New Guidance for Parishes Regarding COVID-19

The Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg has issued a new guidance regarding the Coronavirus Pandemic, effective today, on the Feast of Pentecost, as the general dispensation from obligation to attend Mass is lifted.

Since Bishop Parkes has left to the pastors to decide about the re-adaptations to the new circumstances, I have taken some decisions so to implement changes that will allow us to return, as much as possible, to our pre-pandemic parish life, but in a responsible and progressive manner.

I am proud of OLPH faithful for their discipline following the guidelines coming from the civil and ecclesiastical authorities. I think that has been a decisive factor that has allowed us to be in the advantage situation where we are now.

As a matter of fact, you have already seen some advancements in the relaxation of stricter guidelines. For example, now half of the church has no white ribbons, indicating that there, social distancing is no longer necessary. Also, our small religious gift shop has open again.

You will see more changes coming, beginning today and in the coming weeks.

From now on, you will be asked to enter the church with your face covering, but you will be allowed to take it off when you are in your place (sitting, standing, or kneeling). Please, put it back on when approaching to receive the Holy Communion or when you leave the church, at the end of Mass.

Beginning next weekend, we will put again the binder, at the entrance of the church, to write last-minute petitions, and we will resume the procession with the gifts during the Offertory.

More re-adaptations will follow, like allowing the use of Holy Water, giving the consecrated Host in the mouth, to whom it might be requested (this will come when masks will not be necessary), and, who knows when, offering the Chalice, with the Precious Blood, for the reception of the Holy Communion under both species.

I think that, for the bishop having selected the Feast of Pentecost to announce these new guidelines has been providential. The coming of the Holy Spirit, that we are celebrating today, will empower us to face the challenges of this time of recovering from the pandemic.

Reflecting on today’s feast we may ask ourselves about the kind of Church we, Catholics, want; one that, with the power of the Holy Spirit, strives to change the world, or one that serves only as a quiet place to pray and be consoled.

Pentecost challenges us to ask ourselves if we are courageous enough to harbor the open-ended expectations demanded of anyone who prays, “Lord, send us your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth”.