Greetings to you and your family! Please know that I am praying for you that you may be safe and stay healthy. I am writing this letter to provide you with some updates of the situation of our church reopening for Mass. I just received feedback from the diocese for the draft plan we submitted a week ago and I am happy to share with you some of the things in this letter and in my subsequent letters. As you all know, the County of San Diego has a restriction on the number of participants attending for any religious gathering, which is one fourth of the seating capacity or 100 people, whichever is lower. With this restriction in mind, the committee decided not to hold Mass on the school parking lot, but instead have Mass in the church. I decided to keep the weekend Mass schedule and for more people to attend, I decided to add another Mass at 9:30 am. In this case we will be able to accommodate around 400 people in all four Masses.
We will be cleaning and sanitizing the church after every Mass. This requires a lot of time. We might, therefore, shorten the Masses during this time. I will write to you in detail in my next letter. Seating will be limited due to social distancing requirements. Therefore, we are planning to introduce some sort of reservation system for parishioners to reserve for a particular Mass. While families and those in the same household may sit together, all others must be seated 6-feet apart. Self-provided face masks will be required for everyone age two and above. Hand sanitizer will be readily available at the entrances of the church. Holy Communion will given in the hand after Mass as parishioners depart the church. Music will be provided but singing by the assembly will be limited. I discourage any sort of gathering or congregating on the parking lot and I ask you to keep your mask on until you enter your car.
During this time, the bishop will continue to dispense all from the obligation to participate in Mass on Sundays and other holy days of obligation. That being the case, I recommend that individuals and families consider participating in weekday Masses over Sunday Masses, if possible. Most likely, celebrations of First Communion and Confirmation will take place in smaller numbers at these weekday Masses. The same is true for those who are seeking to celebrate the Easter sacraments in the RCIA (Rites of Christian Initiation) process.
Attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist is important, but we know that not everyone is able to because of COVID-19, so all the faithful are dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass. Therefore, I urge you that if you exhibit any frailty due to advanced age, health impairment or symptoms of any kind, please stay home for your safety and for the safety of others. In addition, if members are acting as a caretaker for people in such situations, they likewise, should refrain from attending and should continue to watch Mass online.
As I have mentioned before, there will be some inconveniences and restrictions in attending Mass during these days, and I ask you to be understanding and patient. I earnestly seek your support during this time. I know we all miss Mass and the Eucharist, so, please be prepared to face some inconveniences. Though circumstances may not be ideal or back to normal, it is a blessing that we are able to gather in some capacity to worship and receive the Lord in the Eucharist.
I look forward to being together again soon and celebrating together the peace, joy and life of the risen Lord Jesus… that eternal gift and blessing that no one can ever take away.
Pastor, Santa Sophia