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​Archdiocese reinstates Sunday Mass obligation, adjusts COVID protocols

May 18, 2021 | posted by Today's Catholic newspaper

Topics: Archbishop, In the Press, Breaking News

Archdiocese reinstates Sunday Mass obligation, adjusts COVID protocols

In consultation with various officials, and in light of the increasing number of individuals having received the COVID-19 vaccine, Archbishop Gustavo Garca-Siller, MSpS, has stated that effective May 23, the Solemnity of Pentecost, the obligation for Catholics to attend Sunday Mass and Holy Days of Obligation is reinstated for all Catholics in the Archdiocese of San Antonio.

“It is through the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith, that we are sustained with the life-giving nourishment of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” the archbishop wrote in a May 5 decree. “Due to the essential spiritual need we have for weekly physical participation in Sunday Mass, the tremendous gift and spiritual nourishment of physically receiving our Lord in Holy Communion is critically important for our spiritual growth and is very much needed right now.

For Catholics who have serious reasons for not physically attending Mass, they are encouraged to follow the guidance the Church provides in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2181): “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor.” Other examples are the elderly and physically disabled persons and those with compromised immune systems who have prayerfully discerned that they should not physically attend.

“As Catholics, we gladly return to the altar of God to receive the Bread of Life from the One who gives healing and joy to our hearts,” said Archbishop Gustavo.

In a May 14 letter to priests, principals, and agency leaders, Auxiliary Bishop Michael Boulette wrote that, as a result of positive trends regarding the coronavirus pandemic and because of recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whose advice the archdiocese had been following, that it is now sufficiently safe to make more changes to COVID-19 protocols. These are:

  • We will continue to invite people in our parishes, schools and agencies who are not fully vaccinated, to wear masks when they are indoors and around others. Mask usage is no longer required for outdoor activities. Verification of vaccination will not be required; it is our hope that everyone will act honorably in this matter for the sake of the common good.
  • We will encourage, but no longer require, social distancing measures. This means that parishes, schools and agencies can resume normal operations.
  • We ask that individuals who are feeling ill or are symptomatic to please stay home and not return to work, school or church until they have had resolution of their symptoms for at least 24 hours.
  • Parishes, schools and agencies should continue to sanitize their facilities regularly.
  • Individuals are encouraged to continue proper hand sanitation.

The bishop acknowledged, “I know that many will find these changes to be too much, too soon, and also some will suggest that we still ask too much, but if we all use common sense and act responsibly, we can continue to minister and operate as safely as possible. We will continue to monitor the advice of health officials and make changes to our protocols as the progress of the disease unfolds.”

He emphasized, “We must be mindful of those more vulnerable around us, always!”

Both Archbishop Gustavo and Bishop Boulette have encouraged vaccinations as the most important tool to end this pandemic. Vaccines are now widely available at many pharmacies and medical clinics.