Catholic churches plan reopening strategy

The Catholic Dioceses of Sioux Falls and Rapid City are making preparations to resume public mass.

“What is most important for you to know at this time is that the decision on when parishioners may resume their participation in Holy Mass in their parish church and their reception of Holy Communion will be made by your pastor, in consultation with guidelines that we will be providing them at the diocesan level,” they said in a joint statement.

“Determining the date when public masses will begin in each parish will include developing a plan for implementation, setting up procedures for maintaining social distancing and proper hygiene and communicating all of this to parishioners.”

Public masses will not begin before May 15, they said.

The diocese still is providing dispensation to worshippers from attending mass on Sunday until further notice.

“This measure is in place so you can prudently discern your own attendance,” it said in a statement. “If you feel unsafe, you should feel no guilt or shame in staying home. Similarly, you should feel a freedom to permit others who are comfortable attending to do so.”

Masses likely will resume at varying times in the coming weeks and will be announced by individual parishes, it said.

“We ask for your understanding: anyone who enters our churches or chapels are expected to follow the social distancing and personal hygiene practices so that we all respect the physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being of others who are also in attendance,” the statement said.

“We ask for your patience: communities have been affected differently by COVID-19 and each parish is unique. There is no uniform sanctuary size or parish demographic. Priests also vary in their physical health. For reasons like these, each diocese will create separate guidance for parishes.”

The diocese also provided guidance for churches and church attendees in announcing upcoming changes.

Seating will be adjusted, according to the guidelines. Options include limiting seating to about 30 percent of the church’s capacity, marking off six-foot distances in pews, having ushers and other staff maintain distance, wiping down door handles and pews in between services or propping doors open.

Parishioners should be encouraged to wear a mask in the worship space and sanitize their hands before entering, the diocese said.

Instead of passing baskets for an offertory, baskets should be stationed near the entrance.

Those concerned about receiving communion are not required to receive it, and those distributing it should wear masks and sanitize their hands. The line for communion also should be spaced apart.

Pastors also are encouraged to offer additional mass times if needed to accommodate parishioners while maintaining distancing, and there should no social gatherings on church property after liturgies.

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Catholic churches plan reopening strategy

The Catholic Dioceses of Sioux Falls and Rapid City are making preparations to resume public mass.

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