I hope this email finds you all well and eagerly awaiting your opportunity to return to mass. There is nothing I would like more than to welcome you ALL back.
I am happy to report that we have worked diligently to implement the procedures set out by the archdiocese, and this past Sunday did our first test run with a small group of volunteers. While things went well, we did identify some modifications that need to be made before we can officially open the parish. As we implement our re-opening plans, we must do so with prudence and caution, ensuring that we do everything possible to reduce the potential transmission of the virus.
One of the biggest challenges is that, to re-open, we must do so respecting the joint restrictions of 30% capacity (number of parishioners allowed in the church at any one time) and physical distancing. For Annunciation this means that our congregation may be as low as 50 people at any given mass. To help manage the numbers, we have implemented a simple registration system that will allow parishioners, who wish to return to mass, the opportunity to do so on a rotating basis. Please remember that the dispensation to attend mass is still in effect, and you are not obligated to attend mass until we are well into stage four.
As you can expect, things will look a little different when we return to church. For that reason, I’m attaching a document, Guidelines for Returning to Church – Resource for the Faithful, to give you a better sense of what you can expect and how you can prepare you and your family before you arrive at church, when you arrive and at points in between. Yes, some of these are uncomfortable practices and they may seem overly restrictive – I understand that. However, to prevent us from having to close once again and to keep everyone as safe as possible, we must all do our part and make the best of this challenging situation.
One key point that I would like to highlight is that the diocese, after consulting with the Chief Medical Officer for the Province of Ontario, is asking that all those (over the age of 3) who come to church wear a mask/face covering to mitigate the potential spread of the virus. Again, I recognize this is uncomfortable, but it is out of care and love for our neighbour. Please follow this direction and bring a mask/face covering with you when you return to church.
Finally, I invite you to consider how you might share your time and talents as a volunteer. The many tasks required for re-opening are significant, and we need more volunteers than ever to help. If you’d like to volunteer, please contact Lorie O’Reilly, Director of Volunteers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our joy of re-opening churches is measured with the restrictions that will be required. However, returning to sacramental life and gathering as a community is sustenance essential for our faith community during these trying days.
I look forward to welcoming you back soon – be assured that you remain in my prayers each day.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Rob Arsenault, Pastor