All the Catholic churches where I live have been closed for some time. Is there a mechanism for the distribution of the eucharist to the community (such as extraordinary ministers), even while churches are closed to any gatherings but where priests are still holding Mass (on their own)?
Could a Catholic Church minister distribute communion to the community while churches are closed?
The short answer is yes.
This will also depend on which diocese one is living in and even which parish one in living in within a particular diocese.
For example in my home Archdiocese of Vancouver, the archbishop has outlined rules for outdoor drive-in mass and receiving Holy Communion on Sunday’s and feast days.
If your diocese is not doing something, please pass on the hint!
Archbishop issues guidelines for receiving Communion during pandemic.
The Archdiocese of Vancouver is reminding pastors how to distribute Communion safely and help parishioners stay connected with their faith two months after government and health officials introduced an order suspending all worship services.
In a Jan. 13 letter, Archbishop J. Michael Miller outlined how to host outdoor drive-in Masses and how to distribute Communion to parishioners in the church or in their cars.
“In light of the fact that the provincial restrictions on Masses with a congregation have been extended until at least February 5, and because many of the faithful have been without Holy Communion for a lengthy period, I sincerely hope that you are able to make arrangements in your parish for the distribution of Holy Communion to your parishioners.”
All three options are used across the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
Father James Hughes runs drive-in Masses at St. Patrick’s Parish in Vancouver. He has installed an FM radio transmitter and invites parishioners to register for one of several drive-in Masses celebrated on the weekend. A maximum of 50 cars (a stipulation by government) can be seen pulling into the parking lot, facing the outdoor altar, and tuning their radios into the live, outdoor Mass. During Mass, priests wear masks as they bring Communion to each car in turn.
St. Matthew’s Parish in Surrey has opted for the drive-up option, also called “curbside Communion.” Priests celebrate Mass in front of a camera inside the church, which parishioners can watch streamed live from their homes. After Mass, they can drive to the church, line up their cars, and receive Communion through the windows.
Guidelines in these cases stipulate that communicants stay in their cars, wear face masks, sanitize their hands, and receive Communion in their hands. Then they may pull down their masks, consume the Host, and drive away. St. Ann’s in Abbotsford and St. Joseph’s in Mission have also gone this route.
Parishes like Precious Blood in Surrey and St. Edmund’s in North Vancouver have chosen a walk-through option. They streams Mass live online, then invite parishioners to come to the church, where they line up outside (keeping two-metre spacing between families) and are allowed to enter a few at a time to receive Communion and walk out the back door.
The government has allowed people to enter churches for private prayer, as long as there are no more than 10 people inside (and all of them have signed in, for contact tracing purposes).
Some parishes offer a hybrid of these options. Canadian Martyrs Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph’s in Langley invite parishioners to receive Communion by waiting in their cars or, if they don’t have a car, walking up to the church doors.
Priests with questions about how to distribute Communion reverently and safely are asked to contact the archbishop or Father Tien Tran, Director of Liturgy.
Most of the archdiocese’s 77 parishes have begun streaming Mass live during the pandemic.