2020.9.16 – COVID Update
Dear Parishioners of St. Francis,
Grace and God’s peace be with you! I hope this message finds you well. I want to take a moment and update you on the current situation in our parish in relation to COVID precautions.
Where We’ve Been
It is hard to imagine but, in the state of Kansas, we have been under COVID health precautions for nearly five months. The last day of on-campus school was March 13th. The obligation to attend Sunday Mass was lifted on March 17th. The stay-at-home-order for Kansas went into effect on March 30th. And public Masses were resumed on May 6th. At that time, when the Bishop resumed public Masses, he issued guidelines for safety that include:
• requesting people to wear masks,
• 6-foot distancing in pews between individuals/households,
• limiting the number of those who assist at Mass to only essential ministries,
• generous use of hand sanitizer,
• encouraging reception of communion on the hand,
• avoiding congregational singing,
• discouraging the use of hymnals and missals.
These diocesan guidelines remain in force. And they drive our decision-making processes concerning all parish events and gatherings.
Sunday Mass remains non-obligatory. While people are encouraged to attend in person, they are able to “keep holy the Lord’s day” by attending Mass via live stream or by doing some form of household Sunday worship, including an act of Spiritual Communion.
At first, the attendance at Sunday Mass began small; but in the recent weeks our attendance has grown. Before COVID St. Francis had about 3600 persons coming to Mass each weekend. As of September 13th, we had over 1800 persons attend Mass. As people are returning to Mass, we have begun to use overflow spaces in Clare Hall, both upstairs and downstairs. While maintaining social distancing, utilizing overflow space, and seating households together, each Mass can accommodate between 350 – 375 persons.
People are asking the question, “when should I start attending Mass in person?” The answer is twofold: when you feel that your health is not in jeopardy and when you find yourself increasingly attending social events, such as going to restaurants or public gatherings.
When you do decide to return to Mass you may want to choose a Mass that has lower attendance if possible. Our 7:00 pm Saturday and 7:00 am Sunday Masses have our lowest attendance. While the 10:00 am and 11:30 am Masses are close to capacity. (See below for average attendance.)
Concerning liturgical ministries, considering the need for social distancing, we have chosen to limit the number of ministers we have at each Mass. The reason for this is twofold. First, having 7 Sunday Masses in a time when Mass attendance is not obligatory, staffing all ministry needs is very difficult. Second, with the social distancing guidelines in force, and the continued concern for transmitting COVID, those ministries that cannot maintain distance being delayed.
We thank our ushers for the dedicated service they have provided to welcome people back to church and to keep people safe. Extreme gratitude also goes to our cantors, organists, and musicians who have provided beautiful Gregorian chant for us to dignify our celebration of Mass. We are also thankful for those Extraordinary Ministers of Communion who are beginning to step forward so that the priests can resume confessions during Sunday Mass. And we are currently looking for lectors to read, as lectors can maintain proper distancing while reading. As for choirs, congregational singing, servers, greeters, welcoming committee, and sacristans, we will start those ministries as we are prudently able.
Restarting Parish Groups
We have also started to allow parish groups to use parish halls again. As a highly active stewardship parish, we have many faithful committees, ministries, education, and prayer groups that are eager to resume meeting on parish campus. Those groups who wish to start meeting again can contact Travis Pearson to schedule a room. But here are a few things to be aware of:
• Small meeting rooms will not be used.
• Large meeting rooms will be used with social distancing and the request for using masks.
• Groups who met on a particular day, time, and location may not be able to meet on the same day, time, and location as before.
Please be patient as we seek to accommodate requests.
Financially speaking, there is some good news and some concerns. On the positive side, our overall giving is roughly equal to last year’s, allowing us to have all bill’s paid and no debts. On the concerning side, we are still shorting our weekly budget, have seen dips in the number of tithing envelopes, and less loose change in the collection basket has dropped our income. Thank you so much to all those who have been sacrificially generous to the parish in face of this crisis.
As always, I want to express my extreme gratitude to the many faithful stewards and employees of our parish who have heroically navigated our parish through a unique moment in our history. As I have done in the past, I want to thank our school staff, faculty, and administration for the herculean efforts for an effective start of the school year. Because of their efforts we can teach our children in the classroom, in person, even while maintain social distancing. Thank you to the Fr. Drew, Fr. Luke, parish staff, and administrative team. They have responded with grace and patience to the various pressures and needs of our parish family.
And finally, a word of hope. In a world that seems to have gone mad in tweets, posts, articles, political posturing, arguments, riots, panic, and anxiety each of us must make a conscious choice to choose hope! God is bigger than this crisis. As St. Paul says, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him… If God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom 8:28). Please, choose hope. Choose peace. Choose love. As Jesus taught us: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35).
May God bless you with Grace and Peace.
Average Mass Attendance
The current average Mass attendance is:
• 5:00 pm Saturday – 235 persons
• 7:00 pm Saturday – 174 persons
• 7:00 am Sunday – 167 persons
• 8:30 am Sunday – 230 persons
• 10:00 am Sunday – 356 persons
• 11:30 am Sunday – 286 persons
• 1:00 pm Sunday - 253 persons