Dispensation from Attending Sunday Mass Lifted (5-14-21)
Bishop Hurley has published the following letter to the faithful regarding the lifting of the dispensation. Click here for Printable PDF.
May 14, 2021
Dear Friends in Christ:
I am thankful that the time has come, for all who are able, to return to in-person celebrations of Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation (including the Saturday/Vigil).
With this in mind, I am lifting the dispensation from that obligation, effective the weekend of May 29-30, 2021. All who are able are invited to return to in-person worship.
Our virtual celebrations have been a great blessing to us over these past months, and I want to thank all who have made them possible. Yet, we know that no digital experience could ever take the place of being physically present, and no virtual celebration fulfills our Sunday obligation. Our churches are safe places, and with the vaccines that are available and encouraged, we are in a different time in which the general dispensation is no longer necessary or advisable in light of our obligation to come together to “Keep Holy the Sabbath Day.”
There are, of course, serious reasons why some may not be able to return to in-person celebrations, and they would therefore be dispensed from attending in accord with our traditional teachings (i.e. illness, family situations, impossibility, etc.). For those who are unable to be physically present due to these rare circumstances, the virtual celebration of the Mass will still be available as it was prior to the onset of the pandemic, at the discretion of the local pastor.
I am grateful to our pastors, and all God’s people, for their flexibility, fidelity and generosity in support of the mission of the Church. As we begin to gather together with as few restrictions in our parish churches as possible, I warmly welcome back those who are returning at this time.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Most Reverend Walter A. Hurley
Updates to Diocesan COVID-19 Protocols for Liturgical Celebrations (5-14-21)
Today, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced updated COVID-19 guidelines parallel to that of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). These changes go into effect tomorrow, Saturday, May 15, at 9 A.M.
Therefore, the following changes become effective as soon as parishes can implement them:
- Masks are no longer required during liturgical celebrations. It is expected that those who are not vaccinated follow CDC guidance and wear a mask for the safety of fellow parishioners.
- Social distancing is no longer required during liturgical celebrations. Rope/tape/signage can be removed from church’s pews. Church seating capacity has no limit, however, space in the church should be set aside to accommodate those who wish to continue social distancing, as parishes are able to do so.
- Parishioners are not expected to share their vaccination status.
- The dispensation from attending Mass will be lifted, effective the weekend of May 29-30, 2021, except for those with serious reasons for not attending.
The Diocese of Gaylord will continue to thoroughly review these updated [MDHHS and CDC] guidelines and will provide further details about the implications for our parishes early next week.
This weekend, and in the immediate term, we can expect that there may be variations from parish to parish in the implementation of these guidelines; as parishes work to adjust according to their particular circumstances.
Updated Guidance from CDC Regarding: Masks, Social Distancing, Etc. (5/14/21)
DATE: May 14, 2021
TO: Priests, Directors of Parish Life, Deacons, Parish Staff, Diocesan Staff
FROM: Most Reverend Walter A. Hurley
RE: Masks, Social Distancing, Etc.
The Centers for Disease Control has issued new guidance that fully vaccinated people — during outdoor or indoor activities, large or small — do not need to wear masks or socially distance, with a few limitations. While this CDC guidance does not supersede any federal, state or local regulations that are in place, this change has significant implications for our parishes, offices and schools.
I send this to let you know that we are studying the implications of this new guidance, and once there is further clarity, we will provide updated guidance for our parishes as soon as possible. This will likely change our capacity rules, as well as many others. We are in the process of making these changes that will impact our parishes, and once they are made, they will be effective immediately.
You should also expect a move towards the lifting of the dispensation from attending Mass, effective the weekend of May 29-30, 2021, except for those with serious reasons for not attending.
We will continue to examine the new guidance and implications for our parishes, and will keep you informed as quickly as possible. More information will be forthcoming in the early days of next week.
For the time being, please stay the course for a few more days. Thank you for your understanding and patience as we navigate these choppy waters together.
MDHHS Order Extension through May 24, 2021 (4/26/21)
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has extended the prior Gatherings and Face Mask Order through May 24, 2021. There are no changes to prior guidelines that were sent out on March 4 (which can be found below
- ). Please refer to the Capacity Limits Fact Sheet from Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for further details in that regard.
