. Ushers must wear masks and disposable gloves throughout the celebration of the Mass (No children under the age of 12 are allowed to be ushers).
  5. Ushers should count those entering the church; once the seating capacity has been reached, ushers will direct people to an overflow area, if available. If no overflow area is available ushers should direct parishioners to attend the next available service.
  6. Ushers are to ensure that individuals are seated six feet apart from each other, unless they belong to a family unit, or are part of the same household. Individuals must maintain the six-foot radial distance from others not part of their family unit/household.
  7. Ushers will guide the faithful to receive Communion on the hand.
  8. Ushers assist in controlling the respectful dismissal of parishioners in a manner that allows for social distancing.
  9. Ushers will monitor collection baskets as people exit and deposit their donation

Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC)

  1. Some EMHC, because of age or high risk, should reconsider serving at this time.
  2. EMHC are reminded that their role in the liturgy is extraordinary. Priests and Deacons are the ordinary ministers of Communion, therefore if their presence is enough for efficient distribution of Communion, there is no need for EMHC.
  3. Wear a mask when giving Communion. The Priests, Deacons, and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion should wear a mask and sanitize their hands immediately prior to distributing Holy Communion and again after distribution to all.
  4. Multiple communion stations may be used as long as one-way traffic patterns and six-foot radial social distancing are observed.
  5. Distribution of Communion: Each parish will establish procedures for distribution of the Eucharist respecting these guidelines.
  6. No one will be permitted to reserve Holy Communion in a pyx to take to a homebound family member.

 

5. Considerations for Other Types of Gatherings

Note on Churches, chapels, shrines, and places of devotion:

These are to remain open to the extent possible for personal veneration by the faithful, especially where Jesus Christ is adored in the Blessed Sacrament. Each pastor or administrator should determine the hours during which the location may be kept open, ensuring security, staff presence, and sanitation.

Communal prayer, aside from the mass, should not be held at this time.

Faith Formation Sessions, Prayer Groups, or other gatherings

Guidelines for the gathering of prayer groups, bible study, or formation sessions will be provided when these are allowed. At present, no gatherings aside from Masses will take place.


Contents

Getting Started

1. Introduction – Bishop Brennan

2. Epidemic, Pandemic And Outbreak Preparedness

General Guidelines

The Holy Mass: Options for Mass

Celebrations Other than Sunday/Weekday Liturgies

3. Liturgical Guidelines

4. Liturgical Guidelines: For Ministers

5. Considerations for Other Types of Gatherings

Reopening Resources

Pastoral Messages and Policies

3/25/2020

3/18/2020

3/15/2020

3/13/2020