Fr. Norbert writes: Fr. Tony and I have spent some time reflecting on how we can respond to the Government’s permission for Mass to be celebrated in public in the light of the guidelines published by the Bishops’ Conference. It is complicated and a minefield of restrictions! I had hoped to have outdoor Mass but there has been so much rain recently!
At the heart of everything is keeping people safe and confident in coming to church. Moreover, we want to make Mass accessible to as many people as possible.
FACE COVERINGS MUST BE WORN.
Until further notice the Public Mass schedule will be as follows:-
St. Bonaventure’s - as a building - is small and would not hold many people in present circumstances. We reckon Holy Family would take around 70 people and Our Lady’s 80. Both churches also have car parks which is an important consideration.
The Bishops have made it very clear that the Sunday Obligation to attend Mass has been suspended and they ask people to consider coming to ONE MASS PER WEEK to allow others a chance to attend Mass. So, if a weekday morning works well, come on Tuesday or Thursday. If you can come after the working day, choose Monday or Friday evening. If these days are out of the question, then opt for a weekend Mass. But please only ONE. The Cardinal speaks of Catholics having to make a ‘sacrifice’ in the current situation. This will have to be the case here in Welwyn Garden City.
Mass will be different! As you arrive there will be stewards outside to make sure people respect distancing and to take contact details (name and phone number which will be held securely for 21 days). Stewards will sanitise hands on entry. More stewards will lead you to places. People will have to sit in their ‘bubbles’, that is as couples, families or households. We have single chairs for individuals. We ask that you only sit or stand in your place and do not use the kneeler. Once the church has reached its capacity, we would not be allowed to admit any more. Parents are asked to keep a watchful eye on their children at all times. Remember toilets will not be available. The galleries in both churches will not be open. There will not be Mass-books or printed newsletters. Give yourselves time to park and prepare to enter the church - arrive EARLY!
The structure of the Mass will be simplified so that people are not in an enclosed place for longer than 30 minutes: no singing or music, no Second Reading or Bidding Prayers, no Gloria or Creed, no collection, Offertory procession or Sign of Peace, no Communion from the Chalice, no altar servers, no lighting of votive candles. At the time of Holy Communion, the priest will say to the whole congregation ‘The Body of Christ’ to which you will all respond ‘Amen’. Only the priest will receive at that point. After the Blessing and Dismissal, stewards will guide people from their benches to the front of the sanctuary, keeping distance at all times. Those who wish to receive Holy Communion may only receive in the hand with no words uttered by priest or communicant and then you will leave the church - in Holy Family by the doors either side of the sanctuary, and in Our Lady’s by the side door on the left and by the ‘Holy Door’ at the back on the right. Even those not receiving Holy Communion must follow this flow. As you exit the church, the stewards will sanitise your hands. We have been told that you cannot congregate outside but must make your way home. We ask you to respect the stewards who are your fellow parishioners and will be doing their best to facilitate the whole process.
Only the priest will prepare the vessels for Mass and the ciboria (with hosts) will have their lids on until Holy Communion is distributed at the end.
After each Mass there will have to be cleaning teams to sanitise everything which has had human contact and to prepare the church for the next Mass. Any property left behind will be disposed of. Priests have been told not to greet their people for the sake of everyone’s protection. We have purchased masks, plastic aprons and gloves for stewards and cleaners as well as sufficient sanitising and cleaning materials. You do not have to wear a mask. If you want to, bring your own.
So there we are!! In the course of a week a huge number of people will be able to have access to Mass in Welwyn Garden City. We hope that anyone entering our churches will trust that Fr. Tony and I have done all we can to keep you safe and have a holy encounter with the Lord in the Eucharist. We think that this schedule is sustainable for a longer period and allows for one priest to keep things going should the other be unwell or take a break. In the meantime, there will still be Wednesday’s Facebook Mass at 9.30am and Sunday’s ‘full’ Mass streamed at 10 o’clock (but recorded earlier!) Some of you may not feel ready to return because of health issues or because you care for someone who is vulnerable. Others might still be afraid and this is totally understandable. If you think you have the virus, please do NOT come and put others at risk.
CONFESSION The Cardinal reminds all Catholics that in order to receive Holy Communion, a ‘good’ Act of Contrition will suffice and then to find an opportunity at a later stage to go to Confession. On the days when public Mass is celebrated, Fr. Tony and Fr. Norbert will NOT be able to hear Confessions before or after Mass. However, this week Fr. Tony (01707 327434) will be available for Confession on Tuesday 7th July at Holy Family and Fr. Norbert (01707 323234) on Friday 10th July at Our Lady’s. You are asked to telephone whichever priest to make an appointment. Confession will be outside the church building with priest and penitent standing; every attempt will be made to keep distance and reduce the risk of infection either way, while respecting the confidentiality of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The church will NOT be open for prayer after. We ask you to have patience and generosity of spirit if things get complicated time-wise!