Updates from Bishop Hurley (3/10/21)
You will soon be receiving some updated material from our Worship Office regarding the liturgy as we continue in these challenging but hope-filled times. As we come to know more about the virus and our safety precautions, as well as welcome people back to in-person worship, we are trying to keep all up-todate on expectations as we work to open things up in a safe way.
I am also grateful for those who posted in their parish bulletins and on their website my letter, “Come Home to Hope,” as we seek to invite and welcome people back to church. I am most grateful to those who have carefully observed the requested (and sometimes changing) protocols in the midst of this pandemic to ensure that our churches are safe for our people. There are several new updates I want to highlight:
- Masks, social distancing and the availability and use of hand sanitizers continue to be required in all parishes in the diocese.
- If you have not been using Mass servers (as some have not during the pandemic), it is time to bring them back using proper social distancing, masks, etc. as appropriate. The presence of well-trained Mass servers enhances our celebration of the liturgy. As you know, this ministry is and should be open to young women as well as young men in all our parishes.
- While still retaining the use of masks, people can now be invited to sing the Gloria, the Entrance and Recessional hymn, in addition to the proper parts of the Mass. Music is an important part of our worship even more so in Holy Week and Easter.
- For the time being, please continue to refrain from having hymnals available. Instead, use disposable worship aids to assist with singing and/or consider selecting music that would be familiar to your parishioners.
- Because of the minimal contagion on the surfaces of furniture, disinfecting between celebrations of the Mass is no longer necessary. Those who may wish to do so can certainly bring their own disinfectant wipes. Good cleaning daily after Mass continues to be required at all times. The misting of churches that is practiced by some few parishes is not a diocesan requirement.
We must continue to keep our churches safe, and at the same time, gradually return to good liturgical practices.
I trust these comments and adjustments to our protocols will be useful to you and serve our people.
Questions of Morality relating to COVID-19 vaccines (3-5-21)
With the release of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, there is renewed discussion regarding the moral acceptability of this vaccine, as well as other COVID-19 vaccines currently in use. The question about the moral permissibility of using vaccines developed, tested and/or produced with the help of abortion-derived cell lines should be addressed in order that Catholics, and all people of good will, can make sound decisions that further the common good and lessen the suffering caused by COVID-19 in a morally responsible manner.
In summary, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged that “when ethically irreproachable COVID-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used stem cells from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.” However, if there is an opportunity to choose among equally safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen (currently Pfizer or Moderna).
It is recognized that those seeking vaccination may not have an option between the various COVID-19 vaccines that have been developed, and in those circumstances, it is morally acceptable to receive whichever COVID-19 vaccine is available to you.
For your information and those seeking further guidance in addressing these moral considerations, you will find it useful to consult the attached documents:
- Statement of the Michigan Bishops on COVID-19 Vaccines (March 3, 2021)
- U.S. Bishop Chairmen for Doctrine and Pro-Life Address the Use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine(March 2, 2021)
- Note on the Morality of Using Some Anti-COVID-19 Vaccines from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (December 21, 2020)
- Points to Consider on the Use of the COVID-19 Vaccines from the National Catholic Bioethics Center (December 8, 2020)
Update on 3-9-21: Additionally, the following television interviews with Bishop Hurley on the topic of the COVID-19 vaccines are available at the following links.
Revised COVID-19 Guidelines/FAQs (3-4-21)
The new Gatherings and Face Mask Order goes into effect on March 5, 2021 at 12:01 am and the order will remain in effect through April 19, 2021. This document will replace all others on the diocesan website; please disregard previous notices.
Dispensation from Mass
- On November 9, 2020 the general dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation in the Diocese of Gaylord was extended by Bishop Hurley until further notice. The dispensation is in place for anyone who needs to stay at home to protect the common good, themselves and others can do so in good conscience.
- The recommendation to stay home is for people who are considered vulnerable due to age or have underlying health conditions.
- If someone is sick, please encourage them to stay home.
- Priests are allowed to admit the number they can safely accommodate while maintaining the required sanitizing; social distancing (6-feet minimum); and the required use of face masks.
- Church seating capacity is no longer limited to the previous 25% capacity.
