(See separate post for Kinvara Parish). Copies of this letter will be available in the porch of Ballinderreen Church and other places.
Dear parishioners of Ballinderreen,
It is good news that, from 29th June 2020, it will be possible, though with restrictions, to have a congregation present again at Mass and other Sacraments in St Colman’s Church in Ballinderreen. In order to do this, we must satisfy important conditions to ensure that everybody is kept safe from the COVID-19 virus. These conditions are to ensure strict adherence to physical distancing, good hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette and regular cleaning and sanitising of shared areas and surfaces. Our parish approach is detailed in the guidance document from the Bishops of the West of Ireland, Nothing Can Separate Us from the Love of God. To read that document in full, see https://www.galwaydiocese.ie/…/Nothing-can-separate-us-from… Many thanks to the Parish Pastoral Council members who have been giving generously of their time in helping to work out how to apply these arrangements in Ballinderreen parish.
It is most important that people who are unwell or in a vulnerable category – and especially those with any symptoms that might suggest COVID-19 infection – should stay at home, and, if possible, continue to participate via the Facebook live-streaming of Mass.
The Obligation to attend Sunday Mass (and Holy Days) is suspended during the pandemic. The normal Sunday Mass at 10.30am will resume. A Saturday evening Vigil Mass at 8.15pm will be introduced temporarily in order to give more people a chance to come. Weekday Masses will be on Tuesdays at 7pm and on Wednesdays at 7pm, instead of the usual 9am Mass on Wednesdays, to facilitate those who are working during the day.
It is necessary to ask parishioners to attend Mass on a day other than Sunday some of the weeks. For the purpose of deciding who gets to attend each Mass because of the limitation on numbers in the Church, a plan has been devised, dividing the parish into four quadrants, with the crossroads as the dividing point, with the dates rotating. Please see the accompanying list of areas in each quadrant and rota of which quadrant is timetabled for each Mass. Please arrive to Mass no earlier than 30 minutes before the Mass, so that the stewards may give entry to people in a fair manner. Entrance to the Church will be through the main door, and exit through the side door. Please wait for the stewards to show you to your seat.
Please use the hand sanitiser provided on entering and leaving the Church.
The use of face coverings is advised. Please dispose of them and any gloves at home.
The seating capacity of the Churches will be greatly reduced. The current 2 metre distancing requirement means that two rows in every three will be blocked off and that a maximum of two people not of the same household may sit in each seat in the main aisle, and three in each seat in the side aisles, with 2 metres apart. Members of the same household may sit together in a seat. It won’t be possible to keep favourite seats or traditional family seats in the Church during this period, but we look forward to the time in the future when parishioners can choose a favourite seat again. Priority will be given to family members of those for whom the Mass is offered for anniversaries, months minds, etc. The Church will be filled in the following order: school-side aisle first, choir aisle next and then the main aisle starting with the front seats.
Space will be available in the area beside the children’s room for anybody with a physical disability who requires space for a wheelchair, etc. Wheelchair access will be available and is clearly signed in the Church. Please make known any special requirements and they will be accommodated.
When the limited capacity inside is reached, those who cannot enter the Church building will be able to participate from outside via the outside loudspeaker, or with the help of the Facebook livestreaming, but please observe 2-metre physical distancing or sit in your car.
Please follow the directions of the stewards for entering and leaving the Church, and for receiving Communion, in order to limit people crossing each other’s paths as much as possible.
The Sign of Peace will remain suspended during this period.
The Priest and Ministers of Holy Communion will wear face coverings for the distribution of Communion. Each Minister of Holy Communion is asked to have his or her own face covering. During this time, Communion will have to be received on the hand only. In Ballinderreen Parish, Holy Communion will be distributed at the end of Mass, the school side first, then the choir aisle, and then the main aisle, starting with the front seats. Parishioners should depart then through the side entrance. Parishioners attending Mass outside or in their cars are welcome to come in to receive Communion at the end of Mass, adhering to the guidance of the stewards. Low-gluten hosts will be available from the Priest and Minister of Holy Communion for those who require them.
Unfortunately, even the choirs will have to be restricted in the interests of physical distancing and prevention of droplet projection. It will be possible to have an organist and cantor instead during this period.
The Altar Servers will be re-introduced in September, observing the restrictions necessary at that time.
Baskets will not be passed around for the offertory collection. Contributions can be placed in the offertory collection box in the entrance porch before Mass or in the exit porch after Mass.
There will be no Holy Water in the fonts for the time being. The parish newsletter will not be available during this time, to avoid the risk of contamination by handling sheets of paper handled by others. The children’s room and the toilets will remain closed for now.
All these guidelines will be kept under constant review, taking account of the experience of their implementation and any changes in public health guidance.
Volunteers are invited to come forward, in particular to be part of the teams sanitising the Churches (at least an hour) after each Mass or other ceremony, and for the teams of stewards who will help to maintain physical distancing and safe movement within and outside the Churches. To volunteer, please email the parish at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or send a direct message to the parish Facebook page or telephone Fr Hugh at 091 637154, with your name, contact phone number, your email, and please mention that it is for Ballinderreen Parish you are volunteering.
I greatly look forward to seeing you back in Church. We ask the Lord to protect everybody in our community and to bring this period of emergency to an end soon.
Yours sincerely, Fr Hugh Clifford, Parish Priest