Bishop Cote has given permission for weekday Masses to resume on Monday, June 8, 2020. Sunday Masses will continue to be suspended until further notice.
When you come again to Church, some things will be different and some things will be the same. The purpose of this letter is to introduce some of the things that will change.
Masks. Everyone will be required to wear a mask covering your nose and mouth unless you are not able to do so due to a medical condition. For people who do not have a mask, each Church will have a small supply that will be available for people to get one for their permanent use. Anyone without a mask will be offered one – if you are not wearing a mask because of a medical condition, please be patient with us and tell us so.
During Mass, there will be times when the priest or deacon will not be wearing a mask in keeping with liturgical guidelines; however, in such instances, they will maintain a social distance and when speaking will be at least twelve feet away from members of the congregation in keeping with public health guidelines.
Social Distancing. Each household will be required to maintain a distance of six feet from members of another household. We use the term “household” to describe members of the same immediate family or those traveling in the same vehicle.
Seating. To achieve proper social distancing in pews, not every pew will be available for seating. For us to achieve the proper distance of six feet, there will be two empty pews between occupied pews. Normally, only one household will be allowed per pew; however, in some instances a one-person or two-person household may need to share a pew. In these cases a social distance of six feet must always be maintained. This will allow as many people as possible to worship and receive the Eucharist while following safety protocols.
Limited Seating. Seating capacity will be limited by two factors: (1) Governor Lamont’s Executive Order limiting seating to 25% capacity, and (2) the number of pews available due to social distancing. In some cases, the number of available seats due to social distancing will be lower than the 25% threshold.
Reservations. In light of limited seating, we will be using an online reservation system so we do not have to turn people away from Mass just before it begins. To make a reservation, go to our website (for all three parishes at this time) stmaryjc.weconnect.com, follow to the sign-up link and enter your name and choose the number of blocks for your household. One-person and two-person households will sign up for one block; households with three or more people will sign up for two blocks. If you do not have online access, please contact the main office at (860) 376-2044 and someone will make a reservation for you. In making reservations, please do not sign up for more than one or two Masses at a time so as to allow everyone a chance to come to Mass and receive the Eucharist.
Please note: Due to social distancing and seating limitations, your favorite pew or favorite spot may not be available. Due to the physical arrangement of pews in a church, you may be asked to sit in a different area of the Church than you are used to. We ask for your patience and understanding while we navigate this situation.
Entry to Church. In light of the need to check reservations, everyone will be directed to one entrance of the Church. For Saints Thomas & Anne and Saint Catherine Churches, it will be the entrance near the handicapped ramp. For Saint Mary Church, it will be the entrance by the handicapped ramp as well as the front right entrance in the tower. Once you enter the Church, a trained usher will be there for check-in. In some instances, a pew may be reserved for you and your household due to size of household or limited seating availability.
Masses Reserved for Those at Higher-Risk of Catching COVID-19. In light of State and CDC guidelines, we will be reserving certain Masses for people aged 65 and older and for people with compromised-health conditions. Starting out, there will be three Masses reserved for Higher-Risk people on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings. Please consult the schedule below for specific times and locations.
Temporary Mass Schedule. Due to seating limitations and the continued suspension of Sunday Masses, we are adding more weekday Masses, namely on three evenings and on Saturday morning. While Bishop Cote has dispensed Catholics from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, you are invited and encouraged to come to a daily Mass. Mass at Saint Mary’s will be in the Church and not in the Chapel. Please also note which Masses are reserved for those at higher-risk of catching COVID-19. If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or are not feeling well, please stay home. You are not expected to come to Church if you are sick. The temporary weekday Mass schedule will be as follows:
8 am @ Saints Thomas & Anne Church, Voluntown
7 pm @ Saint Catherine Church, Preston
8 am @ Saint Mary Church, Jewett City – RESERVED FOR PEOPLE WITH HIGHER-RISK HEALTH CONDICTIONS
7 pm @ Saints Thomas & Anne Church, Voluntown
8 am @ Saint Mary Church, Jewett City
10 am @ Saint Catherine Church, Preston – RESERVED FOR PEOPLE WITH HIGHER-RISK HEALTH CONDICTIONS
7 pm @ Saint Mary Church, Jewett City
8 am @ Saints Thomas & Anne Church, Voluntown – RESERVED FOR PEOPLE WITH HIGHER- RISK HEALTH CONDICTIONS
8 am @ Saint Mary Church, Jewett City
9 am @ Saints Thomas & Anne Church, Voluntown
10 am @ Saint Catherine Church, Preston
Preparing for Mass. Please bring a mask and hand sanitizer with you as the Church has very limited supplies available.
Communion. As a rule Communion will be given only by the priest or deacon who will be wearing a mask and will have sanitized his hands. The process for receiving Communion will be modified. In Saints Thomas & Anne and Saint Catherine Churches, you will remain in your pew while the priest or deacon brings Communion to you. In Saint Mary Church, everyone will come down the center aisle and go to one of three Communion stations and return to their pews by way of the side aisles. More specific details and instructions will be given prior to each Mass, including how to receive communion in the age of wearing a face mask. Everyone is strongly encouraged to receive Communion in the hand. Those still wishing to receive Communion on the tongue will be asked to receive at the end of the distribution.
Lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, Altar Servers, and Ushers. These ministries have been suspended by Bishop Cote since the beginning of the pandemic shutdown in March. Only specifically trained ushers and, if needed, one or two Eucharistic ministers are allowed at this time. We look forward to the day when we can welcome you to actively serve in these ministries once again.
Missalettes. There will be no missalettes in the pews. In their place, the responsorial psalm and antiphons will be printed in the tri-parish bulletin. A copy of the Bulletin will be in your pew when you arrive. Please take that bulletin with you when you leave.
Collections. No collection baskets will be passed. Rather, a basket will be near the entrance of each Church for parishioners to deposit their donations.
Leaving Church. When you leave the Church, please take the tri-parish bulletin with you, along with any other items you brought with you. In light of social distancing requirements, gatherings of groups of people after Mass are discouraged. Please do not congregate in Church or by the entrances.
Church cleaning. Each Church will be cleaned and disinfected after every Mass.
Future Announcements for Masses. Announcements regarding resumption of Sunday Masses and changes to the Mass schedules will be communicated by way of email, our parish website and facebook pages, and in the tri-parish bulletin. If you would like to receive emails, please contact Sheila at the main office at [email protected] , and she will add you to our list.
As you can see, a number of things will be changing in light of safety and social distancing protocols. These changes will take some time getting used to. We will also need to be more attentive and careful about what we are doing, and that is okay.
While there are changes, the Word of God in Scripture and the Eucharist have not changed. God still wants to meet you in a personal way through Scripture and the Eucharist. You are invited to come to Mass once again as we celebrate and worship God and receive His grace through the Sacraments.
We look forward to seeing you once again!