Father Baxter Answers Questions
Easing current COVID-19 Protocols at St. Patrick Parish
March 6, 2021
I have been receiving many questions on when Masses at St. Patrick Parish and other parish activities will be able to return to full occupancy and when the parish mask mandate will be lifted. I know these questions are on the mind of all our parishioners and I would like to address them as best as I can.
Nebraska has recently moved to the “green” phase of its pandemic plan. This phase restores indoor gatherings to 100% capacity. Social distancing at these events is no longer required by the State, however the Sarpy/Cass Health Department continues to recommend following the CDC’s guidance to keep you and your loved ones healthy, including:
• Stay home if you are sick.
• Avoid close contact. Stay six feet away from people who do not live in your household.
• Wear a mask or cloth face covering in public settings.
• Wash your hands often. It is especially important to wash before eating or preparing food, before touching your face, after using the restroom, after leaving a public place, after handling your mask, after coughing or sneezing, after blowing your nose, after changing a diaper, after caring for someone sick, or after touching animals or pets.
• Cover coughs and sneezes.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
For the time being, prudence dictates that I continue to make these recommendations a requirement for our parish. This necessitates the continued use of every other pew at Masses, the requirement for masks at all Masses at St. Patrick Parish, and for all parish meetings, activities, and visits to the parish office. We will continue to use six feet of social distancing for those who do not live in the same household, and we will continue to sanitize after each Mass.
The good news is that the number of active hospitalizations for COVID-19 are dramatically declining in Omaha metro hospitals. As of March 1, there were 90 active hospitalizations in the metro compared to a height of 445 active hospitalizations on November 23, 2020. This trend continues in statewide totals with 154 active hospitalizations in the state as of March 1 compared to a height of 987 active hospitalizations on November 20, 2020.
We are now at the point where a week-by-week analysis of the numbers, along with updates from the Sarpy/Cass Health Department, will help determine our next steps. These next steps will unfold through a five-stage easing of the current protocols over a period of time:
Stage 1: The return of the obligation to attend Holy Mass on Sunday. Archbishop Lucas is coordinating with the bishops of Lincoln and Grand Island to find a common date for the return to this most important obligation. This will also signal the end of online Masses from St. Patrick Parish.
Stage 2: Discontinue the need for six feet of social separation. Once this decision is determined, this will allow us to return to 100% occupancy in the church, the parish center, and in all of our other parish facilities. Stage two, however will still require the use of a mask.
Stage 3: Discontinue the need for a mask.
Stage 4: The return of funeral dinners and other dinners served in our parish center.
Stage 5: The retraining and return of altar servers to weekend Masses along with the retraining and return of lectors, EMHCs, greeters, and ushers who have been on hiatus during the pandemic.
Changes Effective on April 17:
• All pews in the church will be open for full-capacity seating.
• Confessions will no longer be in the Father Hitch room and will now be heard in the Confessional.
• Masks will still be required to be worn during Mass and all parish events until the weekend of May 22/23.
• Sanitizing of the church will continue to be done after each of the weekend Masses and on Wednesdays and Fridays during the week.
Changes Effective on May 21:
• Archbishop Lucas restores the obligation to attend Holy Mass on Sundays (or the Saturday Vigil) and on Holy Days of Obligation.
• Masks will become optional during Mass and all parish events.
• The extraordinary sanitizing of the church and parish facilities will end.
• St. Patrick online virtual Masses will end.
I realize that this plan will not suit every parishioner, but I believe that this will help us move forward in an informed and systematic way. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. May God bless you and keep you safe.
Sacrament of Reconciliation
Reconciliation is resuming its regular schedule back in the Confessional with the following change:
The penitent is required to wear a mask, and Father Baxter will also be wearing a mask.
If you are unable to come to confession at the scheduled time, please contact Father Baxter.