Covid Info, Masks, and More

Current News:

Thursday, June 16, 2020 Update:

An update is in progress. In short, we are restarting Sunday Masses. Please see sidebar for the times.

Note that our Bishop has extended the dispensation from attending Sunday Mass and Masses of Obligation indefinitely.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020 Update:

From: Fr. Mike

Greetings, my sisters and brothers. You have been in my prayers hoping for your health and well-being. This letter is to inform you that we will start to be able to hold Masses at our churches. The suspension of Masses was originally announced by our bishop, David O’Connell at the beginning of April. The bishop has just recently issued a letter announcing the possibility of resuming daily and Sunday Masses, if a parish is able to do so, while minimizing the risk of spreading the infection of COVID-19 according to specific guidelines.

Before reading the rest of my letter, please read the bishop’s letter found here: (click here). Please pay careful attention to the restrictions placed upon the celebration of liturgies and how a parish should only proceed if they are able to follow the restrictions.

In short, we will indeed restart Daily Masses beginning Monday, June 8. A temporary schedule of 3 Masses a day between the two linked parishes of Precious Blood and St. Dorothea will be made available Monday through Friday.

  • 7:30 AM at Precious Blood
  • 12:15 PM and 7:00 PM at St. Dorothea

Sunday/Weekend Masses, however, will not be resuming at the time the bishop allows. I want to hold off on Sunday Masses for a few more weeks, first, to see how the Daily Masses work out; and secondly, because of the restrictions that the bishop requires which make Sunday Masses problematic in dealing with large numbers. The explanation for that follows:

The bishop’s guidelines follows the recommendations of our health officials. Those recommendations are based on the fact that COVID-19 is “asymptomatic,” that is, it can be contagious when someone has contracted it and is showing no, or very mild, symptoms. This means that people unaware that they are contagious can be passing the virus onto others without knowing it. And so, until the time there is enough testing and contact tracing – or there is a vaccine – we need to treat everyone, including ourselves, as a possibly contagious person.

From the presumption that anyone may be contagious, there are certain procedures to follow that minimize the possible spread of the virus. Reading the bishop’s letter, he takes those procedures seriously. So seriously, that he mentions emphatically that parishes that cannot follow the procedures in their churches either have to find another space in which to hold Masses so that they can follow those procedures, or, hold off on having Masses altogether. The guidelines and procedures are not optional. They are expected to be followed rigorously.

And, of course, we don’t want to be the cause of anyone catching the virus, which can be extremely harmful or even deadly. We have an obligation to protect one another. We want people who do come to Mass to feel they can do so without being put needlessly at risk. We don’t want our churches to be identified as ‘super spreaders’ which would then result in going back to the suspension of Masses.

With that in mind, there are important principles to follow:

  • The Sunday obligation has been dispensed for all by the bishop into September (and may be extended, if needed). Also, the obligation is always dispensed for those who are sick or who are isolating for their own safety, especially those in high-risk groups.
  • People with any symptoms of COVID-19 (or any symptoms of a cold or the flu, too) should stay home.
  • Face coverings or masks must be worn at all times by those attending Mass (except when lifting up the mask to consume Holy Communion).
    • Face coverings are mostly to protect other people in case you are contagious. They stop almost all respiratory droplets that happen when we talk, sing, or even breathe. (Coughs and sneezes should always be covered with an extra tissue, handkerchief, or the inside of one’s elbow even when wearing a mask as well as not.)
    • If a medical condition prevents one from wearing a mask, then they should not be at Mass and they should continue to isolate until masks are no longer required.
    • The CDC guidelines are that masks are also for children age 2 and up. Children 2 and up who refuse to wear a mask should not be brought to church at this time.
    • A church setting where there are many people from different households who remain indoors in the same space for a period of time is very different from a quick stop at a convenience store. That is why the state has been prohibiting such large indoor gatherings precisely because they increase the risk of transmission. And so, we need to be very strict with the requirement to wear a mask. Those without masks will be asked to leave.
  • Always maintain social distance of six feet.
    • This restriction is going to be the most difficult to follow and the main reason why I want to wait a few more weeks before resuming Sunday Masses.
    • Maintaining this ‘bubble’ of six feet is something that the bishop was strict about in his letter. For example, he mentions how when Mass is over and people leave the church, there is a tendency for a crowd to bunch up at the exit. That is why he mentioned that parishes might have to have guidelines for dismissing the assembly pew by pew or by sections to avoid that crowding.
    • The guidelines mention that to have proper social distancing, the church should only be at 30% capacity. But the practicalities of making that happen means we’re going to be closer to 20% capacity. Which I will explain below.


