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WNY Catholics prepare for limited re-opening of churches

New rules from NYS allow small gatherings and parking lot services
Posted at 10:58 AM, May 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-21 19:04:38-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — As New York State moves ahead with its plan to reopen in phases, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that churches can now have small religious services with less than 10 people and conduct drive-thru/parking lot services.

The rules are welcome news for the 600,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Buffalo which issued the following statement concerning its 161 parishes:

"We welcome the news that churches may begin welcoming back in small numbers those who are eager for the spiritual nourishment that our parishes provide,” said Reverend Seán Paul Fleming, the Diocese’s Director of Worship who has been leading the Diocesan working group on reopening plans.

“We will be supporting our pastors throughout this process, mindful of the need to ensure that they do everything possible to mitigate the risks of the ongoing threat of the coronavirus, especially for those most vulnerable. Our many parishes across Western New York will need time to implement the necessary precautions and ensure that there is a consistent approach for safeguarding the health and safety of all who will now once again gather for liturgies and participation in the Church’s sacraments.”

You can read the full plan for Catholic churches in WNY by clicking on this link.

The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass and other Holy Days of Obligation remains in effect and the opportunity to participate in live-streamed Masses can be found at: Live-Streamed Masses. [buffalodiocese.org]

Under the 'Forward with Faith' plan, Catholics will see the following changes when churches do reopen:

  • Prayer books and hymnals are being removed
  • Everyone age 2 and older must wear a mask
  • Holy Water fonts emptied and covered
  • Singing and choirs are suspended
  • No altar servers
  • No processions through the church
  • Limited decorations
  • No passing the basket for collections
  • People will be seated so they maintain a safe social distance
  • People must wear masks and stay 6-feet apart when going to communion
  • Eucharistic wafers will be dropped and not placed into hands to avoid skin-to-skin contact
  • Hand sanitizer will be available throughout the church
  • Floors will be marked to show 6-foot distances
  • Mass times may be adjusted to account for the proper cleaning and sanitizing of the church before and after every Mass
  • Capacity will be limited depending on the church's size
  • Volunteers who help prepare the celebration of the Mass must wear gloves and face masks
  • Masses might be celebrated in larger or outdoor areas
  • No sign of peace greeting where people shake hands
  • Distribution of the Precious Blood is suspended
  • Greeting of the congregation at the door is discouraged
  • Confession outside the church may be offered as penitents remain in their cars with the priest at a 6-foot distance from an open car window.