Updated: Oct 1, 2020
Our grade schools (including St. Agnes) and high schools open their doors this week for classes. Both parishes usually have a plan ready for beginning RE classes later in September. That is not the case this year. We are planning to begin classes sometime in October, but that will be moved later if we find it necessary. The bishop finally sent his guidelines for conducting RE classes within our diocese a week and a half ago, but last week’s bulletin article was already written so I could not include information until this bulletin article.
While the guidelines were not unexpected, they were the worst-case scenario.
Our RE coordinators are busy discussing among themselves and with others in the diocese about what options make the most sense with these guidelines. It is nearly certain that there will be a (probably significant) component of instruction that will be taught at home using online resources and handouts provided by the parish. A more detailed plan will be provided in the near future. Parents should be prepared to respond to possible surveys and requests for early classes (i.e. confirmation) as the plan develops.
I am asked “why” questions about many of the procedures we have implemented as part of our reopening plan, such as why don’t we kneel, why can’t we sing, etc. Bishop Kettler developed a reopening plan that would follow the governor’s guidelines, but that left it up to each parish to implement in the best way for that parish. Many things were not specified. In the case of kneeling, many parishes allow kneeling, as could we. Sanitizing the pews, doors, bathrooms, etc. was not an option and I knew it would be challenging to find volunteers. I did ask those who were attending daily Mass, and doing their own sanitizing, if they thought it might be easier to find volunteers to sanitize if they didn’t have to do the kneelers (that is a lot of bending over) and whether they thought people would mind standing. They agreed that standing was probably a good idea at this time. Some parishes do allow kneeling. They either sanitize the kneelers or (as one priest told me) don’t bother sanitizing the kneelers. For now, we will continue standing.
I don’t understand the logic behind not allowing singing when masks are required. I don’t understand nor agree with much/most of the reopening plan), but congregational singing is clearly spelled out as not allowed even with face coverings. The use of missalettes and song books are similarly not allowed. Yet I know one nearby parish that sings and uses song books. I don’t know the logic used to support that decision, but I do not plan to break my promise of obedience to the bishop, which this seems to be the case here. But I have also learned that sometimes there is more leeway in such instructions than is obvious when first reading them. We will continue to celebrating Mass without congregational singing for now while I continue to investigate.
The process that both churches, St. Agnes School, and now the RE coordinators go through to develop a working plan that meets the current, yet constantly changing, guidelines is much more challenging than most people realize. Please be patient while we try to continue to provide spiritual care and education following onerous guidelines that have yet to be proven necessary.