Several parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis are exercising an option to distribute Communion after the conclusion of Mass.
The option was among a set of recommendations forwarded to dioceses by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as public Masses resumed in May. The guidelines were offered by the Thomistic Institute at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington. Another set of recommendations was made by the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions. Each bishop makes a determination as to what happens in his own diocese.
Pastors in the Archdiocese of St. Louis who have allowed for the distribution of Communion after Mass have said that they’ve exercised the option in an effort to keep parishioners healthy and safe.
Communion is distributed after weekend Masses at the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France (Old Cathedral) to help mitigate any spread of the virus, said rector Father Nicholas Smith. Communion is distributed during Mass at weekday Masses.
“We don’t have a very big space, and we wanted to avoid congregating of any kind” after Mass, said Father Smith, who also serves as director of the archdiocesan Office of Worship. “We have them come up in sections, and then they’re walking out so they’re not walking by anybody but out the door.”
With the number of
COVID-19 cases fluctuating in the St. Louis area, Father Smith decided to keep things as-is for now. “When the flu season starts, who knows what’s going to happen again? It’s easier to make a change then to go back again. We will reassess in the fall.”
Communion has been distributed after three weekend Masses at St. Ambrose Parish on the Hill since May. Weekday Masses, which are typically lower in attendance, include distribution of Communion within the context of the Mass, said pastor Father Vincent Bommarito.
Father Bommarito met with extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion to discuss the options. “We came to the conclusion to have a complete Mass with a final blessing, and then people would only have to move once,” he said. “They receive (the Eucharist) and outside they go to their cars. People are not coming back to the pews, so no one is stepping over anybody. We also ask people to wear masks throughout the entire Mass.”
St. Joseph Parish in Manchester also chose to distribute Communion after Masses. “We had a two-fold reason,” said pastor Father Tom Pastorius. “One was to handle the six-foot distancing between people not only in front of you, but to the side of you. The second reason was if there were going to be several hundred people, to have them go back to the pew and then leave again would not give us time to properly sanitize.”
Most parishioners have been receptive to the new, albeit temporary, change. “Ninety percent of them have been really good and are just happy to receive the Eucharist,” he said.
Epiphany Parish in St. Louis distributed Communion after Masses for a short while, but ultimately went back to Communion during Mass, said pastor Father Michael Rennier.
“People weren’t all that keen on it,” he said. “I noticed two (smallish) issues — it separated my reception of Communion from that of the people in a way I thought was a counter-symbol to our unity, and also the closing collect occasionally would refer to the sacrament ‘we have consumed.’” An Epiphany parishioner made the observation that Massgoers receiving Communion after Masses exhibited a sense of reverence while exiting church, as compared to the congregating that typically happens after Mass.
Assumption Parish in south St. Louis County also chose not to distribute Communion after Masses, but instead is offering a weekly outdoor Mass for parishioners who are taking extra precautions for health and/or age reasons.
“The Mass is on our parking lot so folks can social distance on lawn chairs,” and is broadcast using a low-powered FM transmitter, said pastor Father Thomas Keller.
Assumption also has been hosting outdoor Catholic movie nights on Fridays, including titles such as The Scarlet and the Black and The Chosen series; as well as socially-distanced social get-togethers for seniors at the parish.
“It’s been difficult to live parish life, under the circumstances, but we’re doing the best we can,” Father Keller said.