During the past week, I have been involved in many discussions about the best ways to slowly resume public worship in our churches. As I’ve said before, this needs to be a gradual process. Allowing churches to reopen for individual prayer and adoration was a small step in this direction. But health authorities continue to warn that the coronavirus will be with us for some time. We need to meet the spiritual needs of our people, but we must do it in safe ways. While it remains the hope of Minnesota’s Catholic bishops to open our churches more broadly after Governor Walz’s current stay-at-home order expires May 18, the process to do this requires careful planning.
Accompanying this letter is a document that was developed by our Office of Worship in consultation with the Diocesan Liturgical Commission to help you begin planning for the time when we are able to resume public Masses that adhere to physical distancing and other safety requirements. Please use the requirements and recommendations listed in the document to help you create a plan for starting public Masses in your parish(es). The plan should address each of the document’s balded topic headings (“Preparing our Space,” “Ministers,” “Order of the Mass,” etc.). After you complete a plan for each of your parishes, please submit your plan(s) for my approval by emailing them to Colleen Haider in my office at email@example.com. Public Masses may begin in a parish only after I have signed off on the plan.
My intent with this process is not to micromanage but to ensure that all of our parishes take the necessary steps for protecting the health and safety of all – including the most vulnerable whom we are especially called to care for – while upholding the dignity of the liturgy.
Please note: These plans are for regular weekday and Sunday Masses only. I am still working on parameters for wedding and funeral Masses. In the meantime, you may continue to preside at wedding and funerals in the church outside of Mass. Also, because visitor restrictions in hospitals and nursing homes remain, Masses in hospitals and nursing homes will not be available to the general public until visitor restrictions are lifted at some point in the future.
An additional suggestion: You might consider beginning with weekday Masses for a time before resuming Sunday Masses. This would give you an opportunity to spread out the numbers attending Mass, determine what is working well with your plan, and see what might need to be adjusted before celebrating Sunday Masses with larger assemblies.
All Catholics remain dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days until further notice. Please communicate this to your parishioners, especially those most at risk of severe illness because of COVID-19 – older parishioners and those with underlying health conditions – and anyone else who is not yet comfortable participating in public Masses. If you are currently livestreaming Masses, please consider continuing this practice for the benefit of these parishioners.
If you have questions or need additional guidance, please feel free to contact Aaron Carpenter in the Office of Worship at (firstname.lastname@example.org; 320-255-9068), or Father Rolfes (email@example.com; 320-251-2340).
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Donald J. Kettler
Bishop of Saint Cloud