UPDATED: Liturgical Protocols for Public Health Safety

UPDATED APRIL 1, 2020: These protocols have been replaced by a new decree of Bishop McKnight’s Read more here

UPDATE: recommendations for funeral Masses and services have been added. In addition, this article has been revised to reflect updates from the president of the United States, who suggest limiting public events to no more than ten people in attendance.

Churches will remain open for personal and household prayer, devotions, and confessions. If the parish has the practice of Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, this practice may continue, be restricted, or be suspended altogether according to the judgment of the pastor. Under no circumstances is the exposed Blessed Sacrament to be left unattended. If necessary, the Blessed Sacrament may be reposed in the tabernacle and adorers should be encouraged to maintain their prayer schedules as much as possible.

The following measures will take immediate effect for the Diocese of Jefferson City until further notice is given:

  1. The suspension of all public Masses. This includes the extension of the dispensation by the Bishop for all the faithful from the obligation to participate at Mass on Sunday.
  2. The celebration of Mass by the priest should include the assistance of at least one other minister who is asymptomatic, but no more than four.
  3. Priests are encouraged to solicit assistance from the laity to live-stream Masses celebrated in the parish, using social media. This can be done with a smartphone with access to the internet. If not, the Mass could be recorded (again on a smartphone) and then later uploaded to the parish website or posted for viewing online. Parishioners, of course, could be encouraged to watch Mass on the internet or television, but the preference should be given to virtual participation in the Mass celebrated in their home parish. Our Communication Office can assist in the technical aspects of providing live streaming or posting a video file. If you need assistance please contact
  4. Funeral Masses and services may still be celebrated, but with the requirement to keep attendance to no more than 10 asymptomatic immediate family members, in accord with the president’s recommendation and the CDC guidelines. One option is to have the burial first with a memorial Mass to be celebrated at a later date.
  5. Baptisms may still be celebrated, but with the requirement to keep attendance to asymptomatic immediate family and godparents, The total number of witnesses including the celebrant should be 10 or less, in accord with the president’s recommendation and the CDC guidelines.
  6. The sacrament of confession should still be offered, but penance services are to be canceled. When celebrated individually, proper social distancing should be observed as much as possible. This would seem to favor anonymous confession through the screen. For face-to-face confessions, consideration should be given to moving the chair for the penitent approximately six feet from the confessor, even if this would necessitate using a different room than normally used for confession.
  7. Holy Communion may still be administered by clergy and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and anointing of the sick may still be administered by priests to those seriously ill or in danger of death, but always following the proper protocols for handwashing and use of masks by those infected.
  8. Confirmation Masses with the bishop will be rescheduled.
  9. The celebration of First Communion in the parish is to be delayed until the feast of Corpus Christi or after.
  10. Public weddings should be rescheduled. Simple weddings and validations may be celebrated, but only with the minister, official witnesses and asymptomatic immediate family members. Again, the total number of witnesses including the celebrant should be 10 or less, in accord with the president’s recommendation and the CDC guidelines.
  11. If they are not already doing so, parishioners should be encouraged to consider contributing to the parish by electronic giving. They may also mail their weekly contributions. Those who handle the mail should follow hygiene practices recommended by the CDC.
  12. Public celebrations of the Liturgy of the Hours, Stations of the Cross, in-person Bible study groups (or other devotional gatherings) are suspended until the public celebration of Mass resumes.
  13. The second and third scrutinies are dispensed by Bishop McKnight.
  14. If the suspension of public Masses continue through Holy Week, the liturgies could be celebrated with the priest and at least one minister but no more than four, and recorded as described above. If possible, an organist, keyboardist or other musician who sings, or a musician and cantor could be present to assist in order to provide some music for these most sacred celebrations. The total number witnesses, including celebrants, should number 10 or less, in accord with the president’s recommendation and the CDC guidelines.
  15. At the discretion of the pastor for those parishes with catechumens and/or candidates, the Easter Vigil could be celebrated with the catechumens and/or candidates with only asymptomatic individuals who are sponsors, RCIA team members and immediate family, or their baptism/reception may be postponed until a later time (e.g., the Vigil of Pentecost on May 30).

These petitions can be added to the prayers of the faithful:

  • For those who are suffering in the current outbreak of sickness, that they might be healed, and for the happy repose of all who have died from this sickness in recent weeks; let us pray to the Lord
  • For scientists, health professionals, public officials, and all who are serving the common good in this difficult and uncertain time, that they will be filled with wisdom and understanding; let us pray to the Lord
  • That in times of illness, our merciful and loving Father will strengthen our faith and trust in His goodness and divine providence; let us pray to the Lord
  • That our compassionate Father would touch all affected by the current outbreak with healing and peace; let us pray to the Lord