Wait likely 'several more weeks' for public Masses, says vicar general

BRAINTREE -- In a letter distributed to the archdiocesan community May 14, Vicar General Bishop Peter Uglietto cautioned that, despite the state's expected moves toward reopening, it will likely still be some time before public Masses and other church activities resume.

Earlier in the week, Governor Charlie Baker announced a "four-phase approach" to reopening and is scheduled to address the Commonwealth May 18, the date his order closing non-essential businesses is set to expire.

In his letter, Bishop Uglietto emphasized that the governor's upcoming announcement will not signal an immediate resumption of parish, school, and ministry activities.

"While there is great anticipation about being able to reopen our Churches, we are not at that point yet and it will likely be several more weeks before we can begin to implement our own phased-in plans to resume public Masses," Bishop Uglietto said.

The archdiocese has been working with public officials to determine the "timing and conditions" of reopening churches and, this week, the archdiocese participated in the Governor's Office Reopening Advisory Board meeting, the vicar general said.

The letter also included an update on the formation of the archdiocese's "reopening working committee," a team of priests, deacons, and laypeople led by Father Paul Soper. Bishop Uglietto said this team has been meeting several times a week and "working closely" with the Office of Evangelization and Discipleship, the Office of Risk Management, and public health experts from the archdiocese.

"The team is well along the way to having a plan in place to implement a reopening process. Through webinars and various materials, which will be provided to you through the Communications Office, we will help guide you along this process. We will work together with you and see to it that you have the support you need to prepare," Bishop Uglietto said.

He said it is "practically impossible" to set a date for resuming Sunday Masses, and that it is "important that we avoid creating a sense of expectation as we go through preliminary steps toward reopening."

The letter included links to guidelines for how parishes can prepare to return to work and reopen worship sites. These documents can be found at rcabrisk.org/parish-prepare-operations/ and rcabrisk.org/preparation-for-masses/.

Bishop Uglietto also reported that the 90-Day Now -- For Your Parish initiative has raised $450,000 from about 1,500 donors, which will directly benefit 229 parishes. This initiative was launched as a way for people to contribute financial support at a time when parishes cannot rely on the weekly offertory at Masses.

"The Pastoral Center exists to support you in your ministry, and I have been very pleased to see the great collaboration between all the various departments and ministries of the Archdiocese. You are at the forefront by engaging with the faithful and comforting them in this time of great uncertainty. We are blessed by your commitment to the people of God," Bishop Uglietto said.