For Parishes in the red zone, only Mass and other worship services are allowed – no indoor meetings and no in-person faith formation is permitted.

Current Protocols for Parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston

Current Protocols for Parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston

As of January 8, 2021

This document is for parish life.  The Catholic Schools Office has a separate set of protocols for schools. In an attempt to keep things as simple as possible, this document deals only with requirements, not with best practices. N.B.  Everywhere that this document refers to the wearing of masks, it should be understood that the mask covers both the mouth and the nose.

Blessing of the Throats

The Blessing of Throats on the Feast of Saint Blaise (February 3)

January 14, 2021

Based on materials received from the Holy See and the USCCB this week, and the discussion at the Presbyteral Council meeting on January 14, we want to draw your attention to the following:

The USCCB has issued the following guidance with regard to the blessing of throats:

Note that the Book of Blessings contains the following provision for this rite:

1628. If, for pastoral reasons, each individual cannot be blessed in the manner described in no. 1627, for example when great numbers are gathered for the blessing or when the memorial of Saint Blaise occurs on a Sunday, a priest or deacon may give the blessing to all assembled by extending hands, without the crossed candles, over the people while saying the prayer of blessing. A lay minister says the prayer proper to lay ministers without making the sign of the cross.

The current circumstances would certainly be considered a sufficient pastoral reason to avoid administration of the blessing to individuals in the usual manner, should there be any concern of danger due to the ongoing pandemic.

So the blessing of throats can proceed. A communal form can be used, or, if in a particular parish the pastor decides that it is best to go forward with individual blessings, he can do so.  Every effort should be made to maintain a reasonable distance between the parishioner and the person doing the blessing. Both parties must wear masks. All participants in the rite should be trained in how to do it safely.

Ash Wednesday

Revised protocols and best practices regarding Ash Wednesday

January 14, 2021

Based on materials received from the Holy See and the USCCB this week, and the discussion at the Presbyteral Council meeting on January 14, we want to draw your attention to the following:

The Holy See has issued the following with regard to Ash Wednesday.

Prot. N. 17/21
Note on Ash Wednesday
Distribution of Ashes in Time of Pandemic

The Priest says the prayer for blessing the ashes. He sprinkles the ashes with holy water, without saying anything. Then he addresses all those present and only once says the formula as it appears in the Roman Missal, applying it to all in general: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The Priest then cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask and distributes the ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, he goes to those who are standing in their places. The Priest takes the ashes and sprinkles them on the head of each one without saying anything.

From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 12 January 2021.

Robert Card. Sarah, Prefect
+Arthur Roche, Archbishop Secretary

So, the sprinkling of ashes on the top of the head, without any physical contact, is the normal way.

If there is a reason why a pastor believes that this would not be practical or accepted in his parish, he may impose ashes with a cotton swab or some similar instrument.  The swab should be used only once, and a new swab used for each recipient. The swab must be subsequently burned.

He may also give packets of ashes, being sold by many liturgical supply companies now, to people to bring home for themselves and their families.

In any case, the minister must not touch the person receiving ashes. Both parties must be wearing masks.  The words should be said once at the beginning for the whole congregation, and not individually. Some parishes may in fact decide not to distribute ashes this year. In this case, the internal disposition of the person attending the Mass or service should be stressed.

Protocols for Indoor Masses

1.) All people entering the church who are older than five years old must be wearing a mask, and must continue wearing the mask until they leave, unless they have a specific speaking/singing role at the Mass.

  • Children under the age of two should not wear a mask.
  • Children from ages two to five should wear a mask only at the discretion of their parents.
  • If a person has a medical condition that makes it impossible for them to wear a mask, they can be exempted, and they do not need to present any documentation of that condition.
  • If a person refuses to wear a mask and it clearly is not a case as outlined above, the pastor can refuse them entry to the church.

2.) When inside the church, all people who are not a part of the same household must maintain a distance of six feet from one another.

  • Churches need to be clearly marked as to where people can sit, and volunteers need to be trained to help people to sit in the right places.
  • That six-foot distance should be maintained as people approach to receive Holy Communion.

3.) A system must be in place to track the number of people who have come to a Mass, so that the church does not fill beyond safe capacity. A parish may choose to keep a list of people who have attended Mass.

4.) Temperatures of all volunteers must be taken before they volunteer at Mass.

5.) A limited number of lay people can be trained to provide liturgical ministry safely. This includes readers, cantors, instrumentalists, and Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist:

  • When the minister is exercising his or her ministry (the cantor singing, the reader reading) they can remove their mask, but no one should be closer than six feet to them during that time. When they have finished their speaking or singing role, they should put their masks back on.
  • Because it would be difficult for altar servers to exercise their ministry while maintaining a distance of six feet, altar servers are not allowed at this time.

6.) Congregational singing is not allowed.

7.) Holy Communion must be distributed in a way that is safe:

  • The priest and/or extraordinary minister must disinfect his or her hands before distributing Communion.
  • The priest and/or extraordinary minister must wear a mask while distributing Communion.
  • The communicant must wear a mask while receiving Communion. After the minister has moved on to the next person, or after the communicant has stepped aside, they should remove their mask, consume the Host, and put their mask back on before returning to their seats.
  • The norm must be that communion is given in the hands.
    • In the case of a person insisting on receiving on the tongue, if the priest feels comfortable doing so, he can disinfect his hands, give the communicant Holy Communion on the tongue, disinfect his hands again, and continue distributing Communion.
      • This is an exception, and must not be the norm in a parish.
      • Some priests, because of their own health vulnerabilities, may decide that they are not comfortable giving a person Holy Communion on the tongue even as an exception, and their concerns must be respected.
    • Some parishes have developed very different ways of distributing Holy Communion. As long as those methods are safe, reverent, and approved by the regional Bishop or episcopal vicar, they may proceed.

