Mass Directives in Phase Two

On Monday, June 8, the State of Massachusetts began to implement Phase Two of the reopening of the State.
The following are up-to-date protocols in the Archdiocese of Boston for Liturgical celebrations.

Please note: no parish should have Mass unless they can do it safely, and in compliance with the guidelines.


All Masses, whether daily Masses, Funerals, or Sunday Masses, must comply with the same social distancing and safety guidelines outlined below.

Shrines and chapels within the Archdiocese fall within these same guidelines.

Who Should Come to Mass

The dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation will continue for the foreseeable future.

Cardinal Seán strongly encourages people in vulnerable populations, especially the elderly and those with complicating physical conditions, to continue to watch Mass from their homes, on their parish’s social media or on CatholicTV.

Parishes need to have a way of limiting the number of people who come into the church. A viable option may be to make use of a registration package like SignUpGenius or EventBrite. Signing up by phone or email should also be an option. To view these options, please download Managing the Attendance Requirement.

No matter what option a parish chooses, the pastor must be able to ensure that the size of the congregation in the church is not more than 40% of capacity and not more than the church can fit with social distancing maintained.

If a parish learns that a person who has come to Mass has tested positive for COVID-19, it must notify the Local Board of Health (LBOH) in the city or town in which the church is located and assist the LBOH as reasonably requested to trace likely contacts and advise contacts to isolate and self-quarantine.

Every parish is encouraged to continue the streaming of their Masses, in order to maintain a relationship with those who are not yet ready to return to Mass.

Protocols for All Parishioners

If parishioners can bring their own bottle of hand sanitizer to the church, they should. Otherwise, they can use sanitizer provided by the parish and positioned at the entry to the church.

All members of the congregation need to wear masks, with a few exceptions:

  • Children under the age of two should not wear masks.
  • Parents should judge for children between the ages of two and five whether they should wear a mask.
  • All people who claim an exemption because of health can forego wearing a mask. They do not have to provide documentation.
  • The priest and others with him in the sanctuary do not need to wear masks in the sanctuary as long as strict socially distancing is maintained. They do have to wear masks when assisting with the distribution of Holy Communion.

With reasonable exceptions allowed, there should be no public access to the sacristy while the church is open.

There will be no social gatherings either before or after Mass.

Protocols During Mass

Any priest, deacon, lector, or volunteer who has a respiratory infection of any kind should not attend Mass.

There should be no altar servers.

Where it can be done safely a priest (alone) may participate in an opening and closing procession. [Many parishes have reported that a simple procession from the side is working fine for them at this point, and if that is the case for you, by all means continue that.] There should be no gift procession.

Choirs will not be allowed.

Congregational singing will not be allowed in these early days. Fully respectful of the very important role that music plays in our liturgies, and also respectful of the public health concerns, the congregation should be instructed not to sing, either by announcement or by signs. There can be a cantor and an instrumentalist, who would provide music during the Mass (perhaps limited to the psalm, the Mass parts, and a song at Communion).

Masses can have a priest, a deacon, a lector, an instrumentalist, a cantor, and whatever volunteers are necessary to ensure the safe flow of people. If there are to be two communion stations (only in a large church), an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist could be used if there is no deacon.

In the sanctuary, the priest, the deacon, and the lector must respect strict social distancing. They should not wear masks in the sanctuary.

There must be no passing of the basket for the offertory. Instead, a basket could be present at the main entrance and people could put their offering into it on their own. Parishes should promote the use of “90-Days Now for your Parish” as a way of helping parishioners to get started with online giving or use their local online giving solution if that is already set up.

During the consecration, hosts to be distributed should be placed on a second corporal to the side, so that they are not directly in front of the priest.

There should be no holding of hands during the Our Father.

There should be no invitation to participate in a sign of peace.

