Catholic churches quickly adjust to new restrictions

MADISON, Wis.– Catholic churches are working fast to put new safety measures in place before welcoming parishioners back.

The Diocese of Madison announced in-person mass will return next weekend on May 30 and May 31. Bishop Donald Hying said there will be many restrictions, including limiting capacity to 25 percent.

Staff at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church walked News 3 Now through all of the changes that need to be made.

Doors will be kept open to keep people from touching them. Upon entering, people will use hand sanitizer and grab a mask if they don’t already have one.

Inside the church, the holy water was removed, chairs have been removed and pews are blocked off.

“We are allowed to have 25 percent of our capacity, so we have blocked off every other pew so that people won’t be sitting near each other,” Rev. Bart Timmerman said.

The church will place markers on the ground to indicate for people to stand 6 feet apart while in line for communion. Before receiving the Eucharist, the minister and parishioners will sanitize their hands. The minister will place the Eucharist in their hands. If he touches someone, he will sanitize before the next person.

Hymnal books were cleaned and removed, because mass will not include singing.

“I think it’s going to be a huge impact,” Discipleship and Development Director Holly Irving said. “(It’s) saddening because when you sing you pray.”

The sign of peace will not happen and the church will ask people to leave quietly without visiting with others after mass.

Churches have one week to make these changes.

“The difficult part for me is all the details and making sure that we have a safe, clean, and healthy environment, and that is the goal of what we are trying to accomplish,” Timmerman said.

Hying recommends that the elderly don’t return to mass yet, but encourages churches to continue live-streaming services for those who can’t come back.

Timmerman said these times can be the hardest on those who can’t return to mass right away.

“To be separate and not come together for prayer, it means so much to people, and they really want to be here. So, it’s been really difficult to stay away,” Timmerman said.

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church will continue to stream services for the foreseeable future.