- Highly touched surfaces are to be disinfected after each liturgy and hand sanitizers are available and used by all. Misting is not required.
Social Distancing and Group Sizes
- Social distancing must be maintained at all times except when brief proximity is required because of the activity, e.g., performing certain ministries or receiving the sacraments.
- Only those from the same household may sit together; everyone else should maintain 6 feet of distance in every direction for other individuals not from their household.
- The utilization of signs, tape, or ropes should be used to help keep the 6 feet of distance while in lines and for seating.
- While social distancing must be maintained, there is no limit on attendance (percentage or fixed capacity) for indoor worship.
Non-liturgical Gathering Guidelines (face masks and social distancing required)
- Indoor gatherings at non-residential venues are permitted with no more than 25 persons gathered.
- Outdoor gatherings at non-residential venues are permitted with 300 or fewer persons gathered.
- Face masks are required for participation in all Masses and parish events. This requirement is following CDC guidelines.
- Masks should cover a person’s nose and mouth and be secure under their chin. It should also fit snugly against the sides of the face.
- As a rule, priests in the sanctuary should not wear facial coverings, with the exception of when distributing Holy Communion.
- Have face masks available, for those who may forget theirs, at the entrance to the Church.
- For the purpose of the March 2, 2021 Order the following are not considered “face masks”: Scarves, ski masks, balaclavas, neck gaiters, plastic masks, and chin shields.
- Holy Water and baptismal fonts are to remain empty.
- Holy Water can be made available in other ways, like by bottles/containers brought in by parishioners. The “Order for the Blessing of Holy Water outside Mass” may be found in the Book of Blessings.
- Use ushers to dismiss the congregation beginning with the back of the church, row by row moving towards the front.
- Lay greeters should maintain a safe social distance from parishioners.
- Priest should maintain a safe social distance from parishioners if they choose to greet them before and/or after Mass, which we would encourage them to do.
- Invite parishioners to donate online or place their envelope in a basket upon entering or leaving the Church. Do not pass a collection basket.
- There should be no physical contact between parishioners of separate households (e.g. parishioners should not shake hands for the Sign of Peace nor should they hold hands during the Our Father).
- Have hand sanitizer and masks available for parishioners to use upon entering the church and encourage them to use their own prior to receiving Communion.
- The parts of the Mass that may be sung by all: Psalm response, Alleluia Verse, the Holy Holy, the Mystery of Faith, the Great Amen, and the Lamb of God.
- The Gloria, Creed and Our Father should not be sung.
- A cantor or other singer may sing a hymn or special music at places in the liturgy.
- Masks and social distancing should be followed by musicians and choir.
- All drinking fountains should be turned off, wrapped in plastic, and have a sign placed on them stating Out of Order.
- All hymnals and re-useable worship materials should be removed from pews and gathering spaces.
- Bulletins may be available after Mass; ushers should not pass them out. In keeping with social distancing, place a stack of bulletins where parishioners may take one themselves. The same stack of bulletins should not be set out at back-to-back Masses.
- Ushers, church personnel, and/or volunteers MUST wipe down frequently touched surfaces after each Mass. The surfaces that require the additional cleaning include but are not limited to the following:
- The tops and endcaps of pews, where people are most likely to place their hands.
- Door handles and door push plates.
- Misting/spraying/fogging is not required.
- Follow the recommendations on the cleaning product used in your church to ensure germs are killed.
- For additional cleaning information please see the CDC guidelines on disinfecting.
Lent and Holy Week Regulations, 2021
- Please see memo from Beth Hicks, Director, Office of Worship dated February 11, 2021, on the diocesan website.
The Holy Eucharist
- Ministers should maintain proper social distancing protocol in the sacristy and during the procession and recession.
- Consideration should be given to whether the procession and recession routes allow ministers to maintain the proper social distancing protocols from the congregation.
- A server should not hold a book for the celebrant at the chair; the missal could be placed on a lectern at the chair.
- The presentation of wine and hosts may resume during the Offertory. The members of the assembly who will present the gifts are to be wearing masks and must sanitize their hands before picking up the vessels and presenting them.
- Interactions among ministers at the altar should be minimized.