Church Capacity

In order to maintain the 6 foot ‘bubble,’ then each ‘group’ (whether an individual or members of the same household) should not ever cross into any other group’s bubble.

So, when it comes to seating, we cannot have a group seated in the pew right behind another group. This means we need to section off every other pew. That immediately cuts seating by 50%.

This means that at Precious Blood church, there are only 16 usable pews. At St. Dorothea’s, 56 usable pews.

Then, within each pew that we are able to use, each group needs to maintain that 6 foot bubble from another group in that pew. At St. Dorothea, the pews’ sizes go from 7 feet in the front to 17 feet in the back. The front pews, therefore, can only handle two individuals – one on either side of the pew. The pews in the back can handle two large families, or, three individuals – one in the middle).

At Precious Blood, almost all the pews are 14 feet long. This would allow for three individuals to sit in a pew – one at each aisle and one in the middle. If a family with several members takes up one of those spots, then there is room for only one other group in that pew.

Additionally, if someone wants to take the middle position, and there is already a group at the aisle seat, then the group at the aisle would either have to move in and take the middle position themselves, or, that group would have to step out into the aisle six feet away to allow the new middle group take their seat. There is no ‘scooting pass’ anyone since that breaks the bubble.

Also, no one may stand or sit along the back walls or in the lobbies or near the doors. Their ‘bubble’ prevents others from passing by or coming in or out of the church.

So, now, the figures for Precious Blood…

  • Capacity: When we have packed churches, Precious Blood can fit 300 people.
  • Thirty percent recommendation: So, 30% would be 100 people.
  • Usual attendance at a Sunday Mass: Depending on the season and Mass time, attendance can be anywhere from 90 to 180 people.
  • Available spots with distancing: only 16 usable pews
  • Reduced capacity for individuals: with just three people in each pew, that’s only capacity for 48 people
  • Reduced capacity for family groups. If everyone who attended was part of a family of four, then with four at the end of each pew, that would be 128 people.
  • Conclusion: If we have the usual number of people show up for a Sunday Mass, we would have to regularly turn some away at the door.

So, now, the figures for St Dorothea…

  • Capacity: When we have packed churches, St. Dorothea can fit 800 people.
  • Thirty percent recommendation: So, 30% would be 240 people.
  • Usual attendance at a Sunday Mass: Depending on the season and Mass time, attendance can be anywhere from 150 - 280 people.
  • Available spots with distancing: only 56 usable pews
  • Reduced capacity for individuals: with just two people in the shorter pews and three people in longer pews, that’s only capacity for 140 people
  • Reduced capacity for family groups. If everyone who attended was part of a family of four, then that would be 300 people (one group for the front pews, two groups for the back pews).
  • Conclusion: The longer pews means that we could theoretically always be able to handle the Sunday attendance at St. Dorothea, but only if everyone shows up in groups of four. However, that’s not the usual makeup of the assembly – there are many individuals and couples. With social distancing in place we might have to occasionally turn people away at the door.

The idea of having to turn people away is not a good one. The bishop was serious about not going over the capacity at which a church can handle. That is why his letter said that everyone should enter through the same door. This way, when capacity was reached, we would then be able to start turning people away at the only entrance. For those turned away, that experience can be unnerving, disappointing, and frustrating. That might lead them to showing up earlier the next week to ensure they have a place in the church, which would then exclude others. And then it becomes a competition to see who can show up the earliest – until they’re showing up before the previous Mass has ended, which has its own problems.

