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A Tale of Two Dioceses: Same Threat, Different Responses

Last updated on September 9, 2020

A Friend from Lincoln, Nebraska, forwarded to me his diocese’s guidelines for the re-opening of churches. The differences between his diocese and ours is remarkable. Its not within the scope of this posting to examine the overall impact of Covid-19 in Nebraska, in comparison to the virus’ effect here in Ohio. Nonetheless, the mantra from government and media, more often one-in-the-same, is that the threat is the same no matter where you live. Of course, that threat is instantaneous death. But I digress…..

It does not strike me that any added commentary is needed. The memorandums speak for themselves, in more ways than one. Decide for yourself. 

The information from the Diocese of Lincoln was copied and pasted from their webpage. These are the only guidelines that appear on Lincoln’s website. Perhaps there is an expanded version, but this is all that appears to have been made public. 

The information from the Diocese of Cleveland was copied and pasted from a PDF linked from their webpage. The website uses multiple pages to convey the message. 

This posting may best be viewed on an actual computer if you are trying to read the content. But you’ll probably get the message regardless. 

Lincoln, Nebraska

Diocese of Lincoln Guidelines for Coronavirus (COVID-19) May 4, 2020
Guidelines and Safety Measures for Parishioners During Reopening

As of May 4, 2020, parishes and religious institutions are now permitted by the Governor to gather for the celebration of liturgies while practicing appropriate behaviors for containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. These guidelines are subject to change in the event of new instructions from local or state health officials and the Office of the Bishop.

While the Governor has loosened the restrictions on religious gatherings for worship, there may be DHMs issued by local health departments that are at variance with the statewide directive issued by the Governor. A decision to re-open an individual parish is left to the discretion of the pastor.

Here are the guidelines and safety measures for the Diocese of Lincoln during re-opening:

General Guidelines:
– The dispensation from the Sunday and Holy Day obligation remains in place.
– Gatherings are limited to the Sacred Liturgy, so all forms of public liturgies in churches are permitted.
– All other parish and school activities remain restricted, including after-Mass gatherings such as coffee and rolls, funeral luncheons, wedding receptions, etc. The Bishop has restricted outdoor Mass.

The following are encouraged to stay at home:
– The sick
– The elderly
– People with underlying medical conditions
– Family members who live with elderly people or those who are at risk
– People who have access to those at risk in nursing institutions
– People who have upper respiratory or flu like symptoms
– People who live with someone with upper respiratory or flu like symptoms
– People with COVID-19 or live with someone with COVID-19
– People who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19

Requested “Containment Practices” for those attending Mass:
– Family members sit together
– Sit in every other pew
– Cough in your sleeve
– Place your contribution envelope in the basket provided as you enter or exit the church. The ushers will not “take up the collection” during Mass
– No hand holding during the Our Father
– Sign of Peace is omitted
– Form a single file line with 6-foot intervals when processing forward to receive Holy Communion
– Follow the instructions of the ushers
– Avoid gathering in the vestibule or near the doors of the church following Mass
– If requested, assist with sanitizing the church and other public areas following Mass
– Attend Mass in your home parish

Cleveland, Ohio

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A Pastors Guide to Returning to Public Worship
in the Diocese of Cleveland – EXPANDED EDITION
Publicly Celebrated Mass during the Coronavirus Pandemic
The following liturgical directives are in effect temporarily and will be updated as new information
becomes available. Please continue to refer to this document on the diocesan website as we move
forward with Christ in the public celebration of Mass.
Public worship may begin in the Diocese of Cleveland on Monday, May 25.

