Holy Communion Services to Begin at St. Ambrose
Announcement of Holy Communion Services at Saint Ambrose Parish
Earlier this week Governor Ralph Northam announced a plan to reopen parts of the Commonwealth of Virginia that had been closed due to the COVID 19 virus in a series of phases beginning May 15th. “Phase One” of the plan included the opening of more public businesses and houses of worship, with the approval of the local county. Fairfax County was one of several counties that asked for a delay of “Phase One” due to ongoing health concerns. Therefore the limitations currently in place upon houses of worship in Fairfax County, and in most counties that comprise the Diocese of Arlington, will remain in place.
In response to this decision, and with concern for the pastoral care of the people of the Diocese of Arlington, Bishop Burbidge has granted permission for parishes to begin holding Holy Communion Services outside of Mass. These simple services will be celebrated by the parish clergy with small groups of parishioners. Further, the services will be done in a manner that is consistent with existing social distancing protocols and health and safety guidelines. Although it is not a return to Holy Mass, these simple services will enable the faithful to once again receive Holy Communion on a regular basis.
The Schedule of Holy Communion Services
St. Ambrose parish plans to begin these Holy Communion services on Monday, May 18, 2020. These services will be made available to parishioners at the regular Mass times, except for Saturday morning (9:00 am). Communion Services will be held Monday through Friday at 7:00 am and 9:00 am, Saturdays at 5:00 pm, and Sundays at 8:00 am, 10:00am, 12:00 pm, and 5:00 pm. Further, these Holy Communion services will continue until further notice, or when permission for Mass with larger numbers is granted.
Overview of the Holy Communion services
At the regularly scheduled Mass time, we ask the faithful who wish to receive Holy Communion to gather outside the parish center, mindful of social distancing. While waiting the faithful may remain in their cars, stand on the grass area between the church and parish center, or stand on the side walk. An assigned porter (usher) will be present under the canopy of the parish center doors to organize the faithful into small groups (no more than 10 people). The groups will be organized on a “first come, first serve” basis, with consideration being given to those with special needs or who are in a “high risk” group. The porter will then lead the small group into one of three designated rooms – the parish hall, the parish library, or the parish choir rehearsal room. Doors to these rooms will remain open.
When the small group has entered the room, the porter will return to the front entrance of the parish center, organize the next small group, and lead that group to a different room for a separate Holy Communion Service. In this way, services may take place simultaneously, and there will be minimal wait for those seeking to receive Holy Communion. Please be present at the gathering area promptly at the start time to ensure participation in one of the services.
Once a small group has entered the designated room, the priest who is presiding at the Holy Communion service will guide each participant to stand at an assigned place. Tape will be placed on the floor or carpet of that room to show the spot for a person to stand in order to maintain social distancing. Please know that there will be no chairs or pews in the room, as these would need to be sanitized after each service. As the service is very brief, there will not be a long period of time for participants to remain standing. However, if standing is a concern, parishioners are welcome to bring wheel chairs or portable seats.
What will the Holy Communion service look like?
The Holy Communion service will be taken from the Church’s Rites for the Pastoral Care of the Sick (“Communion in Ordinary Circumstances”). The service consists of a brief penitential rite, a brief reading of scripture, the Lord’s Prayer, reception of Holy Communion, a closing prayer, and a final blessing. When finished, the small group will immediately exit the designated room by an exterior door, and return to the parking lot by the sidewalk. At no time will one small group intermingle with other small groups while the services are going on.
Why will the Holy Communion services be done in the Parish Center?
The Holy Communion services are being done in the parish center to allow the church to remain open for personal prayer and other scheduled events throughout the day. Due to the current safety norms, including a limit of ten persons in the church at time, the scheduling of these Holy Communion services in the church would lead to a conflict with those seeking personal prayer time or other sacraments in the church. It is our hope that holding Holy Communion services outside the church would ensure the availability of the church for live stream Masses, confessions, Eucharistic Adoration, baptisms, funerals, or individual prayer time.
What do I need to know before receiving Holy Communion?
Due to the COVID 19 virus, there are many legitimate concerns about current guidelines for receiving Holy Communion. It is our hope to ensure the honor and sacredness of the Blessed Sacrament, and at the same time, to distribute Holy Communion in a safe manner to the faithful. First, we ask that the faithful do not wear a mask while attempting to receive Holy Communion. A mask may be worn for the Holy Communion service, but must be taken down when trying to place the sacred host in one’s mouth. Second, we ask that if a person wishes to receive Holy Communion in their hands, that they first remove any gloves. This is requested so that no particles of the Eucharist would remain on the gloves or fall to the ground. Third, please know that those seeking to receive Holy Communion on the tongue can do so, as normally done at Mass. However, we ask that those receiving in this manner, take extra precaution to remain still and in place, so that no contact will be made between the priests and the communicant. If contact is made, the priest will need to stop and sanitize his fingers prior to continuing the distribution of Holy Communion to the other participants.
To be properly prepared to receive Holy Communion, please know that St. Ambrose parish will continue to offer confession at the regularly scheduled times: Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (until the line is done) and Saturdays afternoons from 3:00 pm through 4:00 pm.
A Time for Gratitude and Renewal
St. Ambrose parish expresses its deep gratitude to Bishop Burbidge for permission to hold these Holy Communion Services on a daily basis, and to ensure that our parishioners can once again have access to the Eucharist. For the past several weeks many parishioners have expressed their concerns, frustration, and anxiety of going without Mass and Holy Communion. Let us now give thanks that we are able to come as often as possible (even each day) and receive the Blessed Sacrament. It is our opportunity to grow deeper in love for Jesus Christ, truly present in the Eucharist.
What if I am not able to participate in a Holy Communion service?
Please know that Bishop Burbidge is continuing a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days. Also, the Diocese of Arlington encourages all those 65 years or older, as well as those with underlying health conditions, to avoid gatherings of the general public.
For those whose who are unable to come to a Holy Communion service, please know that St. Ambrose parish will continue to celebrate daily Mass on live stream at the regularly scheduled times (8:30 am Monday through Saturday and 10:00 am on Sundays). Those who view the live stream Mass are encouraged to make a spiritual communion with that Mass.
Stay Tuned for More Information
Lastly, as the COVID situation continues to evolve, please stay connected to St. Ambrose parish and the Diocese of Arlington for more information. In the meantime, let us continue to pray for an end to the COVID 19 virus and for all who have suffered from it.
May God bless and protect St. Ambrose parish, our families, and our loves ones.
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