MASSENA — With a limit on how many people can participate in Mass starting next weekend, St. Peter’s Parish in Massena has been taking reservations for seating at Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s churches.
“Church capacity for seating with the current situation is lower, which is why we will take requests for seats in advance by phone to the parish office (315-769-2469),” the Rev. Mark Reilly, pastor of St. Peter’s Parish said. Requests should be made by 3 p.m. Thursdays.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has directed that, as part of their reopening, churches can be at 25 percent capacity as long as social distancing requirements are met. Father Reilly said the total 25 percent capacity for the churches in the parish is about 125 individuals.
When considering social distancing requirements, that number could be as low as 63 parishioners at St. Mary’s Church and 61 at Sacred Heart Church.
Until restrictions are relaxed, St. Lawrence Church in Louisville will not open. The social distancing maximum attendance capacity there is about 23 parishioners, with its 25 percent capacity going up to 40 as the absolute maximum allowed.
The 6 p.m. Saturday Mass will be held at St. Mary’s instead of St. Lawrence to give more people the opportunity to attend.
Beginning Saturday, Masses will be held Saturdays at 4 p.m. at Sacred Heart and 6 p.m. at St. Mary’s; and Sundays at 8 a.m. at St. Mary’s, 9:30 a.m. at Sacred Heart and 11 a.m. at St. Mary’s. Holy communion will be offered at 12:30 p.m. Sundays at St. Mary’s for those who are unable to attend Mass in person.
Public weekday Masses will resume on June 15. Those are held at 12:05 p.m. Monday and Friday at Sacred Heart, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Mary’s, 8:15 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday at St. Mary’s and 9 a.m. Saturday at Sacred Heart.
Bishop Terry R. LaValley has dispensed Sunday Mass obligations for the time being, and he encourages those who are over age 60 to hold off on coming back to church for now. Anyone who is not feeling well, or who has any serious underlying health issues such as diabetes, hypertension or heart conditions should stay home.
For those attending Mass, anyone over 2 years old is required to wear a mask while in church.
Bishop LaValley announced over the weekend that, with the governor’s announcement of church reopenings, churches in the Diocese of Ogdensburg could open their doors effective immediately to 25 percent capacity if they had an approved parish reopening plan.
Previously, churches with approved plans were able to open for up to 10 people to comply with state regulations.
Those who return to churches will find some changes. There will be no holy water in fonts; there will be no offertory processions; and there will be no passing of the collection basket, which will instead be placed in a fixed location where parishioners can leave their contributions as they enter or leave church.
The distribution of Holy Communion will be different, and no worship aids such as missalettes and hymnals will be available. In addition, there will be no choirs in the early phases of the return to public worship, and there will be no congregating in church, on the steps or at the doors of the church.
“We are overjoyed that more of the faithful are able to gather in public prayer and worship at Mass together. We ask that everyone exercise patience and understanding as our churches work to comply with the plans and guidelines that are intended to help keep us all safe. Please check your parish website, social media pages or contact your parish office to learn your parish’s reopening schedule. Let us continue to pray for one another,” Bishop LaValley said in a statement.