Bishop Michael F. Olson has issued a pastoral letter to all priests, deacons, seminarians, religious men and women, and faithful laity of the Diocese of Fort Worth.
Complete pastoral letter (9-25-2020)
From the 9-25-2020 Pastoral Letter…
- The faithful in the Diocese of Fort Worth are still dispensed from the obligation to attend and to participate in Sunday Mass. If you are sick or exhibiting symptoms of any illness, stay home. If you are over the age of 60, I am strongly encouraging you not to attend Mass. If your parish can provide a Mass exclusively for people over the age of 60, I recommend that you attend that Mass. I am strongly recommending that people over 60 years of age not distribute Holy Communion for the sake of their own health.
- Mindful of the obligation of charity to our neighbor, I am requiring that people in attendance at Mass wear masks over their mouth and nose while inside the church to help prevent the spread of the virus. This is not simply a strong recommendation. People will not be seated without wearing a mask. We must err on the side of caution and of protecting those who are most vulnerable to the dangerous effects of COVID-19 out of an authentic love for our neighbor—a love that befits the selfless love of Christ extended to us in the gift of the Eucharist. If you do not desire to wear a mask for any reason, please stay home and you are invited to follow the Mass by live-streaming.
- Children under the age of two (2-years-old) are not required to wear masks in keeping with CDC recommendations
- The church building will be wiped down with disinfectant in between all masses. Hymnals and other worship aids are not to be present or used at Mass. Collection plates will not be passed or handled among people. Holy Communion will not be shared under both species (no reception of the chalice). There is to be no exchange of a handshake for the sign of peace.
- Holy Communion will only be distributed in the hand during this time of pandemic. This is to protect the health of all involved.
- If possible, please do not forget to maintain your stewardship and to support your parish financially.
- These same protocols and occupancy limitations apply in the Diocese of Fort Worth to the celebration of weddings, funerals, and baptisms for the sake of the safety and good health of all involved.
- Please continue to notify your parish of any family members or friends who are shut-ins and who desire a pastoral visit.
- While the Governor has recognized that religious services are not subject to occupancy limits, we have a higher duty to our faith in God in continuing to abide by sound health and safety protocols. Therefore, after consultation with public health and civic officials and having received reports of an upturn in cases, I judge that we maintain our current occupancy standard. The number of people who are to be in attendance at Mass will be limited to a number that can be safely present mindful of the recommendation of 50% capacity with social distancing, the required protocols of masks and sanitizing of hands, and receiving Holy Communion exclusively in the hand.The distance of THREE FEET between persons generally equates to 50% capacity of the church building. Couples and families may be seated together as they normally would, with three feet distance separating them from others seated in church. Upon entering church at the designated entrance, people, wearing masks or scarf coverings over their mouth and nose, will have their hands sanitized and be escorted by an usher to a seat in the church. Once the church building has reached capacity, people arriving cannot be admitted and will be invited to attend another Mass, or directed to a parish hall, if available, arranged for social distancing and with live streaming. As attendance continues to grow, please consult with your neighboring parishes before adding temporarily a new Mass to the parish schedule.
- Thank you for the extraordinary generosity that you have displayed in donating non-perishable food items and gift cards to your local parish so that they can be distributed through food banks and other outreach services in our parishes and local communities. Please, if you are able, continue to do so and to remember Catholic Charities Fort Worth (CCFW) as the ordinary means of delivery for care and services to the poor and those who are most in need. There will be an ongoing and growing need for these works of mercy from the faithful throughout our path to recovery. Please do not forget to maintain your stewardship and to support your parish financially, through direct giving or the mail.
- For other gatherings, religious education classes, and meetings, please consult the memorandum from the Vicar General sent to parishes on September 11, 2020.
- Catholic schools are to follow the policies established and approved by the Office of the Superintendent of Catholic Schools. There are to be no exceptions.
- While many nursing homes have opened with limited visitation, please arrange visits to the infirm and elderly with an abundance of caution. Priests should still anoint with cotton stock. Priests should shave their beards or keep them trimmed to maintain a tight and effective seal for the fitting of the face mask to prevent the spread of contagion.
Previous Diocesan Adaptations
Pastoral letter (3-24-2020)