May 28, 2021

Church leaders say lifting of dispensation is a time to see anew how Mass is a gift

Catholics from central and southern Indiana wear masks in St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis on Jan. 22 during the Mass solemnly recalling the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Those worshipping at the Mass signed up in advance for tickets, since seating was limited to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. (File photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Catholics from central and southern Indiana wear masks in St. John the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis on Jan. 22 during the Mass solemnly recalling the U.S. Supreme Court’s Jan. 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Those worshipping at the Mass signed up in advance for tickets, since seating was limited to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. (File photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Sean Gallagher

The bishops of the five dioceses in Indiana have announced, effective on June 11, the lifting for most Catholics of the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation that has been in effect from the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

“With the decrease of cases in our state,” the Indiana bishops wrote, “the widespread availability of vaccines and following the guidance of public health officials, we are now able to safely accommodate more parishioners for Masses.” (Related: Read the statement here)

The bishops explained how some people are still dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. They include:

  • those “who are seriously ill, exhibit flu-like symptoms and/or may have a contagious disease (including quarantine due to exposure)”;
  • those who are unable to attend Mass “through no fault of their own”;
  • those who are homebound for various reasons;
  • those who “have compromised health conditions and/or at high risk of contracting the virus”;
  • those who care for people who are sick or who are “at high-risk of serious illness if they contract the COVID virus.”

In comments made to The Criterion, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson reflected on the importance of taking part in the Mass in person.

“Participation in the celebration of Mass is a privilege unlike any other,” he said. “There is no greater form of prayer for Catholics, given our Eucharistic-centered identity and mission, than gathering for the celebration of the Mass.”

Archbishop Thompson commended the efforts of pastors and parish and school staff members across central and southern Indiana during the past year to ensure the safety of all worshipers, students, teachers administrators and those who have participated in various parish ministries.

“Given the availability of the vaccine, [the] sharp decrease in COVID cases and the subsequent lessening of restrictions by health officials,” he continued, “we have good reason to believe that it is safe for practically everyone to return to Mass and other usual gatherings for prayer, worship, service and other activities in their parishes.

“As the statement of the Indiana bishops indicates, however, there are exceptions to be considered. Our concern is for the health and well-being of all members of the Church. We will continue to take all necessary precautions to provide the care of all those participating in liturgical gatherings throughout the archdiocese.”

Parishes across central and southern Indiana can determine safety protocols that best fit their local circumstances and directives from health officials in the area while making the celebration of the Eucharist and other parish ministries as available as possible.

“I believe that this is a time where more people can gather safely based on the guidance that we have received,” said Father Patrick Beidelman, executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Worship and Evangelization. “It is important for us to gather for and to receive the most holy Eucharist, and the good work that communities have been doing has strengthened our ability to do so.”

To encourage Catholics across central and southern Indiana who may not have worshipped at Mass in their parishes during the past year, the archdiocese will soon offer a series of six videos in which a wide variety of archdiocesan Catholics share why the Eucharist is at the center of their lives.

Ken Ogorek, archdiocesan director of catechesis, is overseeing the production of the videos, which will begin to be posted on the archdiocese’s website (www.archindy.org) in early June.

“When a person really understands what’s going on at Mass and who it is they have an opportunity to encounter and receive, then they literally build their weekend around Mass,” Ogorek said. “One of the first decisions a person makes is how they’re going to capitalize on the gift and the opportunity that the Mass and the Eucharist are. Everything else kind of fits around it.”

Ogorek also noted that the videos, which “can be used as a stand-alone resource for inviting folks back to Mass, or as a springboard for prayerful reflection and discussion by individuals and small groups,” will also include a prayer, reflection questions and links to informative online resources. †

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