COVID-19 AND THE PARISH: JUNE 1, 2021 UPDATE
- CELEBRATION OF THE EUCHARIST
As of May 11, the Rite of Communion has been restored to its pre-pandemic place in the daily and Sunday Masses at St. Joseph, and as of June 5, the diocese has restored the obligatory nature of Sunday Mass attendance. As part of our awareness of current conditions and comfort levels, these points are to be followed:
– For daily Masses and the smaller Sunday Masses, parishioners can approach for Communion via the center aisle and return to the pews via the side aisles.
–For large Sunday Masses, we are in the process of determining of how many people will want to sit in the reserved, socially-distanced section of the church (section closest to the tabernacle) before formalizing Communion distribution plans, or if additional special seating will be needed. Those who sit in the special section will receive Communion in a safe procession “loop” that will not involve close contact with others.
–At the Final Blessing, the clergy will reverence the altar and exit via the side doors. The congregation will follow. The front door will function now as the “entrance door” of the church; the congregation may not exit through those doors.
–Lingering or congregating within the church, including the narthex, at any time is not permitted.
-The offering of the Precious Blood and the use of holy water fonts are still prohibited, as per diocesan guidance. At the parish, we still strongly encourage parishioners to present for Holy Communion with a wide palm. Communion via the tongue will result in a hand-washing pause in Communion distribution for the minister. If someone must receive the Body of Christ via the tongue, please wait until the end of the line, to minimize disruption.
As of May 28, as per CDC guidelines and those of the Diocese of Metuchen, for the faithful participating in Mass, masks are no longer required. No one should be challenged concerning this policy. More pews have been opened for seating, but at least one church section will remain with social distancing practices still in use for those who feel safer with more space.
At St. Joseph, our leadership team will continue to wear masks while in church, in solidarity with those who are still taking tentative steps back to church. And, in general, at a leadership level we are still encouraging, but cannot be mandating, mask use among the congregation. Clergy or ad hoc lay lectors may now proclaim the Word of God unmasked if they are vaccinated and their mask creates a muffled effect.
Pastorally, we will be strongly encouraging all to get vaccinated in our weekly announcements. We will maintain open windows and doors in church, as weather permits, and the use of the overhead fans.
Anyone involved in a liturgical ministry, clergy or lay, who is unvaccinated must continue to wear a mask.
- LITURGICAL SCHEDULE
With more available pews now and a bloated Sunday Mass schedule that was designed to accommodate social distancing, the next step in our parish revitalizing process will be the announcement of a reduction in our English language Mass schedule, and an adjustment in making one Spanish Mass “bilingual.” In recognition of the small size of the parish, we expect again to have one full-time priest, with available “supply priest” help on weekdays/Sundays. These steps will hopefully be taken and announced together, sometime in June, with effective date July 1.
- LITURGICAL MINISTRIES
As for the re-ignition of liturgical ministries, our activation plan now has no connection to COVID-19, but rather to the implementation of a comprehensive pastoral plan that will stretch over the coming months, with the First Sunday of Advent (November 28, 2021) as a target start date.
Former or aspiring liturgical ministers will be asked to join a process of application, interviewing, formation/training and fellowship. All former ministers must re-apply if they desire to have post-pandemic service. This will take place over the summer-fall months, should the pandemic numbers continue to lend themselves to safer environments. More information will be available over the summer. We are creating a new concept of what liturgical service means at St. Joseph Parish, with new requirements, responsibilities and opportunities. As plans are being finalized, we ask all of our community to be patient and to stay informed.
Note: the future form of sacred music liturgical ministry will follow a related path, but in consultation with the parish music director.
- PARISH SPIRITUALITY
We are continuing to discern ways to offer more widely-accessible avenues for the expressions of spirituality in the parish: Contemplative Prayer, Charismatic Prayer, Divine Mercy devotion.
- NeXt LEVEL PROJECT
We are moving forward with the NeXt Level project to engage youth leadership, mentors and parish leadership in a common charitable and parish-wide enterprise.
- FAMILY FAITH FORMATION
The current Religious Education instruction season has just completed. The program as we have known it will not return. We will be on hiatus preparing for launching a new family-based Faith Formation model, targeted to debut in 2022. The new model will an all-year, continuous model, no longer tied to “the school year.”
- PARISH CENTER
The parish center remains closed while an evaluation of parish facility use and needs is being conducted. The potential sale of the current rectory may result in a new rectory-office option in the coming months.
- FINAL NOTE
As all of the preceding plans unfold, it will be determined what, if anything, else may be needed or re-established in the parish. Any former activity, event or group will have to establish its mission and purpose anew in the post-pandemic era.
The goal of the revitalizing process is a comprehensive “St. Joseph Way” in what we do and how we do it, inspired by a contemplative spirit, a desire to foster parish-wide unity, and to have a special heart for the poor and marginalized.