News: Catholics regather for Mass in phased approach

June 2, 2020

Woman praying

The Diocese of Des Moines is allowing parishes to regather for the public celebration of Mass based on consultation with local medical professionals, Iowa Department of Public Health data and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bishop William Joensen took the unprecedented step of suspending all public Masses on March 15 as the state closed businesses and activities to stem the spread of COVID-19. An ad hoc committee of laity and clergy representing all parts of the diocese recommended to Bishop Joensen a phased-in approach for returning to the public celebration of Mass based on a consistent decline in the number of newly diagnosed cases of the coronavirus and the advice of medical professionals.

Phase 1 consists of weekday celebration of Mass. Phase 2 consists of weekday and weekend celebration of Mass; and Phase 3 includes daily celebration of Mass and a resumption of activities that are a part of parish life such as gatherings in parish halls. All phases include observing social distancing, the wearing of masks and cleaning guidelines to minimize the spread of the illness.

  • On May 21, parishes in 15 rural counties entered Phase 1 of regathering. They were given permission to begin weekday public celebration of Mass at the discretion of their pastors provided proper social distancing and cleaning practices were implemented.
  • On May 25, Mills County entered Phase 1. These parishes can enter Phase 2 the weekend of June 6-7 and begin celebrating weekend Masses at the pastors’ discretion.
  • On June 2, parishes in Shelby Audubon and Guthrie Counties, which begin Phase 1 on June 2, can move to Phase 2 celebration of Sunday Masses the weekend of June 13-14 at the pastors’ discretion.
  • Beginning June 9, parishes in Pottawattamie County can enter Phase 1 following social distance and cleaning guidelines based on the pastor’s discretion. Assuming no spike in COVID-19 cases, this group can move into Phase 2 celebration of weekend Masses June 20-21.
  • Parishes in Dallas, Polk and Warren Counties can enter Phase 1 as early as June 11, though pastors may choose to wait until a later date. When the bishop gives his permission, those parishes can move to Phase 2, possibly as soon as June 27-28.

Even when Sunday Masses are available in parishes, the obligation to attend will remain suspended. Vulnerable persons and those who interact with them are encouraged to remain at home and watch the celebration of Mass online.

The public celebration of Masses may be scaled back if there is a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases or on the advice of medical professionals.

Bishop Joensen asks that all parishioners wait patiently for their own parish’s resumption of Masses. Because of social distancing requirements, the number of people who can attend may be limited.

“An occasional presence at Mass, and not daily, makes it possible for more parishioners to attend Mass in a safe fashion,” said Bishop Joensen. “Practicing these self-disciplines is a grace-filled act of charity for others, who equally hunger for our Eucharistic Lord.”

When Catholics return to church for Mass, they will find some practices have changed. To minimize the spread of COVID-19, the wearing of masks will be strongly encouraged, there will be minimized singing, and worship aids will be removed. Parishes are encouraged to continue offering Mass online in either a livestream or recorded format.

Here is more information.