Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., issued this message Oct. 19:
The COVID pandemic will not take away Christmas 2020! It will, however, change the way we celebrate it, especially in our churches and parishes, if current circumstances continue as they are or worsen. Because COVID is a highly contagious airborne virus, the prospect of large (or larger than usual) crowds gathering indoors this winter for long periods of time without ample ventilation and proper social distancing, as well as the necessity to sanitize churches between Masses, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Mass schedules will be affected, especially in parishes where there is only a single pastor or priest assigned. The COVID pandemic’s maximum one-third occupancy restrictions in churches coupled with the need for social distancing will limit the space available for parishioners to attend Christmas Mass as usual. Church schedules will also have to accommodate required cleaning.
Parishioners in the Diocese of Trenton have been dispensed from the holy day obligation because of the COVID pandemic this year. In addition to the restricted “in church” occupancy with required social distancing at Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses, parishes will also offer live-streamed Christmas Masses along with those broadcast on television to support the faith of those who cannot attend church this year. Those who are not feeling well or who are in a high-risk category should remain at home and take advantage of the on-line or televised celebrations of Christmas Mass.
Parishes will determine the number and times of Christmas Masses they will be able to offer this year. Please listen for announcements or check parish websites for schedules.
None of us want the restrictions or adjustments we have had to make because of the COVID pandemic. Please God, it will end soon. Although different from past Christmases, parishes will do their very best to assist the faithful in celebrating the Lord’s birth with faith and joy.
Thank you for your understanding and patience.
On Oct. 17, William Clingerman, a seminarian from the Diocese of Trenton, received the Ministry of Acolyte from Auxiliary Bishop Juan M. Betancourt Torres, SEMV, of the Diocese of Hartford, Conn., during a special ceremony in Mount St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md. Clingerman is in his third year of theology and is on a path to be ordained a transitional deacon this May.