As part of the Governor’s Phase I reopening of the state, East Boston’s houses of worship were allowed to resume Mass with some strict restrictions on May 24. Because many large congregations in other parts of the country disobeyed social distancing orders and continued regular worship services that led to COVID-19 flare-ups among parishioners, the state, city and Archdiocese of Boston are being extra cautious.
In Eastie, Holy Redeemer, Sacred Heart and St. Joseph-St, Lazarus Churches all assumed Mass with a 40 percent capacity.
“Places of worship are allowed to open starting this week, at 40 percent capacity and with strict distancing practices and face coverings,” said Mayor Martin Walsh. “Places of worship must take a very cautious approach and are urged to not reopen if they have doubts about being able to plan, implement, and monitor strict safety guidelines. The Statewide “Safer at Home” policy remains in place, which advises against people 65 and older leaving home unless absolutely necessary. The Mayor urged seniors to adhere to the advisory and hold off on going back to places of worship, even if services restart. He also asked faith leaders to reach out to their elderly parishioners, to guide them and support them in putting safety first, and keep them connected in other ways.”
The Mayor added that the City has been getting questions about church choirs and hymns. The Mayor said they shouldn’t happen yet, given the added risk of virus transmission from singing in addition to speaking. Face coverings must be worn at all times.
Last week the Archdiocese of Boston released to parishes a video demonstrating how Catholics can help to keep each other safe as Churches re-open this coming weekend.
The Evangelization and Discipleship Secretariat produced a three-minute video and it shows what parishioners need to do from the moment they arrive in the Church parking lot, to entering the Church, how congregants will be social distancing, reception of Communion and how to exit the Church at the conclusion of Mass.
The video can be found at https://vimeo.com/421142581
“The resumption of Mass in our Churches is a joyful moment for our parishes,” said Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap. “It is very important that, as we welcome parishioners back we do so with the health and safety of all in mind. Throughout this pandemic and for many months to follow we will be adjusting to a new way of doing things. We need to take care of each other now more than ever, confident that with the help of God we will emerge from this crisis to continue the mission entrusted to us by Jesus Christ.”
Rev. Paul Soper, Secretary for Evangelization & Discipleship and leading the process of reopening Churches, said, “This is an extraordinary time for our people as we begin the process of returning to public Mass in our Churches. Our priests, parishioners, parish staff and volunteers have all responded to this opportunity with safety and the health of the community a priority. We ask for the patience, cooperation and prayers of the entire Catholic community as we begin this steady and slow return to gathering together in prayer.”
The dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation will continue for the foreseeable future. Like Walsh, Cardinal O’Malley strongly encouraged people in vulnerable populations, especially the elderly and those with complicated physical conditions, to continue to watch Mass from their homes on their parish’s social media platforms or on CatholicTV.
“The Archdiocese has consistently stated that we will work collaboratively with local and state officials during this crisis and we will continue to comply with their guidance and mandates devised to restart community activity while continuing to fight the virus and keep people safe,” said Cardinal O’Malley.