Diocese of Trenton lifts mask requirements, reinstates Sunday mass obligation
Sunday mass (or Saturday night) will feel more like normal again for the first time in over a year for the Catholic faithful in the Diocese of Trenton and across New Jersey.
The Diocese of Trenton (which oversees churches in Ocean, Monmouth, Mercer and Burlington Counties) made several revisions to Covid-based protocols in an announcement posted in the Trenton Monitor this week, which is their official publication.
Starting next weekend, on June 5-6, the Bishops of New Jersey have ended the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, meaning you must once again attend weekly mass or it will be considered a sin, the dispensation that lifted that obligation is back in play.
As it was before the pandemic and certainly during the pandemic, if you are feeling sick, have an underlying condition or are fearful of Covid-19 transmission, the Diocese said the obligation does not apply to you, but in lieu of that, you are asked and encouraged to attend weekly mass.
As Governor Murphy has lifted the mask mandates and social distancing, so now has the Diocese of Trenton, and in both cases it applies to those who've been fully vaccinated.
"Yet, recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic remains active, wearing a mask is an option for those who wish to do so.
The clergy and faithful should use their best judgment to protect their own health and the health of their neighbors.
Moreover, those who are not fully vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear a mask."
Churches will be able to have full-capacity beginning on June 4 and you do not need to be vaccinated to receive any of the Sacraments, it is just generally encouraged to prevent spread.
The Diocese of Trenton, through the Trenton Monitor, has also released other guidance on what restrictions are lifted and what church will be like in the days and weeks ahead.
- Pastors should devise a liturgical schedule appropriate for parish’s needs at this time.
- All doors may be utilized for entrance and exit of church.
- Barriers, tape, cords to maintain social distancing may be removed.
- Sanitizing of pews and other furnishing after each Mass may be discontinued.
- Hand sanitizers should continue to be made available.
- Restrooms may be restored to full use.
- Blessed Water may be placed in fonts.
- Missals and hymnals may be placed in pew book racks.
- Bulletins, worship aids, etc., may be distributed.
- The continued use of livestreaming is encouraged for the benefit of the homebound.
CELEBRATION OF MASS
- “Parking lot Masses” and “In-car reception of the Eucharist” should be discontinued.
- Pastors are encouraged to invite liturgical ministers to resume their ministry.
- All ministers of Holy Communion should wear masks while distributing the Holy Eucharist.
- Receiving Holy Communion in the hand continues to be strongly encouraged although Holy Communion may be received on the tongue as well.
- The procession for Holy Communion is strongly encouraged at the usual time at Mass.
- The usual procession of ministers to and from sanctuary may resume.
- Music Ministers may return to their usual ministry.
- The collection may be taken up as in the past.
- The Presentation of the Gifts by the faithful may resume.
- The use of separate chalices for concelebrants and deacons is encouraged for the time being.
- Sharing chalices for the faithful is not permitted at this time. Holy Communion is to be distributed by the sacred host only.
- The Sign of Peace may resume.
- Greeting people at the church door may resume.
- Washing the sacred vessels with warm water and soap after each Mass should continue.
- Confessionals may be used where there is proper ventilation and space. Where there is no proper ventilation and space, pastors should arrange an appropriate place for Confessions.
- Sanitizer and masks should be available and used by the priest and the penitent.
- More than one infant may be baptized at the same ceremony.
- The blessing and the pouring of water from a pitcher is recommended.
- Q-Tips may continue to be used for the anointings.
- The baptismal garment may be placed upon the newly baptized.
- Group photos may be taken.
- Nuptial Masses may be offered.
- Worship aids may be utilized.
- Greetings at the door and the Sign of Peace may be exchanged.
- Group photos may be taken.
- Vigil services at funeral homes may now resume where previously suspended.
- “Open casket” visitation in church before the Mass is permitted.
- The use of the pall may resume.
- Parish meetings and socials may resume. Refreshments may be served observing local health protocols.
- Masks and social distancing requirements are lifted except as noted above on Friday, May 28, and these revisions to pandemic protocols as well as full occupancy of churches are to be implemented on Friday, June 4. The dispensation from Sunday and Holy Day Mass obligation is lifted except as noted above on Saturday, June 5.