Latest News/Resources Regarding COVID-19
Pastoral Responses to Recent Surge of Cases (PDF)
Christmas during COVID-19
The current Diocesan Liturgical Guidelines will still be in effect throughout the Christmas Season.
Some highlights to take note of:
• The dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days remains in effect and is anticipated to remain in effect throughout the celebration of the Season of Christmas. (The dispensation has no expiration and will remain in effect until an announcement is made otherwise)
• Congregational singing is still discouraged and the use of full choirs is still suspended. However, small ensembles (no more than 4-5 people), particularly those of the same household, could be considered with appropriate consideration given to physical distance from the altar, congregation, and members themselves.
• We encourage regular Mass goers to consider attending a Mass other than the highly popular 4 PM Vigil in order to graciously accommodate those who do not participate regularly in the liturgical life of the Church.
June 6, 2020: Diocese of Buffalo welcomes allowance for parish reopenings
Diocese of Buffalo welcomes allowance for parish reopenings Parishes that are prepared to welcome up to 33% of capacity, following Diocesan established protocols may do so as soon as possible. Press Release (link)
- Local Catholics are urged to check with their parishes before planning to attend a Mass, as parishes may be at a different stage in their preparations for reopening. The decision to reopen is solely at the discretion of the pastor.
- The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains in place. All who are especially vulnerable or simply uncomfortable attending a public liturgy are encouraged to remain at home and view Mass via livestreams, which will continue in local parishes.
- Parishioners should bring and be prepared to wear their own masks and, if possible, a bottle of hand sanitizer for use upon entering, before receiving Communion, after receiving Communion, and after exiting the church. Catholics should plan on restricted seating, a change in the reception of Communion in order to ensure social distancing, and other appropriate measures upon entering and exiting churches.
May 21, 2020: Guidelines for Returning to Parish Life
The Diocese of Buffalo has issued guidance for parish pastors and administrators - "Forward in Faith" - detailing the preparations and precautions they must follow in preparing to resume liturgical services and the celebration of sacraments as the novel coronavirus threat continues.
The dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass and other Holy Days of Obligation remains in effect and the opportunity to participate in live-streamed Masses can be found at: Live-Streamed Masses.
April 22, 2020: Sacramental Updates
The most recent mandate was for a "stay-at-home" measures to exist until at least 5/15/20 in New York State. This means that we cannot expect any Masses or Liturgical Celebration with a normal congregation before that time. Our Churches are permitted to remain open for private prayer at the discreation of the Pastor. The Pastor retains the right to limit or forbid such private prayer in his church should he deem it to be a safety or security liability.
- Masses: Nothing has changed since 3/20/2020. NO public celebrations of Mass or Communion Services.
- Confessions: Is ONLY allowed in grave situations as well as Anointing of the Sick. (Priests may use a cottom-tipped swab or cotton ball as an instrument to anoint the sick person. The Priest dips the cotton swab in the Oil for the Sick)
- Baptisms: Should be delayed until a time when it is safe again for a congregation to assemble. In case of emergency or danger of death, the sacrament in basic style may take place (social distancing carefully observed) with the form supplied at a later date.
- Weddings: Should be delayed or postponed if at all possible until it is permitted for a congregation to assemble. If a wedding does take place, no more than 10 people present in the church (Social distancing must be followed).
- Funerals: Should be delayed or postponed until it is permissible for a congregation to assemble. Parishioners should be advised of the possibility of having a Memorial Mass on a future date when it is safe and permissible to gather. If a funeral service did take place in a Church, there must be no more than 10 people present and proper social distancing must be observed. A Priest / Deacon is allowed to have a Vigil / Prayer Service at a Funeral Home as long as social distancing and safety guidelines are adhered to. It is the responsibility of the Funeral Director to administer these guidelines. A Priest / Deacon may officiate at a Graveside Service with distancing precautions observed.
- First Reconciliations and First Communions: For parishes who had not been able to celebrate the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Communion for the first time with the parish children…. We recommend that this be postponed until it is permitted to gather as a community. We further recommend that this be delayed until the Fall Semester of school or whenever students can gather as a class again to review their knowledge of the Sacrament and to be properly prepared for the reception of Reconciliation or Holy Communion for the first time by their instructors.
