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Guidelines for Reopening

May 23/24, 2020, Seventh Sunday of Easter 

Dear Friends on the Journey,

How eager we have all been to hear that the Churches and other houses of worship would reopen. On Monday, May 18th , Governor Baker in his phased plan of reopening, included Houses of Worship. That afternoon, the Archdiocese of Boston applied its own Guidelines for Reopening. As mentioned in the Archdiocesan Guidelines, certain cities would have further specifications, as indeed the City of Boston has weighed in. The mayor of Boston, the city where we are located, concerning reopening houses of worship
has said: “The Statewide ‘Safer at Home’ policy remains in place, which advises against people 65 and older leaving home unless absolutely necessary. The Mayor urged seniors to adhere to the advisory and hold off on going back to places of worship, even if the services restart.”
The Boston Globe, commenting on Baker’s decision, said that “the inclusion of places of worship amid the first wave of Baker’s reopening plan led public health and elected officials to immediately send up red flags, fearing that even at 40 percent capacity…indoor congregations of elderly parishioners could serve as an incubator for a new outbreak of the virus.”
The Paulist Center Staff have been talking about reopening for a while now, coming at it from many directions. The Pastoral Council have addressed the issue, as well as a special Task Force to address the specific issue of the place and meaning and continued production of livestreamed masses on Sunday. We have consulted with the Worship Team.
Specifically, we have committed the Paulist Center to ongoing livestreaming of Sunday Eucharist. At the same time, we realize that the marvelously successful, but thoroughly jerry-rigged, system (three iPads, a computer, lighting enhancement, producer’s table, sound work- arounds, etc.) cannot be the set-up for the future. Numerous consultations have occurred with various professionals, including local Churches (Catholic and Protestant) and sound/production companies.
Furthermore, we have investigated what many other Dioceses and Liturgical organizations are recommending and doing: from Texas, California, Wisconsin, Maryland, New York, and on and on.
We have received much input from very gifted members of the Paulist Center Community, some of it repetitive and some of it quite original and creative. We welcome all. Thank you!
Consultation, conversation, and research have brought the Pastoral Council, Staff, Worship Team, and Task Force to the conclusion that we commit pastorally and financially on a system that will enable livestreaming congregational Eucharist (which can, of course, be used for other purposes). Procurement of such equipment is happening as we speak…but delivery may be as far out as six to eight weeks.
Which brings us to the Guidelines for what we must do to prepare for Sunday Worship, what we must do during Sunday worship, and what we must do after Sunday worship in terms of marking floors, putting up signage, putting tape on the floors, marking pews for physically spaced seating, ushering, music, and so forth.
One thing that all at the Paulist Center agree on: we will not start until we are ready and when we can worship together safely.
But when will we start? Simply, the Paulist Center will not open before the first week of July, and even that is subject to further review. We need to monitor the situation.
The virus has not gone away. Opening will be a slow roll.
When we do open, all will have to follow safety protocols including, but not limited to, social spacing (no one closer than six feet except those from same households); everyone wears a mask, no one who feels sick should come, robust hygiene protocols), no congregational singing, and so forth. Forty percent of our Chapel’s capacity is about 80. Even that may be optimistic, as our pews are less than six feet apart—this means only every third pew can be used.
There is so much more I could share with you. The avalanche of information – just from the State, the City, the Archdiocese – has been overwhelming. And subject to revisions every few days, it seems. (Just this week, we have had two updates on what kind of sanitizing and cleaning has to take place in the chapel before, between, and after Masses). Some of the cleaning and sanitizing materials we will need to meet State expectations are five or six weeks on backorder. But they have been ordered: Patty and Peter have been working on this for a while.
I wish to bring up one more issue that has been on my heart and mind: not only the safety and health of those who are members of the Center, but also those who live and minister at the Center. Your two priests are over 68 (Chuck is 68, I’m 72). Neither Chuck nor I are retreating from leading in worship, BUT we also live with four other Paulist Fathers who are older than we. And Peter Ghiloni is 65 and lives with some siblings who are in their 70s, to say nothing of his own vulnerability after his major surgery last June.
Mayor Walsh cautioned those who live with the elderly not to attend worship. Our good friends at St. Anthony’s Shrine have decided to remain closed for the foreseeable future because of the very vulnerable community that resides there. Glastonbury Abbey in Hingham has decided to remain closed for the near future and will take things on a week-by-week basis after that.
For some, the news that we will not be considering opening until mid-July will be a disappointment, I am sure. We do not make this decision lightly.
The Archdiocese has counseled: “Parishes should not resume Masses before they are ready…No parish should have Mass unless they can do it safely, and in compliance with the guidelines.” We are not ready, and we will be evaluating our readiness in terms of 1) arranging new ministry teams (hospitality, sanitizing, etc.); 2) receiving the cleaning materials for full compliance with the State directives; and 3) getting relevant information from the experience of others in the Archdioceses and other Paulist foundations.
Keep your eyes on the reason for our being: Christ Jesus. Together, we will get through this, with His help and accompaniment. We gather on Sunday, 12N (see below).

Please keep in your prayers Paulist Father Rich Colgan, former staff here at the Paulist Center, who is in critically ill with the virus. Also please pray for Paulist Center member Mike McCaskey who died this last week (from non-virus related causes).
Correction: our grant from the Boston Resiliency Fund applies to both the Food Pantry AND the Wednesday Night Supper Club. What a blessing!


1) Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 24, Live Streamed Liturgy/Mass from the Chapel, at 12N:

Here’s the link:

2) Paulist Center Families Prayer Service, 10 am, Sunday 5/24
Meeting ID: 451 661 081
One tap mobile

3) All are welcome to a prayer gathering with/from the Paulist Center’s LGBTQ+ prayer next Wednesday, May 27 th, 7pm. The link is here: The reflector will be Chris
Lawton, CSP.

4) Connect for a Chat. Patty Simpson will be offering an hour a week for any Paulist Center members who might want to connect. Patty has in mind especially those who aren’t connected into any other small groups. You can join the conversation this evening, Thursday, May 21st, 7-8pm through this link. Also if anyone wishes to connect with Patty either on phone or video session, just email her or leave a message on her phone (617.948.2428) and she will get back to you ASAP.

Ways of Giving:

This week, we resume our “Community Gift,” our Paulist Center tradition of giving away 5% of our weekend offerings (averaged out over the whole year).  This week, we lift up our good friends at St. Francis House. They do amazing work in a variety of feeding and housing programs, as well as educational and vocational work.

We are so very grateful for your support during this time of uncertainly and financial peril. Here are two ways to give:

  1. To make a one-time or recurring donation using your bank account or credit card, click on the following link:
  2. Giving by text: Our give by text number for general donations is 844-899-7511; this will be designated as our “Weekend Offering.”

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I conclude with the wise words of St. Teresa of Avila:

Nothing can trouble,
nothing can frighten.
Those who seek God shall
never go wanting.
Nothing can trouble,
nothing can frighten.
God alone fills us.

And let us pray for/with one another.

Michael McGarry, C.S.P.
Director, the Paulist Center

Along with Patty, Chuck, Susan, Peter, Kristin, Dorothy, Alvaro, Barbara, Rob, and Sal. Please feel free to call upon your Pastoral Ministers if you wish.

I will be sending out something every Thursday or Friday as the “shut down” continues.