Following Gov. Greg Abbott's recent executive order on the phased reopening of the state of Texas, the Diocese of Austin, under the leadership of Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, notified parishes they may resume the public celebration of Mass on May 5. As they open, Bishop Vásquez has asked parishes to follow protocols that are consistent with the governor’s and attorney general’s recommendations.
Bishop Vásquez has granted a dispensation for the obligation to attend Sunday Mass for those who are sick, those who are 65 and older, those who have been advised by healthcare providers to not attend Mass, those who sincerely believe that their health or the health of others will be jeopardized by their attendance, and those who sincerely believe the limitations imposed by temporary protocols make attending Mass unreasonable. Those who are unable to attend Mass are encouraged to continue to watch or listen to Mass or to make other acts of spiritual devotion.
“Brothers and sisters, I am grateful for your continued prayers, fidelity and patience during this unprecedented time in history. Throughout this difficult time, God continues to accompany us; let us turn to Him to strengthen our faith and have confidence in his compassionate love for us,” Bishop Vásquez said in a letter to the faithful. “This has also been a trying time for our priests, so I ask you to please join me in praying for them as they continue to serve you faithfully and in creative ways. Let us also remember in our prayers those who care for the sick and for those who are providing necessary services for the common good.”
In addition to Mass, baptism, reconciliation and funerals can resume, following the same protocols.
Among some of the safeguards that parishes must follow are:
• All attendees should maintain six feet of distance between each other, except for members of the same family or household.
• Those who are sick or over the age of 65 should not attend Mass.
• Parishes should continue to broadcast or livestream at least one Mass each weekend for those who are unable to attend, promote another broadcast, or livestream Mass.
• Hand sanitizing stations are to be provided at entrances and for liturgical and altar ministers.
• The faithful are encouraged to wear facemasks during the liturgy.
• Pews and regularly touched surfaces should be disinfected after each Mass.
• Liturgical and hospitality ministers should be trained to follow new protocols, and signs should be posted to remind parishioners of the hygiene protocols.
The Diocese of Austin is made up of 127 churches in 25 central Texas counties. Pastors have latitude in the way they implement some of the guidelines for individual parishes. The faithful are encouraged to check parish websites for more information on what to expect when coming to Mass.
The full decree and letter are available on the diocesan website.