As we prepare for the celebration of public worship in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we
commend ourselves and all the faithful to the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary, asking for her
intercession with her Son, Jesus the Christ. We pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic, for the
mitigation of suffering, and for a true renewal of faith in the minds and hearts of the people.
The sacrament of charity, the Holy Eucharist is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of
himself, thus revealing to us God’s infinite love for every man and woman. This
wondrous sacrament makes manifest that ‘greater’ love which led him to ‘lay down his
life for his friends’ (John 15:13): before dying for us on the Cross, Jesus tied a towel
around himself and washed the feet of his disciples. In the same way, Jesus continues, in
the sacrament of the Eucharist, to love us ‘to the end,’ even to offering us his body and
his blood. What amazement must the Apostles have felt in witnessing what the Lord did
and said during that Supper! What wonder must the Eucharistic mystery also awaken in
our own hearts! -Pope Benedict XVI (Sacramentum caritatis, 2007)
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We would suggest pastors prepare for a “both-and”
rather than “either-or” experience of liturgy.
Livestreaming and recorded messages should continue to
reach your parishioners until such time as it is completely
safe to return to publish worship.
The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday
Mass remains in effect.
Pastors may adjust the number of regularly scheduled
public Masses if pastorally advantageous, following the
law of the Church regarding bination and trination.
Priests who have concerns about presiding at public
worship due to age or underlying health reasons, or who
are unable to implement these instructions should
contact Fr. Don Oleksiak or Fr. Dan Schlegel.
In all circumstances, appropriate physical distancing, increased cleaning and sanitation protocols,
and the regulations put forth by public health authorities must be observed.
Almighty and eternal God,
our refuge in every danger,
to whom we turn in our distress;
in faith we pray,
look with compassion on the
afflicted, grant eternal rest to the
dead, comfort to mourners, healing
to the sick, peace to the dying,
strength to healthcare workers,
wisdom to our leaders and the
courage to reach out to all in love,
so that together we may give glory
to your holy name. (Collect, “Mass in
Time of Pandemic,” Congregation for
Divine Worship and the Discipline of the
Sacraments, Prot. 156-20.)
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I. PREPARING YOUR CHURCH FOR THE RETURN OF PUBLIC WORSHIP
MAKE A PLAN – enlist the assistance of competent people in your parish to assist with logistical
details.
All pews/seats must be marked for 6 feet of distance between worshippers with labels indicating
social distancing.
• There must be physical distancing of a minimum of six feet apart in all directions between
individual worshippers/households seated in the nave.
o Pastors should determine a number that represents the current worship space
capacity adjusted for physical distancing.
 Consider if you have any options for overflow spaces connected by closed
circuit television to increase that number (parish hall, gym, etc.).
 Consider mapping out the worship space/overflow space.
 Consider using specially trained ushers/hospitality ministers to seat
individuals/households appropriately distanced from one another.
Entry and exit points must be adequately designated and monitored to maintain physical distancing
between individuals/households.
o Entry doors should be propped or held open before Mass and exit doors should be
propped or held open at the end of Mass to prevent people from touching the door
handles, knobs or push plates.
 Consider designating a single entry and a single exit separated from one
another, if possible.
 Consider indicating traffic patterns to maximize physical distancing with clearly
marked paths using tape or signs on the floor, etc.
 Consider using specially trained ushers/hospitality ministers to seat
individuals/households appropriately distanced from one another.
Aisles in the nave must provide for physical distancing of a minimum of six feet apart in all directions
between individuals in the Communion Procession.
 Consider marking out spots in the aisles with tape on the floor.
 Consider one-way traffic in each aisle.
A method of determining limitations on who may attend any given liturgy must be determined,
communicated to the parish via multiple channels, and implemented as fairly as possible, based on
physical distancing of six feet on all sides between individual worshippers/households in light of the
capacity of the church and/or any overflow spaces.
o Once the maximum occupancy number has been reached for a given liturgy, the
church doors should be closed and secured.
 Consider utilizing the most recent parish census. Entire weekends or specific
liturgies might be divided alphabetically by last name.
 Consider giving parishioners some opportunity, either via internet, phone, or
postal mail, to sign up for a particular liturgy.
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 Consider limiting sign-ups to some number roughly 10-20% below the physical
distancing adjusted maximum occupancy number.
 Consider utilizing an online ticketing platform (Eventbrite, RSVPify, Evite, etc.)
Hand Sanitizer should be available at each entrance of the Church and throughout the Church where
appropriate.
 Consider seeking out bulk discounts or ordering as a group with other parishes.
 Consider inviting parishioners to bring their own hand sanitizer.
 If you are unable to secure supplies, contact Larry Murtaugh in Diocesan
Facilities Services.
Prepare signage for the doors of the Church. Consider such signage as:
 “Please use front entrance”
 “Masks Required”
 “Please observe social distancing”