- A deacon may stand beside the celebrant to elevate the chalice at the conclusion of the Eucharistic Prayer.
- The invitation to the Sign of Peace and the Sign of Peace itself are omitted until further notice.
Distribution of Holy Communion
- The distribution of the Precious Blood is suspended at this time. Please make special arrangements for parishioners who may not be able to receive the host.
- As often as necessary the priest should instruct the faithful, either at the beginning of Mass or at the conclusion of his homily, as to the appropriate distribution of Holy Communion.
- The distribution of Holy Communion should take place in the following way:
- Communicants should know how to maintain proper social distancing in line when approaching to receive Holy Communion.
- Holy Communion may not be distributed with gloves or by an instrument and may not be received by a gloved hand.
- The minister of Holy Communion must wear an appropriate face covering and sanitize his/her hands immediately before and after distributing Holy Communion.
- A small table/stand should be placed at the Communion station with an unfolded corporal, an ablution cup/dish, and hand sanitizer in the instance that contact is made with the communicant’s hand or tongue.
- When a minister senses contact with a communicant’s hand or mouth, he/she should:
- set the ciborium or paten on the corporal,
- Purify his/her fingers in the ablution cup, then
- Use hand sanitizer and wait for his/her hands to dry,
- Continue with distribution.
- When a minister senses contact with a communicant’s hand or mouth, he/she should:
- May be celebrated during or outside of Mass.
- Holy Water fonts to remain unfilled.
- Baptism is by pouring; fresh water is to be used for each baptism. (No immersion.)
- With the exception of the infant all participants must wear masks and practice social distancing.
- Wedding Masses are able to continue following Mass protocols.
- The priest in the sanctuary nor the couple have to wear face coverings; all other participants, as required, must wear face masks.
- Celebrations/luncheons are not permitted in parish halls or gathering spaces due to capacity limits and other restrictions.
- Outdoor weddings are not permitted.
Anointing of the Sick
- Anointing of the Sick is to be celebrated individually.
- Everyone, including the priest, is to wear a face covering during the celebration of the sacrament.
- The celebrant must practice hand hygiene before laying on of hands and after anointing.
- Funeral Masses are able to continue following Mass protocols.
- Funeral luncheons are not permitted in parish halls or gathering spaces due to capacity limits and other restrictions.
- Outdoor masses are permitted, at the priest’s discretion.
- Masses must be held on parish grounds.
- Outdoor Masses in which people remain in the vehicles are prohibited.
- Individual confessions are to be encouraged and may continue.
- Communal penance services with individual absolution may continue.
- Mask and social distancing guidelines must be followed.
Wedding, Confirmation, First Holy Communion and other liturgical rehearsals
- If a rehearsal is necessary, it should be brief and follow Non-Liturgical Gathering Guidelines.
- Churches should remain open for private prayer according to their regular schedules following sanitation, social distancing, and face mask guidelines.
- Adoration chapels may be open following sanitation, social distancing, and face mask guidelines.
- Remains suspended through the remainder of this academic year.
Faith Formation and Sacramental Prep
- Faith Formation and Sacramental Prep for K-8 Grade is allowed to be held in person as of October of 2020, following school protocols.
- Faith Formation for high school students is allowed to be held in person as of January 4, 2021, following school protocols.
- Faith Formation and RCIA for adults is allowed as of January 18, 2021, following college/university protocols.
Parish Hall Rentals
- Due to capacity limits and other restrictions, rentals are not permitted at this time.
- Outdoor parish gatherings are permitted under the March 5, 2021 Gatherings and Face Mask Order following the Non-Liturgical Gathering Guidelines (above).
- Consumption of food/beverage is permitted only while seated and only in designated areas.
Bake Sale/Craft Fair/Public Lectures
- Activities are permitted in a place of worship; but, are still subject to the Gatherings and Face Mask Order’s mask requirements, social distancing, and capacity limits.
- Dinners are to be packaged individually and served in to-go containers with no eat-in service.
- • All volunteers must wear appropriate personal protection equipment at all times and complete a COVID-19 symptom questionnaire and have their temperature taken prior to entering the facility. If anyone is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms they should be asked not to volunteer.
- • The parish must also keep a record of volunteer names, phone numbers, and dates worked to assist with contact tracing should it be needed.