For the distribution of Holy Communion:

  • There will be either one or two communion stations, depending on the size of the Church.
  • It should be announced that parishioners may well decide not to receive Holy Communion if they feel the risk is too high, and that decision will be honored and respected.
  • There will be no distribution of the Precious Blood.
  • The communicants and the priest will wear masks.
  • Neither the priest nor the communicants should wear gloves during the distribution of Holy Communion.
  • Congregants who are not coming forward to receive Holy Communion or a blessing should still get out of their pews at the beginning, so that no one will have to climb over anyone else.
  • The priest will have a table next to him with hand sanitizer.
  • The priest will hold the consecrated host over the communicants’ outstretched hands and drop the host into their hands without touching their hands.
  • Communicants will receive the consecrated host in their hands, step to the side, lower their mask, consume the host, replace their mask, and return to their pew.
  • In the case of unintentional contact, the priest will sanitize his own hands immediately.
  • If the priest himself is a member of a vulnerable population, a deacon or a trained lay minister should distribute communion.
  • The people should return to their pews by a different route, to avoid contact with approaching people.
  • There will be tape on the floor to show where to stand as a communicant approaches to receive communion. There also will be tape on the floor to show where to stand to demask and consume the host, and arrows showing how to return to the pews.
  • There should be a couple of minutes after Communion for silent prayer, before the final prayer and dismissal.

Participants at Mass would be encouraged to leave the church within a couple of minutes of the end of the Mass so as to allow for time for cleaning the church before the next Mass. Row by row exiting, directed by the trained volunteers, is encouraged.

If a Parish cannot offer Mass safely, following these guidelines and all of the checkboxes on the State document, they should not offer Mass.

The Vicars Forane will have regular conversations with the Pastors and will report regularly to the Vicar General with regard to compliance.

Cleaning Guidelines

Directive Concerning a List for Notification for Those Attending Sunday Masses and Funerals

June 17, 2020

Directive concerning a list for notification for those attending Sunday Masses and Funerals

Thus far, the reopening of parishes for Sunday Masses has been very successful in the Archdiocese of Boston. Each week, more parishes open, and the numbers at Mass climb, albeit slowly. Pastors report that people in large measure are feeling safe, and that it is possible, although difficult, to have reverent and engaging liturgies with the current restrictions. There are significant challenges ahead, but we should be pleased with our progress.

  • Given our recent experience of a parish which had to close for several weeks because of the COVID diagnosis of a Mass attendee after he had attended the Mass and the subsequent need to let other attendees know, the following directive is in place from the weekend of June 20/21 forward:
  • Every person who attends a Sunday Mass or Funeral at your parish should be given the opportunity to put their name and contact information on a list to be notified if there is a positive COVID test of a person who also attended that Mass.
  • In some cases, a parish will already have a list of some of the attendees because of a registration system they are using, but all attendees should have the opportunity to add their name to a contact list even if they are not on a registration list.
  • Additionally, since an announcement should be made to this effect during the Mass, attendees should have the opportunity to add their name to the list by calling or emailing contact information to the parish office.
  • Since some attendees may choose not to add their names to the contact list for a variety of reasons, the announcement should also include the provision that any information about a such a case will be posted on the parish website, and that parishioners should check the website regularly.

Note that this information will not include the name of the person who tested positive, which will be kept confidential, but only the Mass which they attended and any other relevant non-personal information.

If a parish learns about such a situation, they should immediately notify their local board of health and the Risk Management office of the Archdiocese of Boston through the COVID 19 hotline, 617-746-5750, or via email at

The same directive applies to funerals, although in the case of the funeral it may be that the funeral director can manage the process.

An announcement at the end of the Mass could look something like this, although you should feel free to adapt it to your own circumstances:

In the case of our discovering that someone at Mass today tests positive for COVID-19 in the next several days, we want to be able to inform all of you so that, in consultation with your physician, you can take the appropriate steps.

If you registered to come to Mass today, we already have your contact information, and will reach out to you if we learn that someone here has tested positive.

If you did not register, and if you wish to be contacted, please call or email the rectory with the appropriate contact information so that you can receive notification.

Even if you do not choose to leave your name, please know that we will make any announcement of a positive test on the parish website as well, so please check the website on a regular basis.

Mass Preparation Checklist

  • Church deeply cleaned, according to methods outlined in the Risk Management document
  • Hymnals and missalettes removed
  • Volunteers in place to assist with traffic flow
  • Signs clearly posted, letting people know:
    • That they must wear masks
    • A distance of six feet must be maintained
    • No congregational singing
  • Socially distant seating marked out
  • Hand sanitizer available
  • Holy water fonts empty
  • Markers on the floor indicating the direction of traffic flow and spacing off six feet in places where people might be in lines
  • Some method in place to restrict the number of people who enter the church to below 40% capacity, and no more than the number of socially distanced seats available
  • Plan and volunteers and materials in place to clean church between Masses