 “Please sanitize your hands before entering, when exiting, after contact with
your face”
 “Maximum of 50% of occupancy”
Disposable masks should be made available at the doors of the church.
 Consider enlisting the help of parish seamstresses and quilters to provide
washable, reusable masks.
 Consider bulk ordering with neighboring parishes.
All hymnals and missalettes must be removed from the pews and stored for the duration of the
pandemic. No materials of any sort may be left in the pews.
 Consider encouraging the faithful to bring their own missals for use during the
celebration of Mass.
 Consider the use of disposable worship aids for the Scriptures and the
responses for Mass. These must be discarded after each liturgy.
 Consider the temporary use of projection worship aids for the Scriptures and
the responses for Mass.
• In all cases, copyright law must be observed, appropriate citations
included, and reprint licenses secured.
Small holy water fonts and baptismal pools must remain empty for the duration of the pandemic.
Nurseries and cry rooms should not be used unless they are able to be sanitized after each use.
If possible, provide for increased ventilation, using fans, windows, etc., and/or HEPA filters, etc. For
more information, please contact Larry Murtaugh in Diocesan Facilities Services.
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II. SAFETY AND HYGIENE
BEFORE MASS
• Follow Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for cleaning procedures and
products.
• All pews and kneelers must be wiped down with disinfectant before/after each Mass, with the
removal of trash and other items from the pews.
• Restroom facilities, door handles, push plates and knobs must be sanitized before/after each
Mass. Water supply to drinking fountains must be shut off.
 Consider inviting parishioners to bring bottled water.
• All microphones must be sanitized before/after each Mass.
• All those who are cleaning or preparing the church should be masked and should wear gloves.
• Clergy, parish staff, and volunteer ministers should model the parish’s expectations of
worshippers, including maintaining appropriate physical distancing from parishioners as they
enter/leave church and wearing face masks.
• Aisles in the nave must provide for physical distancing of a minimum of six feet on all sides
between individuals in the Communion Procession.
• If disposable worship aids are distributed, worshippers must take them home or they must be
discarded after Mass. Under no circumstances are printed worship aids to be re-used.
• Pastors should make every effort to clearly communicate good hygienic practices, liturgical
attendance restrictions due to reduced building occupancy numbers, and liturgical alterations
to their parishioners well in advance of the liturgy.
EXPECTATIONS OF WORSHIPPERS
• Those who are sick or symptomatic should stay home!
• All parishioners should be encouraged to take their temperatures prior to coming to Mass.
Any parishioner with a temperature of 100.4° F or more should stay home.
• Attendance will be limited to a maximum of 50% occupancy.
• Worshippers should wash hands at home and use hand sanitizer upon entering the church.
• The faithful over the age of two are obliged to wear a mask (or other face covering) upon
entering the church and during the celebration of Mass, except for the moment of receiving
Holy Communion.
• Physical distancing of a minimum of six feet in all directions will be the norm.
• Mass will look, sound, and feel different.
• Aisles in the nave must provide for physical distancing of a minimum of six feet on all sides
between individuals in the Communion Procession.
• When approaching the Communion minister, the communicant is to pull their mask below the
chin and present one hand resting on the palm of the other. After responding, “Amen,” the
communicant reverently places the Eucharist in his or her mouth and immediately replaces
their mask.
• The pandemic is not over. Attending Mass will come with the risk of contracting the
coronavirus.
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III. CELEBRATING MASS
A. PARISH MINISTERS
Parish Staff Persons
o In whatever liturgical role they take, parish staff persons should model best practices –
wearing a mask, avoiding physical contact, and maintaining six feet of physical distancing.
 Priest celebrants need not wear a mask for the entire liturgy, but must wear a
mask for the distribution of Communion.
Sacristans
• Sacristans must wear face masks and gloves when preparing the liturgical vessels and the bread
and wine for Mass and when cleaning liturgical vessels after Mass.
o Cleaning of sacred vessels should be done with warm, soapy water.
o Gloves should be washed in the sacrarium and then disposed of in the trash.
Ushers/Hospitality Ministers
• Ushers must wear face masks and gloves to hand out bulletins or other materials and must ensure
appropriate physical distancing.
• Entry and exit points must be adequately designated and monitored to maintain physical
distancing between individuals/households.
o Entry doors should be propped up or held open before Mass and exit doors should be
propped or held open at the end of Mass to prevent people from touching the door
handles, knobs or push plates.
 Consider designating a single entry and a single exit separated from one
another.
 Consider indicating traffic patterns to maximize physical distancing with clearly
marked paths using tape on the floor, etc.
 Consider using specially trained ushers/hospitality ministers to seat
individuals/households appropriately distanced from one another.
• Assist with directing people to seating. Attendance will be limited to ensure compliance with
physical distancing requirements.
o Families may sit together but are to maintain six feet of distance between their family and
other families or individuals throughout the celebration of Mass.
o Seating should be arranged such that six feet of distance may be maintained between