- • Social distancing should be maintained by the kitchen staff and those in the take-out line(s).
Blood Drives & CPR Classes
- With the need for blood being critical, parishes may move forward with holding blood drives. This is one way we can offer support to our communities. All safety precautions from the local health departments and blood banks must be followed. The space used during the blood drive must be appropriately sanitized before and after the event.
- CPR classes are permitted under the March 5, 2021 Gatherings and Face Mask Order. The space used during the class must be appropriately sanitized before and after the event.
- While it is allowed under the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Gatherings and Face Mask Order issued on January 18, 2021, per the January 22, 2021 update from the diocesan office, BINGO remains suspended until further notice in all church facilities.
Printable PDF: Updated COVID-19 Guidelines 3-4-21
Lent and Holy Week Regulations 2021 (2-11-21)
DATE: February 11, 2021
TO: All Clergy, Directors of Parish Life and Parishes Leaders
FROM: Beth Hicks, Director, Office of Worship
RE: Lent and Holy Week Regulations – Updated with Additional Information
Communal Penance Services
- Communal penance services may be celebrated using the Rite of Reconciliation of Several Penitents with Individual Confession and Absolution (Rite of Penance, Chapter II).
- The Rite of Reconciliation of Individual Penitents (Rite of Penance, Chapter I) remains the preferred form of celebration for the safety of people during the pandemic.
- The conditions for the use of General Absolution (Rite of Penance, Chapter III) are not present in the diocese and may not be used.
Stations of the Cross
- Stations of the Cross may be celebrated with safety protocols being observed.
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
- The distribution of palms may take place before Mass. The palms should be spread out on tables where the faithful take their own palm. It may be helpful to have a sign reminding people to only touch the palm they are taking. Alternatively, a few volunteers with sanitized hands or wearing gloves could assist in distribution.
- The Second Form, The Solemn Entrance is to be used for the first Mass of Palm Sunday.
Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper
- There is to be only one Mass of the Lord’s Supper celebrated in the evening.
- The Washing of the Feet is always optional. This year, for the safety of both the people and the priests, Washing of the Feet should be omitted.
- The transfer of the Most Blessed Sacrament shall be done with necessary ministers only in the procession to the location of repose. If necessary, the route should be modified to allow for proper distancing. The area for adorers who remain near the place of repose for prayer should be set up to maintain appropriate and comfortable distancing.
Good Friday of the Passion of the Lord
- There is to be only one celebration of the Passion of the Lord on this day.
- Individual adoration of the cross is permitted. The people are to process forward, socially distanced, to venerate the cross with a bow. Only the celebrant may touch and kiss the cross during Adoration.
- A special intercession should be included as the 11th of the Solemn Intercessions. The same text from 2020 may be used:
Let us pray also for all those who suffer the consequences of the current pandemic, that God the Father may grant health to the sick, strength to those who care for them, comfort to families and salvation to all the victims who have died.
Almighty ever-living God, only support of our human weakness, look with compassion upon the sorrowful condition of your children who suffer because of this pandemic; relieve the pain of the sick, give strength to those who care for them, welcome into your peace those who have died and, throughout this time of tribulation, grant that we may all find comfort in your merciful love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night
- This year, the Easter Vigil may begin as early as 8:00 pm.
- Consideration should be given to the safe, socially distanced gathering of the faithful at the fire and the procession into the church. If this cannot be done safely, the gathering of people at the fire should be limited to the ministers the elect and godparents, candidates and sponsors.
- Since all would need to remove their masks and exhale forcefully to extinguish them, the use of small candles by the faithful during the Lucernarium and the Renewal of Baptismal Promises is discouraged. Should you choose to offer the small candles to the faithful, it would be prudent to acknowledge the circumstances ahead of time, giving directions for a timely and orderly process of sharing the light and the safest manner of extinguishing them.
- Baptism is by infusion (pouring) only this year. Fresh water is to be used for each baptism.
- Holy water fonts will need to be left unfilled.
- The priest is to sanitize his hands between each anointing during the Rite of Confirmation. The anointing may also be done using a cotton ball or swab. If cotton is used, please be sure it is burned afterwards for appropriate disposal of the Chrism oil.