Practical guidelines as churches reopen

Churchgoers’ names to be listed, in case COVID-19 contact tracing is needed
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Posted on May 29 2020
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As churches reopen their doors, parishioners are expected to strictly follow guidelines set by the churches and the government to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 in the CNMI.

For one, parishioners who will be physically attending the Masses are advised to write, on a piece of paper, their name and telephone number, the date, as well as the names of other people from the same household who will also be attending the Mass.

The Diocese of Chalan Kanoa also released some guidelines for parishioners of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral.

Fr. Charlie Borja, of the Santa Soledad Parish, mentioned this as a piece of advice during a KKMP interview yesterday. “There will be a basket when you enter the church where you can drop it. This is, just in case, something will happen. It will be for contact tracing.”

According to Borja, the names will be entered into a logbook by the pastor, and will be treated with strict confidentiality. The logbook will only be released to the COVID-19 Task Force should it be needed for contact tracing. The records will also be destroyed after the pandemic.

Elderly and individuals with underlying medical conditions, and those who are sick with flu-like symptoms, are strongly encouraged to remain at home. The Mass will be broadcast on TV and Facebook, for those who are not able to go physically to the church.

Ushers will be guiding the parishioners to their seats as they enter the churches. Pews are arranged to observe appropriate social distancing. Families living in the same household can sit in the same pew. People are advised to wear masks. Hand sanitizers are also available at the doors.

“Once the church is filled up, then, we will ask our parishioners to stay outside, under the tent or under the tree, or you can bring your own picnic umbrella and picnic chairs to sit outside the church. There will be a speaker set up for you to hear what’s happening,” he added.

Parishioners are also urged to follow designated markers in the aisle. The wafers for the Holy Communion rite will be distributed by hand.

“The most important thing at this time is for us to come and worship, to come and gather for the celebration…without anything…but our spirit, our hearts, our body longing, desiring to receive the body of Christ,” Borja said.

There will be no collections during the offertory. However, collection boxes are available for anyone who wishes to donate.

Veneration of relic is temporarily suspended. The guidelines also state that while it is possible to pray in front of holy images, parishioners are advised to observe proper social distancing, and to refrain from touching or kissing the images.

“We want to welcome you back this coming weekend as we celebrate the solemnity of the Pentecost. This is a fitting and meaningful celebration to welcome you back home to the church through opening our public Masses, as the Pentecost is considered the birthday of the church,” Borja added.

Parishioners are advised to contact their parish churches for the Mass schedule.

Iva Maurin | Author
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at iva_maurin@saipantribune.com
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