Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston parishes permitted to begin "Phased Reopening" this weekend, May 2-3, with emphasis on social distancing, masks, sanitation
April 29, 2020
Each parish empowered to choose if they wish to celebrate Mass, and how to comply with state guidelines; elderly and vulnerable parishioners encouraged to livestream Mass for now
Following Governor Abbott's recent announcement concerning a phased reopening of the State of Texas, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has notified its parishes that they may resume the celebration of Mass in their churches as soon as this weekend provided they do so in adherence with state guidelines.
Those requirements include the 25 percent capacity threshold in each church, wearing masks, social distancing, and church personnel properly sanitizing commonly used surfaces such as pews between each service.
Regardless of whether each parish chooses to begin offering Mass this weekend, Cardinal DiNardo has asked that every church be opened starting this weekend for several hours each day to allow for private prayer – and to resume offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Plans will likely vary from parish-to-parish, so parishioners should be sure to contact their church office to confirm details.
Even with parishes planning to reopen, the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days remains suspended in the Archdiocese during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, senior citizens over 65 and those who may be sick or with compromised health are strongly encouraged to continue watching Mass online by livestream.
"The past several weeks have been a great trial for our world and for our communities as we cope with the hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," said Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston. "In addition to the great suffering of the sick and dying, many have struggled with isolation, financial hardship and other stresses."
For many Catholics, Cardinal DiNardo said the isolation during the pandemic has been compounded by their inability to gather for Mass or go to church to pray, and difficulty in receiving the sacraments. Since it still will not be possible for all people to come to Mass on Sundays due to the guidelines, Cardinal DiNardo is asking that the faithful be flexible in considering Mass attendance. During this time of reopening, all people coming to churches, including clergy and staff, should wear masks to cover their nose and mouths.
"On one hand, this closure of churches to the public has been necessary for the safeguarding of public health, and we must continue to be mindful of the advice of governmental authorities," Cardinal DiNardo said. "At the same time, I have heard the continued pleas of so many of the faithful and priests for access to the spiritual strength and nourishment of the sacraments after enduring so many weeks of stay-at-home orders. Therefore, I believe the time has arrived to look forward to how this local church can cautiously resume some of its essential activities."
The Archdiocese is recommending parishes to form a pandemic response team to assist in developing protocols to follow the guidelines. Since massive efforts for the provision of safe and sterile spaces must be undertaken, some parishes may need longer than others to be able to prudently meet this need. Cardinal DiNardo is asking the faithful for patience and cooperation as parishes determine the best plan for reopening churches during this challenging and difficult time.