And that is the main reason I want to hold off on Sunday Masses for a few weeks. I want to see what the response is to the return of daily Masses. I want to see how we handle making sure everyone is respecting the 6 foot bubble. I want to see how the reception of Communion goes for a smaller crowd before dealing with a larger crowd. I also want to see how many of our usual liturgical ministers are still around and available to be scheduled for Sunday Masses. Some of them are in the high-risk group and may not be available to help at the Sunday Mass.

In order to accommodate what may be a pent up demand for The Eucharist, I’m implementing a temporary schedule of three Masses a day, Monday through Friday between our two linked parishes. Daily Mass attendance at both churches is traditionally between 20 – 40 people. A crowd that size, or even larger should have no problem spreading out keeping the appropriate distance at both churches.

Now, with people choosing to continue their own isolation, especially for those in high-risk groups; we may not have to worry about exceeding our reduced capacity. If it turns out that attendance at these weekday Masses is low, then we’ll go back to the schedule of two daily Masses. That will probably mean we can also go back to having Sunday Masses if a significant portion of the congregation is still staying at home (which is a perfectly acceptable choice for many).

If it happens that contact tracing is working and the virus become more and more contained, or if the governor allows denser and larger gatherings indoors (for example, a 50% capacity), then the issue of space and capacity would no longer be a concern and we could easily resume Sunday Masses.

But until then, I’d appreciate your patience in waiting a while longer to see if Sunday Masses is a practical option at this time.


Things to Know for Attending Mass at This Time

Please do not come to daily Mass at this time if:

  • you are in a high risk group
  • you have any symptoms of a cold, flu, or COVID-19
  • you are not able to wear a mask
  • any child with you aged 2 or up refuses to wear a mask


If you are coming to daily Mass at this time, then please:

  • wear a mask or face covering
  • enter through only one designated entrance (the main doors at Precious Blood, the accessible doors at St. Dorothea’s facing the school)
  • sit in a pew that isn’t blocked off
  • stay at least 6 feet from another person in your pew who isn’t from your household
  • if in an aisle seat, move an extra foot in if people going up for Communion pass too close to you
  • cough or sneeze into an extra tissue, cloth, or the inner elbow of your arm, even if wearing a mask
  • be prepared to leave and not enter if there is an unusually high turn-out and there is no place to sit, – do not try to crowd in or stand in the back
  • come up for Communion in a single, merged line, pew by pew, allowing for a six foot distance between you and the person in front of you
  • receive in the hand if at all possible, then step to the side, pick up the Sacred Host with one hand, then lift up your face covering with your other hand and place the Host in your mouth, then return to your seat
  • only if you have a good reason, receive on the tongue (Eucharistic Ministers will then re-sanitize their hands before communicating the next person in line)
  • leave through any exit beginning with the pews at the back of the congregation leaving the six foot space between you and the person in front of you
  • be mindful of not blocking any aisle or door with your ‘six foot bubble’ – whereas before, people in the past may have been able to pass you, they may not now be able to because it would compromise your and their bubble


Other Things of Note:

  • The Eucharist will only be distributed as Eucharistic Bread. The Cup will not be available.
  • No missalettes or prayer books or flyers will be distributed.
  • When we do have Sunday Masses, no collection will be taken by ushers or ministers of hospitality. Donation baskets will be placed around the church.
  • Initially, no congregational singing will take place, including the Mass responses. There may be a cantor singing during the Communion Rite.
  • The churches need to be sanitized between each Mass. We’ll need volunteers to help with that. Also, this will undoubtedly leave the church smelling of disinfectants. People who are sensitive to that may considering holding off attending for a while.


