Diocese of Lansing plans social distancing practices for in-person Masses

LANSING, MI (WILX) - Catholics across Mid-Michigan may soon get to go back to church.

The Lansing Diocese plans to re-start masses in all 76 parishes on Monday, May 18--that's just three days after the governor's stay-at-home order is set to expire.

The next time you enter the doors to St.Thomas Aquinas for Mass, it may look a little different inside, that's because the "new normal" for services will include less people, sitting pews apart.

"We are marking hash lines like it's a football field," laughed Fr. Gordon Reigle, of St. Thomas Aquinas in East Lansing.

Father Gordon isn't wrong.

Blue painters tape is now lined up in aisles throughout St.Thomas Aquinas to show where people can stand during communion.

"We are trying to mark off, if we are able to have communion, places for the Eucharistic ministers and places for people to be."

Red rope is also being used to mark off every other pew.

"That will keep people six feet apart and of course we will try to space people out within those pews."

As you notice these new additions to the churches, you may also see some items missing.

Hymn books, collection baskets, holy water are just some of the things the diocese is taking away for safety measures.

"Those can be a source of a spreading the disease that are hard to clean," said David Kerr, the Director of Communications of the Diocese of Lansing. "Things big and small have to be taken care of to ensure safety."

Mass may even sound differently once they resume on May 18 because the diocese is not allowing choirs to sing.

The decision comes as experts believe singers can absorb more particles as they tend to breathe deeper into their diaphragms than they would during normal breathing.

"If we do see singing, it will be done by one person, a cantor," said Kerr.

The Lansing Diocese is still working on what percentage of capacity each parish can hold during Mass, as many will have to cut down significantly under these new measures.

"This cathedral here holds 800, the likelihood is that it won't be able to hold 15 to 20 percent to ensure proper social distancing," said Kerr.

The first Masses are set to resume on a Monday, hoping to give the clergy and the congregation enough time to adjust before a Sunday mass.

"I think people will sort of drizzle in at first because I'm sure people are going to be a bit cautious but it will probably be good if its a bit of a soft opening," said Fr. Gordon.

As far as face masks, the diocese is consulting with the other church officials to see if it will be a requirement for both the congregation and clergy when attending Masses.

The diocese is working this week on how communion and other aspects of Mass will be carried out.

It will give parishes enough time to get the church ready by the may eighteenth opening date.

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