members of one household and another.
o One or two pews should be left vacant in between congregants such that six feet of
distance can be maintained in all directions.
o Once the maximum occupancy number has been reached for a given liturgy, the church
doors should be closed and secured.
• Offertory processions are suspended.
o The gifts of bread and wine should be brought to the altar simply from the credence table
in the sanctuary or next to the altar.
• Collection baskets must not be passed from one congregant to another, nor shall ushers take up
the collection from the congregation. Stationary baskets must be used for donations from the
Page 7 ‖ FWC-Liturgy Expanded ‖ 15 May 2020
assembly and are to be monitored by the ushers until the donations are collected and handled
according to proper protocols in place for handling the collection.
• Aisles in the nave must provide for physical distancing of a minimum of six feet on all sides
between individuals in the Communion Procession.
o Ushers and other volunteers should ensure six feet of physical distancing in the
Communion Procession.
o Ushers should direct the departure of individual worshippers/households after Mass in an
organized manner, observing six feet of physical distance between other households.
Music Ministers (please see a separate document on music ministry)
Altar Servers
• All Servers, if utilized, must be masked.
• Servers must not vest in albs or cassocks unless these items can be laundered after each use.
• Servers must maintain a minimum of six feet physical distancing from one another and from the
assembly.
• Servers must not be used to hold the Roman Missal for the presider.
Lectors
• Only a single individual is to utilize the ambo in any given liturgy; therefore, for the duration of
the pandemic, there must be only a single lector for each Mass.
o The lector should not be included in the entrance procession.
o The lector should remove their mask prior to proclaiming the word of God and replace it
afterwards.
• The deacon, or in his absence, the priest, proclaims the Gospel (ILM, 50)
o Temporarily, there should be no Gospel procession.
o Unless the deacon/priest has served as the lector, he should proclaim the Gospel and/or
Homily from his chair, using a different book than was used by the lector.
o The homilist should take into consideration the readings, the orations, and the current
health of his city and country when preparing the homily (ILM, 38-41).
• Intentions for the prevention of the virus and for those affected are to be included in the
universal prayer.
o Unless the deacon has served as the lector, he should proclaim the universal prayer from
his chair.
o In the absence of a deacon, the lector may proclaim the universal prayer from the ambo,
or the presider may proclaim the universal prayer from his chair or the altar.
Communion Ministers (both ordinary and extraordinary)
• All Communion minsters must wash or sanitize their hands immediately before and after
distributing Holy Communion.
• All Communion ministers must be masked.
• For the distribution of Holy Communion, a single file for each communion minister is necessary to
maintain social distancing.
 Multiple communion ministers may be used so long as one-way traffic patterns are
observed.
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• Distribution of the Precious Blood to lay liturgical ministers and to the assembly is suspended until
further notice.
o Special arrangements should be made with the pastor for those who are gluten intolerant.
• When approaching the Communion minister, the communicant is to pull their mask below the
chin and present one hand resting on the palm of the other. After responding, “Amen,” the
communicant reverently places the Eucharist in his or her mouth and immediately replaces their
mask.
• For the health and safety of all, reception of Holy Communion is strongly encouraged in the hand
to avoid contact with individual’s saliva. Holy Communion on the tongue is strongly discouraged
for the duration of the pandemic.
1
o If/when incidental contact is made with the communicant during the distribution,
Communion minsters should utilize a disinfectant wipe or purificator dipped in sanitizing
solution (at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropyl alcohol) to sanitize their fingers before
continuing the distribution.
 Consider locating sanitizing stations near Communion stations.
 Consider announcing that all who wish to receive on the tongue must be last in the
communion line to allow for proper sanitizing between each communicant.
1 “No one has the right to endanger the life of another even unknowingly by demanding Communion on the tongue when
the persons following could be exposed to a virus of which the oral recipient is not yet aware. There is a great tradition in
our faith of “sacrifice.” I make the sacrifice to receive in a way that protects the whole community. Moreover, how does
one respect the Sacred Species if one is willing to burden it with the possibility of contagion?” Fr. Mike Nolan, JCL, DMin,
Office of Worship, Wichita, KS
Page 9 ‖ FWC-Liturgy Expanded ‖ 15 May 2020
B. THE ORDER OF MASS
THE INTRODUCTORY RITES
• The entrance procession must be simple, taking the shortest path possible, and limiting or
eliminating passage through the assembly.
o The Book of the Gospels should neither be included in the entrance procession nor placed
on the altar for the duration of the pandemic.
• Servers must not be used to hold the Roman Missal.
 The presider may either utilize the altar for the presidential prayers or may set up a
stand for the Missal during the recitation of the prayers.
THE LITURGY OF THE WORD
• Children’s Liturgy of the Word must not be celebrated during Masses for the duration of the
pandemic.
 Children’s Liturgy of the Word may be offered virtually each week until further
notice.
• Only a single individual is to utilize the ambo in any given liturgy; therefore, for the duration of
the pandemic, there must be only a single lector for each Mass.
