Reopening of Religious Services in Our Diocese – A Statement from Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ

I join my brother bishops of California in writing, “As we enter into the major solemnities of the liturgical calendar in the weeks ahead, we pray these days and our first steps to celebrating our faith in our churches will be a time of blessing, strength and faith for us all.”

Amidst the many voices declaring how churches should “reopen,” I hope to minimize confusion and provide clear guidance to the Catholics of our diocese as we draw upon the sacraments and our communities for strength and blessing. Public health and safety remain my paramount concern. Safety precautions, such as social distancing, are a practical demonstration of our call to love our neighbor.

As a reminder, I have lifted the obligation of Sunday Mass attendance until further notice. Our parishes are providing livestreaming and videos of Masses, and we have other options for participating in Masses available on our diocesan website.

Governor Newsom and the California Department of Public Health have issued overarching guidelines for places of worship that are positive, constructive and fundamentally in alignment with the recommendations the California Catholic Bishops have offered in consultation with State and local officials. I am now awaiting specific rules and regulations from Alameda and Contra Costa County health officials, with whom we have been in contact.

Once I have reviewed these in consultation with our Presbyteral Council, I will issue specific instructions to our priests on what the resumption of public Masses will look like, and pastors will then determine a timeline appropriate for each parish.

Last week, I provided guidance to our pastors regarding the celebration of Mass outdoors, in parking lots, and the distribution of Holy Communion outside of Mass. These guidelines included specific instructions on how our parishes can provide you with the Blessed Sacrament, while observing public health standards. Your parish has more information regarding what you should expect when you either attend an outdoor Mass or come to the church to receive Holy Communion.

The experience of the pandemic has reminded us all of the Church’s deep concern for the well-being of the whole person—physical, emotional and spiritual. It will be quite some time before we return to the familiar ways of worship that sustained us before the pandemic, and when we can live our faith with the same fervor as we are now expressing our charity and love for our neighbors.

I am grateful to all of you for your continued efforts to express your faith, both in prayer and in action. Your continued financial support of your parish, through online portals or by other means, allows us to continue our ministries. Thank you!

Every day I offer prayers of gratitude and intercession for each of you. Please, I ask you remember me in your prayers as well.