I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to inform you of what is happening next with regard to re-opening church in the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
As of May 31, churches were allowed to open for services, but with only a maximum of ten people allowed under the Governor’s Executive Order. When you begin counting the priest, the ushers, and any lectors or musicians, you begin to see how ridiculous that is. Am I to open the church to only a fraction of a fraction of parishioners? I cannot, in good conscience, do that. Plus, we would have to sanitize the space afterward which can take hours. Given those parameters, the parish staff and I have come to the conclusion that to open church under these conditions is untenable.
After consultation with Bishop Lucia and the priests of the Southern Tier, in particular our PCA partners (St. Anthony’s, St. Joseph’s, Holy Family and Most Holy Rosary) it is hoped and expected that the Governor will raise the amount of people that can gather in churches to 25% of seating capacity soon. Actually, the Bishop and his confreres are very frustrated because that is exactly what the local health official are suggesting happen now, but the Governor won’t budge just yet. We know that eventually we will be able to begin having Mass with 25% of capacity to start, but we don’t know when. Our hope is that is allowed by June 13-14, Corpus Christi Sunday. That is the weekend that our PCA is looking toward partial re-opening.
What does that mean for us? First, because of the time that we are required to space between Masses and allow for a thorough cleaning of the building, when we begin on June 13-14 we will open with a modified Mass schedule. For the short term, beginning June 13-14 there will only be two weekend Masses offered: a 4pm Vigil Mass on Saturday at St. Ambrose and a 9am on Sunday morning Mass at OLGC. The Diocese has given us a 16 point protocol sheet to ensure parishioners’ safety that I have to sign off on before we can begin. We will maintain this schedule until after the 4th of July and then reassess if and when it is time to expand the Mass schedule. Again, all this is hinged on the expectation that by June 13 we will be allowed to open at 25% seating capacity. If we can’t do it then, this plan will be pushed out until we can.
With regard to Daily Mass, we will offer two daily Masses per week for public attendance. Beginning June 16, there will be a noon Mass on Tuesdays at St. Ambrose, and beginning June 17, an 8:30am Mass at OLGC. The Monday and Friday masses will be available online at YouTube only.
Also, be aware that we will open up seating with a live-feed to the gym at OLGC and the gym at St. Ambrose. That will increase the number of people we can safely seat with social distancing. We will also continue to post Masses online so long as the obligation to attend Sunday Mass is lifted by the Bishop. Masses are posted on YouTube on the OLGC-StAmbroseEndioctt channel. With regard to daily Mass, we will gradually begin opening those too, but will probably only offer one in each church per week, with the rest of the Masses being online due to the onerous task of sanitizing the church after any service.
If you are planning to come to Mass on June 13 or 14, or on the weekends after that, please bring and wear a mask. Those who refuse to wear a mask will not be admitted. If you come to St. Ambrose, enter by the doors in between the church and the school. If you come to OLGC, please enter by the Atrium. Ushers will be there to assist you. Please exit church immediately after the conclusion of Mass. We are not to linger in groups according to the health guidelines. Your cooperation is key to our success.
Additionally, we are required to record the names of people attending Masses in the event that someone who comes to Mass tests positive for Covid-19, we can inform those who were at that Mass. To do so, if you plan on attending the 4pm at St. Ambrose, please call ahead and give us your name (607-754-2330), and if you come to the 9am at OLGC, be prepared to give your name and phone number to the ushers at the doors.
I hope that this information has been helpful. God bless you and thank you for your patience, and let us keep each other in prayer. Thanks again and stay well.
Fr. Michael Galuppi