Coronavirus: Frequently asked questions for the Faithful

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These questions are answered based on recommendations from local and state officials as of Oct. 5, 2020. Answers are subject to change as updates are issued and we receive more information.

(en Español)

Mass has both looked and felt different as we've returned to public worship. Churches in the diocese are not limited to a specific percentage of fixed seating capacity for indoor worship. Pastors may admit to liturgy as many people as the church will hold while still maintaining six feet of social distance between households. Under this requirement, it still may not be possible for you to attend Mass with regularity, or even to attend on Sunday. Please check with your parish for additional information.

Bishop Walkowiak has extended the dispensation for all Catholics within the territory of the Diocese of Grand Rapids from their obligation of attending Sunday Mass through Nov. 23. The dispensation is granted broadly to ensure that anyone who needs to stay home to protect the common good can do so confidently, in good conscience. But those who are truly able to attend Mass should begin to return, remembering that we are transformed by being joined to Christ in the Eucharist. Bishop Walkowiak is confident in the safety precautions our pastors and parish staffs have implemented to safeguard the physical health of the faithful while attending Mass: the required wearing of masks, proper social distancing, and cleaning according to CDC guidelines.

Yes. Pews will be taped off to achieve proper social distancing. Individuals who are not members of the same household will need to sit at least six feet away in all directions from others and to maintain a distance of six feet while processing up to the altar and returning to their pew during Communion.

Yes, all members of the faithful attending Mass who are two years old and older and able to medically tolerate a face covering will need to bring and wear their own appropriate face covering to attend Mass. Parents, we know this may be difficult with young children, please try your best. Liturgical ministers, who are in the sanctuary, will only wear face coverings while distributing Holy Communion. Holy Communion may not be received in the hand if you are wearing gloves.

On Friday, July 17, Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-153 requiring masks in all indoor spaces and crowded outdoor spaces. This executive order means that anyone participating in outdoor parish programming which does not allow for maintaining proper social distance is required to wear a mask. Those who cannot medically tolerate a mask/face covering are exempt from this. The original recommendation from the diocese was that masks were encouraged, but not required outdoors.

Among a few changes: physical greetings will be omitted; the temporary suspension of the distribution of the Precious Blood remains in effect; collections baskets will not be passed. We encourage parishioners to give to their parish online or to drop contributions in a common basket provided by the parish upon your arrival or departure from Mass.

Ushers or a group of volunteers will be wiping down frequently-touched surfaces between Masses. Parishioners are encouraged to bring and use their own hand sanitizer.

Watch the LIVE broadcast of Sunday Mass each week from the Cathedral of Saint Andrew in Grand Rapids at 10 a.m. ET. Available on the diocesan website, on Facebook or on TV on WXMI Fox 17. For the Holy Week live broadcast schedule and ways to watch online or on TV, click here.

In addition, EWTN offers the live broadcast of Sunday Mass at 8 a.m. and noon, and daily Mass in Spanish: Ver Misa Diaria | Calendario

Catholics are encouraged to make an act of spiritual Communion, a great source of grace; to pray the rosary, or meditate on Sacred Scripture to keep holy the Lord’s Day. We can also seek the intercession of our Blessed Mother asking for her intercession, consolation and for an end to the pandemic. Additional resources may be found here.

(Arch) Bishops have the authority to suspend the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. The dispensation that is granted by the bishop means you are not committing a mortal sin by missing Mass.

The dispensation however, does not release Catholics from honoring the Lord's Day on Sunday. Catholics are encouraged to make a spiritual Communionpray the rosary, or meditate on Sacred Scripture to keep holy the Lord’s Day. Additional spiritual resources are available here.

Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament may be resumed following COVID-19 guidelines for the diocese and the parish. Please contact the parish for details.

Adoration chapels may reopen following COVID-19 guidelines for the state, the diocese and the parish or organization with which the adoration chapel is associated.

Baptisms are to be held individually following the COVID-19 guidelines for the diocese and the church in which the baptism is being celebrated. Please contact the parish for additional information.

Weddings may be celebrated with or without a Mass following the COVID-19 guidelines for the diocese and the church in which the wedding is being celebrated. Please contact the parish for additional information.

For more information about getting married in the diocese, please click here.

It is important that we mourn with families. Funerals may be celebrated with or without a Mass following the COVID-19 guidelines for the diocese and the church in which the funeral is being celebrated.

Committal services at the cemetery may be celebrated outdoors with appropriate social distancing guidelines in place.

Parishes may allow for the use of their parish hall for a funeral luncheon. Please check with your parish for additional information.

Once finalized, information will be released from your parish on regarding fall 2020 confirmations.

Visits to the homebound are not encouraged at this time with the exception of Viaticum in order to safeguard the well-being of the individual who is remaining at home.

Communion to the homebound:
Homebound individuals may receive Communion at home under the following guidelines:

  • The Eucharist is taken to the individual by a priest, deacon, or pastoral associate of the parish, or a member of the individual’s household.
  • The member of the household must be trained to perform the Rite for homebound individuals.
  • The minister should not enter the individual’s home, unless necessary. Under ideal circumstances, the homebound individual can meet the minister on their porch or outdoors to celebrate the Rite.

These days of the COVID-19 pandemic and protective measures to prevent its spread can be anxious and unsettling times for us all. Visitor access to our hospitals is being limited to help prevent the spread of the virus. Please check with the admitting hospital for their current COVID-19 protocols and follow those. As permitted by hospital protocols, our priests will continue to celebrate the sacrament of the anointing of the sick for those for whom death appears imminent due to sickness or old age.

Our priests also are available to contact patients by phone. Please reach out to your pastor or associate pastor should the need arise. For a list of priests in the diocese, click here. For a list of parishes, click here.

Parish food pantries are open and are following instructions from local and state health officials.

At a time like this, we all have questions, many of them beginning with the word "Why?" It's especially important in this time to remember that while God does not remove us from difficulties in our lives, he walks with us and never ceases to care.

As our churches reopen for public worship, Catholics are asked to follow the guidelines for parishes and schools set out by Bishop Walkowiak to help prevent the spread of the virus. These guidelines are in accordance with directives issued by health experts at the national, state and local levels.

Catholics are also encouraged to pray. and, as we slowly return, to continue to go outside ourselves to help family members and neighbors to ensure that no one feels abandoned or discouraged or goes without, while practicing social distancing.