Liturgical Ministers:

  • The presiding priest will not have any servers, whether youths or adults.
  • Ushers and Ministers of Hospitality are still needed for helping people find seating and helping those in need such as guests looking for a restroom, or those having a health issue and need 911, and making sure people observe the mask and social distancing rules.
  • Lectors will have their own podium, mic, and book to read from apart from what the priest uses to proclaim the Gospel. Only one Lector will be scheduled per Mass. This keeps mics/books/podiums from being shared with multiple lectors or with the priest.
  • Choirs are suspended for now. Cantors may sing from the choir loft at Precious Blood, or closer to the organ at St. Dorothea.
  • Eucharistic Ministers will not be needed at daily Mass, but they will be once we do start Sunday Masses



  • Funerals with bodies can now take place in the church without going over the 30% capacity. However, the mourning family should only personally invite extended family and closest friends rather than advertise a funeral time that might bring in too many people.
  • All the restrictions of a Mass apply, such as face coverings required and social distancing.



  • Families can arrange baptisms, one family at a time, as long as their guests do not go over the 30% capacity; or, families can continue to wait until larger crowds in the church are allowed.
  • All the restrictions of a Mass apply, such as face coverings required and social distancing.
  • Group photos are not allowed.



  • Weddings in the church with up to 30% capacity are allowed, though, it is likely for the majority of couples, this is still too restrictive and they will continue to wait until they can have a larger group of family and friends attend.
  • Since the first restrictions on the size of gatherings started, we’ve had 15 weddings being rescheduled (some moved several times).
  • All the restrictions of a Mass apply, such as face coverings required and social distancing.
  • Group photos are not allowed.



  • Confessions at this time remain problematic. With the presumption that anyone may be infected without knowing it, then the use of any screen, which allows anonymity, means that we must sanitize that side of the screen and any chair or kneeler used by the penitent between each penitent’s confession. I need more time to consider what to do. We may have to only allow face-to-face Confession in the meantime.


First Communions and Confirmations

  • With the low capacity of the church, if we proceed with any First Communion or Confirmation celebrations, then the number of family members that can attend may be severely limited (such as to just the parents and sponsor). That may not be what some families want. Our Directors of Religious Education will be reaching out to these families in the next few weeks to get a feel of what they want. We may even be able to provide a celebration soon with the attendance limit in addition to a later celebration in which a large number can attend and let families choose between the two options. But again, no decision is made yet, we’ll be checking in with the families soon.
  • For any celebration sooner than later, all the current restrictions of the Mass will apply: face coverings for everyone, social distancing observed, and no group photos.



In Other News

Our society has already been strained by the COVID-19 pandemic. With over one hundred thousand dead – in our country alone – and so many more suffering from the lack of proper health care and economic aid, we have seen that there are systemic problems in our country and the world which needs to be addressed, which needs to be changed. We reach out with our prayers to those suffering, those who have experienced loss, and those in great anxiety. Many in our parishes have helped out with direct aid. Many are health care workers and those who have been designated ‘essential workers.’ They have risked their health and life to keep things running, and to help those who were hurting. They have made great sacrifices and we are grateful.

And now, in the midst of a pandemic, we had another incident of a black man murdered by a police officer which has set off massive protests that have come from decades and even centuries of anger – anger that comes from not only people of color, but from of any sort of minority who gets demonized, used, abused, and forgotten. Those who have not experienced it, but are in positions of power, or who are in the majority, should also feel a justified anger for fellow human beings experiencing this type of constant and generational oppression.

Anyone who commits violence should be liable to justice. And again, we have a systemic problem in our society which either neglects or glorifies violence in the streets and in the home and across borders. And justice does not come. This must change. Let us pray and encourage one another to be agents of that change guided by our faith that all people are God’s children and all our brothers and sisters deserve to be helped when sick or oppressed.


Monday, June 1, 2020 Update: Please see the letter from Bishop O'Connell regarding the restarting of public Masses (click here). A fully detailed plan will be presented here by Wednesday, June 3.