8.) All seating must be disinfected after each Mass.

9.) If it is found that one of the people who attended Mass had Covid at the time they attended:

  • An announcement of that fact should be placed on the parish web site (but not the sick person’s name):
  • If a list has been kept, people on the list should be informed.
  • The local Board of Health must be notified.
  • The Archdiocese of Boston must be notified, either through the regional Bishop or episcopal vicar, or through

10.) These protocols apply to all Masses – weekend, daily, Funeral, Nuptial.

Additional Protocols for Inside Masses for Parishes in the Red Zones

  • Temperatures of all people must be taken before they enter the church. Anyone with a temperature of greater than 100.4 Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) should not be admitted.
  • Strict lists must be kept of all people attending the Mass.

Changes to the Protocol if the Mass is Outside

Most of the protocols above apply also to outdoor Masses, with the following exceptions.

  • If attendees remain in the cars, they do not need to wear masks while they are in their cars. When the priest or minister comes to give them Communion, they must put on a mask.
  • Taking temperatures outdoors can be unreliable, and therefore temperatures do not need to be taken for outdoor Masses.

Protocols for Faith Formation

If a parish chooses to have in-person faith formation for the children of the parish, the following protocols must be followed.

  1. A parish must prepare a safety plan.
    • Elements of that safety plan are discussed here:
    • A checklist for the safety plan can also be found at the link above.
    • Temperatures must be taken of all students and volunteers and staff.
    • All students and volunteers and staff must wear face coverings at all times.
    • Wherever possible, six-foot social distancing must be maintained. If six feet is not possible, a minimum of three-foot distance must be maintained.
    • Proper ventilation must be assured.
    • In any single enclosed space (such as a classroom) no more than 8 people per 1,000 square feet and no more than 25 people in total can be present.
    • Frequent washing of hands and use of sanitizer is required.
    • Complete attendance lists must be kept for every gathering.
  2. If a parish is in the red zone in a particular week, in-person faith formation may not be held that week.
  3. Food may not be served.

Protocols for Small Group Gatherings Inside

Small groups (twenty-five persons and under, with no more than 8 people per 1000 square feet of space) may gather in parish spaces if necessary.

All of the safety protocols in place for Masses must be respected. All participants must wear masks.

    • All participants must maintain six feet of distance.
    • Proper ventilation is required.
    • The distribution of food is not allowed.
    • The area must be sanitized after the meeting.

If a parish is in the red zone, small group gatherings are not allowed.

Protocols for Group Gatherings Outside (EXCLUDING outdoor Masses)

Groups of up to fifty may gather outside for non-liturgical gatherings. The following must also be adhered to:

  • All participants must wear masks
  • All participants must maintain six feet of distance.
  • The distribution of food is not allowed.
  • If you expect to have more than 25 at the gathering, notify your local department of health prior to gathering.

Protocols for Communion Calls

Communion may be brought to the sick and homebound under the following conditions.

  • An individual member of the clergy or Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion may visit only one Communion call in any fourteen-day period.
    • The rationale is to prevent the spread of the virus by the person bringing Communion. If the minister were to visit five communion calls in one morning, and the first recipient had Covid and gave it to the minister, potentially he or she could give it to four others, all in vulnerable categories. Thus, only one call each two weeks.
    • So, for instance, if you have fifty Communion calls, and you want to get Communion to each one once a month, you will need twenty-five visitors.
  • The minister must wear a mask and must disinfect his or her hands before giving Communion, and again after leaving the home.
  • If it is feasible for the communicant to wear a mask, that should be done.
  • If it is feasible for the minister to be met outside of the home, that should be done.
  • The visit must be very brief.
  • If it is possible to arrange for a family member to bring Communion to the shut-in, that could be done apart from the restrictions in this protocol.
  • If a parish is in the red zone, Communion calls should be suspended.

Protocols for Funerals

  • Funeral Masses must follow all of the same protocols as inside Masses.
  • The Funeral Director needs to be informed of all of the protocols, including limits on the number of attendees, and must cooperate with the pastor in enforcing those limits.
  • A priest, deacon, or other minister may not go to a wake during normal visiting hours. However, they may go before visiting hours, and pray only with the immediate family.
  • It should be requested that the eulogy be delivered at the funeral home or at the cemetery.

Protocols for Adoration

  • Adoration falls under the aegis of worship. All of the protocols in place for indoor Masses need to be followed during Adoration.
  • If a priest is not present during the whole time, another responsible staff member or volunteer must be designated to watch over the event and ensure its safety.
  • The space must be cleaned after Adoration.

Protocols for Youth Ministry

  • Youth Ministry may be held as a small group inside (twenty-five or less), or a larger group outside (fifty or less).
  • Leaders must ensure that all safety protocols, especially masks and distancing, are observed at all times, both inside and outside.
  • The parish must not allow groups of youth to hang out without masks and without distancing on parish grounds before and after youth ministry events.
  • Food may not be served. However, participants can bring their own snacks if they wish.
  • If a parish is in the red zone, youth ministry should be suspended.

Protocols for Sports

  • CYO Basketball will not be held this year.
  • Parishes may not lease out their space, either indoor or outdoor, to other leagues. If there is a pre-existing arrangement, the parish should contact the Archdiocesan legal office.
  • Sports should not be a part of Youth Ministry at this time.

Protocols for Pilgrimages and Mission Trips

Pilgrimages and mission trips are not allowed at this time.