o The lector should remove their mask prior to proclaiming the word of God and replace it
afterwards.
• The deacon, or in his absence, the priest, proclaims the Gospel (ILM, 50)
o Temporarily, there should be no Gospel procession.
o Unless the deacon/priest has served as the lector, he should proclaim the Gospel and/or
Homily from his chair, or another appropriate place, using a different book than was used
by the lector.
o The homilist should take into consideration the readings, the orations, and the current
health of his city and country when preparing the homily (ILM, 38-41).
 Homily suggestions for the first three Sundays after the opening of public liturgy
will be sent out to all clergy.
• Intentions for the prevention of the virus and for those affected are to be included in the
universal prayer.
o Unless the deacon has served as the lector, he should proclaim the universal prayer from
his chair.
o In the absence of a deacon, the lector may proclaim the universal prayer from the ambo,
or the presider may proclaim the universal prayer from his chair or the altar.
 Intercession suggestions may be found on the Office for Worship website.
THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST
• Offertory processions are suspended.
o The gifts of bread and wine should be brought to the altar simply from the credence table
in the sanctuary or near the altar.
• Collection baskets must not be passed from one congregant to another, nor shall ushers take up
the collection from the congregation. Stationary baskets must be used for donations from the
assembly and are to be monitored by the ushers until the donations are collected and handled
according to proper protocols in place for handling the collection.
• The Sign of Peace is to be omitted for the time being.
Page 10 ‖ FWC-Liturgy Expanded ‖ 15 May 2020
• All concelebrating priests and deacons are to receive Holy Communion either by intinction
utilizing a separate chalice from the main celebrant or with a separate paten/chalice utilized by
only one individual. Each ordinary minister is to purify only their own liturgical vessel(s).
• Instructions for the distribution of Holy Communion to the assembly must be clearly stated prior
to the beginning of the distribution.
• All Communion minsters must wash or sanitize their hands immediately before and after
distributing Communion.
• All Communion ministers must be masked.
• Ushers and/or other volunteers must ensure six feet of physical distancing in the Communion
Procession.
• Aisles in the nave must provide for physical distancing of a minimum of six feet on all sides
between individuals in the Communion Procession.
• Distribution of the Precious Blood to lay liturgical ministers and to the assembly is suspended for
the duration of the pandemic.
o Special arrangements should be made with the pastor for those who are gluten intolerant.
• For the health and safety of all, reception of Holy Communion is strongly encouraged in the hand
to avoid contact with individual’s saliva. Holy Communion on the tongue is strongly discouraged
for the duration of the pandemic.2
o If/when incidental contact is made with the communicant during the distribution,
Communion minsters should utilize a disinfectant wipe or purificator dipped in sanitizing
solution (at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropyl alcohol) to sanitize their fingers before
continuing the distribution.
o Consider locating sanitizing stations near Communion stations.
• When approaching the Communion minister, the communicant is to pull their mask below the
chin and present one hand resting flat on the palm of the other. After responding, “Amen,” the
communicant reverently places the Eucharist in his or her mouth and immediately replaces their
mask.
CONCLUDING RITE
• The presider may make full use of the options for blessings, considering the liturgical season
and the needs of the faithful.
• The closing recession should be simple, taking the shortest path possible, and limiting or
eliminating passage through the assembly.
2 “No one has the right to endanger the life of another even unknowingly by demanding Communion on the tongue when
the persons following could be exposed to a virus of which the oral recipient is not yet aware. There is a great tradition in
our faith of “sacrifice.” I make the sacrifice to receive in a way that protects the whole community. Moreover, how does
one respect the Sacred Species if one is willing to burden it with the possibility of contagion?” Fr. Mike Nolan, JCL, DMin,
Office of Worship, Wichita, KS
Page 11 ‖ FWC-Liturgy Expanded ‖ 15 May 2020
C. AFTER MASS
• Ushers should direct the departure of individual worshippers/households after Mass in an
organized manner, observing six feet of physical distance between other households.
• Ushers must wear face masks and gloves to hand out bulletins or other materials and must
ensure appropriate physical distancing.
• Clergy, parish staff, and volunteer ministers can acknowledge the faithful as they leave but
only with physical distancing and no physical contact.
• There are to be no receptions or social gatherings (coffee and donuts) following Mass.
• Cleaning of sacred vessels should utilize warm, soapy water.
• All pews and kneelers shall be wiped down with disinfectant before/after each Mass, with the
removal of trash and other items from the pews.
• Restroom facilities, door handles, push plates and knobs are to be sanitized before/after each
service.
• All microphones must be sanitized before/after each Mass.
FOR FURTHER READING
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Ohio Department of Health
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) – Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship
Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC)
The Thomistic Institute (Dominican House of Studies in Washington D.C.)

One Comment

  1. Jimmy Jimmy May 16, 2020

    Very, very sad.

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