In short, we will indeed restart Daily Masses beginning Monday, June 8. A temporary schedule of 3 Masses a day between the two linked parishes of Precious Blood and St. Dorothea will be made available Monday through Friday.

  • 7:30 AM at Precious Blood
  • 12:15 PM and 7:00 PM at St. Dorothea

However, we will wait a few weeks longer than allowed by the bishop to restart Sunday/Weekend Masses. These Masses will have issues with crowds and keeping social distancing that have to be worked out. Again, a fuller explanation will be provided by Wednesday, but a careful reading of the bishop's letter should make many of those concerns very apparent, such as dealing with a church that is at 30% capacity.

Meanwhile, our society is in turmoil over this pandemic and outrage at injustice toward people of color. It is all the more important that we all pray for and work for peace and justice and the health and well-being of all people.

To help those with financial needs, food donations may be made to the St. Dorothea Food Pantry by bringing donations to the lobbies of St. Dorothea Church. Donations to St. Vincent de Paul can be made directly to the 'Poor Box' in St. Dorothea.


April 1, 2020: As we enter a period in which the COVID-19 infection is peaking in New Jersey, our governor, bishop, and health officials have asked us to avoid all contact as much as possible unless it is essential for life and safety. Therefore...

Please pray for peace and healing. Especially for those who have lost loved ones to this virus, for those who are ill, and for the healthcare workers and those who are providing essential services.

Under the direction of the bishop, all churches had been closed and locked. Starting on May 13, churches were reopened for private prayer. All Masses and services (except for the few exceptions listed below) are suspended at least until the end of April (and probably later). All are encouraged to watch live streaming liturgies or live telecasts of liturgies. Please see links on this page to the live-casts.

Palms will not be distributed. We will attempt to have blessed palms available once we are back to being able to have Masses.

Holy Communion will not be distributed to the sick and homebound. In cases of danger of death, a priest will still anoint the dying with the Sacrament of the Sick.

Confessions are suspended indefinitely until the ‘stay-at-home’ directive is lifted. Confessions, by Church Law, may not take place remotely (by phone, mail, email, live conferencing). As soon as one is sorry for their sins and expresses that to God, they should have the Blessed Assurance they are forgiven through the bounty of God’s mercy and have received sanctifying grace. To sacramentally celebrate that mercy, pray an Act of Contrition with the intent of getting to Confession once it becomes available again.

Baptisms are indefinitely postponed. In danger of death, a priest can baptize a child, or, in fact, any person can perform an emergency baptism by pouring water of the head of the unbaptized and saying: I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The local parish must be informed if an emergency baptism has taken place. A baptismal blessing ceremony may take place afterwards, once we are back to having Masses.

First Communion and Confirmation are indefinitely postponed, and will be rescheduled once we are able to again have regular Masses. Religious Education is canceled. The Rel. Ed. office is providing resources for home schooling.

Weddings may take place with just a few immediate family members present. Otherwise, they can be rescheduled.

Funeral rites may only be the graveside committal service with just a few immediate family members present. A Memorial Mass may be scheduled at a later date once regular Masses resume in which a larger number of people may be in attendance. If one’s dearly departed is cremated, the ashes may be brought into the church for a Funeral Mass once regular Masses resume.

The office is closed to all walk-in business. Urgent business can be arranged by calling the parish office and leaving a message or emailing:

If you are able to still support our parish and our diocese, your donations are gratefully welcome. Envelopes can be placed in the mail slot of the parish office entrance. For online giving, please see the links on this page. If choosing online giving, please opt for monthly giving to avoid the weekly fees.


Why Masks?

Remember, we mostly wear a mask to protect not ourselves, but one another. And by protecting one another, we protect ourselves.

So, while wearing a mask does provide some protection for you from the Coronavirus, it is mostly to protect others in case you have the virus and you don’t know it because you don’t have any symptoms (you are “asymptomatic”).

