By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer
Parishes of the Archdiocese of Hartford will be able to open their doors for weekday Masses only starting Monday, church officials announced last week.
The Archdiocese of Hartford serves 131 parishes in Hartford, Litchfield and New Haven counties, including St. Michael Church in Beacon Falls, St. Francis of Assisi Church and St. Vincent Ferrer Church in Naugatuck, and St. Anthony Church in Prospect.
“We’ve been looking forward to be able to have public Mass and seeing our parishioners,” said Lisa White, administrative assistant to the pastor at St. Anthony Church.
Church officials laid out a series of guidelines for parishes to follow when weekday Masses start up again. Under the guidelines, services are limited to 50 people, parishioners must wear masks except for people who are exempt and children under 2 years old, and people need to stay 6 feet from each other unless they are from the same household.
After the archdiocese put out the guidelines, Gov. Ned Lamont announced he is lifting the 50-person limit for all observances. The new indoor limit is lesser of either 25% of building capacity or 100 people. The outdoor maximum is 150 people.
The guidelines also state that parishes should remove items deemed nonessential, such as hymnals and bulletins, and holy water fonts will remain empty. There will also be no collection baskets passed around during Mass, but collection boxes can be placed in the church.
The Rev. Binny Issac of St. Vincent Ferrer Church said people have been very eager to come back to Mass, and the church is taking all the necessary precautions for people to be safe.
Issac said parishioners will have to sign up to attend a Mass, so the church doesn’t exceed the 50-person limit. Parishioners will also be asked not to socialize before or after Mass, he said. He said the church will inform parishioners about the requirements through its online bulletin and Facebook.
White said St. Anthony’s Church will enforce social distancing through signs, tape or marking off the pews.
St. Vincent Church will offer weekday Masses at 7:30 a.m. and St. Anthony Church will hold Masses at 8 a.m. Although both churches have been closed for public Masses, they remained open for individuals to come to pray.
Confessions will also be allowed again at the discretion of pastors, the guidelines state. Priests can also give Holy Communion, but will have to drop the consecrated host in the hands of parishioners without touching hands.
While the archdiocese is resuming weekday Masses, church officials haven’t set a date yet to start Sunday Masses again.
Issac said St. Vincent Church will provide hand sanitizer for parishioners and is advising them to bring their own. He said it’s up to each person to determine to come to church. It is a personal decision, he said.
“As we’re opening the church, our utmost concern is the safety of the people,” Issac said. “We want everyone to be safe.”