While some people may feel they can take a risk by not wearing a mask, or not wearing it properly; it’s not themselves they put at risk. They are putting others at risk if they are contagious and don’t know it because they’re asymptomatic.

Masks don’t create 100% protection. They must be used along with other factors, each of which lower the risk of infection. The other risk-reduction factors are:

  • those with symptoms of COVID-19, a flu, or a cold must stay home and not go out to church, their job, or for any reason, except for being tested or medical needs
  • constant washing or sanitizing of hands and surfaces and being very careful not to touch one’s face or mask without washing/sanitizing first and then again, after
  • continue to cover one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing with a disposable tissue or into one’s inside elbow even if wearing a mask
  • maintain social distancing
  • wearing the right kind of mask (facial covering) correctly.


What Types of Masks Are Useful?

The ordinary, disposable, blue and white, multi-layered paper masks that health care workers use work just fine.

If you make your own cloth mask, it should be several layers and large enough to go over your nose and under your chin and half-way to each ear side-to-side.

Gaiters: These are large cloths that are like detachable turtle necks or very large handkerchiefs that go from over the nose all the way down to one’s chest. They should be several layers, or at least, doubled over.


What Types of Masks Are Not Useful?

Masks with breathing valves. These are designed usually for those who work in dusty jobs. Even if they have a filter in the valve (many don’t), they are designed to make breathing easier in or out. But that then defeats the purpose of a mask, which is to slow down one’s breath enough that the fibers of the mask can trap droplets and airborne viruses.

Thin, one-ply masks or gaiters. These lightweight masks or gaiters, some of which are homemade or sold, don’t trap the virus because they are too thin. If you hold the mask or gaiter up to a light and see pinholes of light coming through, then these cloths aren’t going to do their job.

A regular handkerchief tied around the nose. Any cloth that is tied over the nose and then just hangs loosely over the mouth (and makes one look like an old-timey back robber) is absolutely unacceptable to be used in church. They are not stopping your breath at all.

Face shields without masks. These also do not stop one’s breath from flowing freely around the shield and are unacceptable for use in the church unless there is a proper mask also being worn underneath.


Proper Wearing of a Mask

A main difficulty of improper mask-wearing is when the mask droops down and is no longer covering one’s nose. This is equivalent to not wearing a mask at all. If the nose is uncovered, then simply exhaling would put out the virus into the air if you are contagious, since the virus can be airborne.

If you find that your mask regularly falls down exposing the nose, then you need to find a solution of keeping it up before coming the church. People often find they need to tighten the straps or to make sure the upper part of the mask strap that is by the nose goes over the ear, and not under it.

Going by CDC guidelines, all children aged 2 and up also need to wear a mask. If a child is not able to wear a mask, then they are not to come to church.

Adults without the physical or mental ability or competency to properly wear a mask must not be brought to church for their protection and the protection of others in case they are contagious.

If you need a mask or if your mask becomes unusable, for example, a strap breaks, there are disposable masks available. At Precious Blood, they are in the closet in the lobby. At St. Dorothea, they are in the book rack in the main lobby and in the priest’s confessional.


Masks and Receiving Holy Communion

A mask must remain on when approaching the priest or Eucharistic Minister to receive Holy Communion. Taking a mask off to receive means you would be breathing into the face of the minister, which is extremely risky for the minister if you are contagious and asymptomatic.

Thus, receiving on the tongue is not allowed. And if you are physically unable to receive in the hand (with a flat palm up to receive the Host), then unfortunately, you may not receive Communion.

There are many who are self-isolating or homebound or are in an institution who would ordinarily be able to receive Communion, but are also unable to do so  (except in danger of death) at this time. The nature of the pandemic is that the risk of transmission necessarily restricts what we would like to do. And we do not engage in behavior that puts people’s health and life at risk. This is a difficult sacrifice to make to protect one another.

We pray for a speedy and successful roll-out of vaccines that will allow us all to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord as we have in the past.


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