- Confiramations: Parishes that had scheduled Confirmations on a calendar during the first half of the year 2020 should look to reschedule them for a date when it is deemed safe to gather as a congregation. You may not want to schedule this date until you know it is safe by government regulations to gather again and with no restrictions on capacity in a Church. It may be preferable that these Confirmations would take place when school is back in session in the Fall. The Bishop may grant delegation to the Pastor of the Parish to Officiate at the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation for the qualified Candidates of his Parish once it is possible to safely do so. The Pastor would specifically request delegation from the Bishop for the Sacrament of Confirmation to be celebrated in his Parish and the number of those to be Confirmed.
- RCIA Candidates: Those Candidates and Catechumens who were preparing to enter the Church or to be fully initiated at the Easter Vigil on 4/11/20 should work with the parish RCIA Team, the Religious Education staff and the Pastor to determine an appropriate date and time, when it is deemed safe to gather as a congregation, to celebrate the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist for those in the RCIA program of the parish.
- Holy Oils: We are permitted to continue using the Holy Oils blessed during last year's Chrism Mass (4/16/19). A date will be determined for the Blessing of the new oil once it is permitted to gather as a congregation again.
- Ordinations: Dates are being explored for the celebration of the Ordination to the Priesthood and Diaconate. These dates will be publicized well in advance.
Be aware that as conditions improve and when we might be permitted by government authority to once again gather as a congregation there may be some limits or restrictions on such gatherings. Our Diocesan authorities will pay close attention should any such restrictions be mandated and immediately communicate them to you.
March 31, 2020: No Distribution of Palms
Due to the ongoing and growing threat of the novel coronavirus throughout Western New York, there will be no distribution of palms during Palm Sunday weekend or in the days following. We sincerely regret this development. However, due to the inability to ensure the safe handling of palms, and in order to prevent risk to those most vulnerable to the coronavirus, this additional precaution has been required. We thank you for your understanding and continue to encourage all of the Diocese of Buffalo to stay united in prayer for those who have succumbed or are afflicted due to the virus, as well as their loved ones.
March 20, 2020: Video Message from Bishop Scharfenberger
- There are NOT to be any public celebrations. even outside including live Stations of the Cross.
- No public celebrations of Mass or Communion Services.
- The Celebration of Reconciliation (Confession) is allowed ONLY in grave situations as well as Anointing of the Sick.
- There is no distribution of Palms for Palm Sunday (Addition on March 31, 2020)
March 15, 2020: Public Masses Cancelled
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger announces that there will be no regularly scheduled public Masses in the Diocese of Buffalo until further notice due to an abundance of caution and growing concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus. Churches may remain open, as locally feasible, and the faithful are encouraged to continue to visit and pray while maintaining a prudent distance from one another. In addition, all other parish events and large gatherings are to be postponed, including Confirmations. Funerals will continue to be conducted, though with only immediate family present until further notice.
- Confirmations have been postponed until further notice and will be rescheduled. We have begun work on guidelines for Holy Week pertaining to those whose Confirmation is planned for the Easter Vigil.
- Reconciliation: NO communal reconciliation services.
- Funerals may be attended only by close family and in accordance with social distancing and capacity requirements. Please note that gatherings should not be more than 10 people in total.
- Weddings: It is recommended to consider postponing weddings given the many preparations involved and required of parish staff.
- Baptisms celebrations should be limited to immediate family only if they cannot be postponed.
- Holy Week: All Masses during Holy Week will be live streamed and the schedule can be found here.
March 15, 2020: All Catholic schools are closed
All Catholic elementary schools in Western New York are closed today, Monday, March 16, 2020 due to emergency declarations by the Governor of New York and area county governments. Starting Tuesday, March 17th, all schools will remain closed for various lengths of time. Schools in the City of Buffalo and in Erie County are closed until Monday, April 20th. Niagara, Genesee, Chautauqua and Allegany Counties have closed schools until further notice. Cattaraugus County has closed their schools until Monday, April 13th. Additional information about schools and home study instruction is available HERE.
As we face these circumstances together, let’s make the most of the additional time it provides us to reflect, recharge and renew our energies, our resolve and ultimately our Faith. In many ways, we’re experiencing very much what the early Christians experienced in facing persecution for their faith. They were prohibited from congregating and celebrating their faith publicly. They remained in homes and gathered as families and small groups to speak about their faith, to pray and to remember Jesus who called them to be His disciples. And their faith grew, became stronger, and ultimately their faith became ours.
Together we will move forward stronger, healthier and holier, let us as family, pray our way through this, share what we are learning and experience and listen to the Holy Spirit, who teaches and reminds all to look at Christ crucified and to claim the mercy that flows from his side. Let us continue to pray for all those affected by COVID-19, including those caring for the sick and for one another.
We thank you for your understanding and continue to encourage all of the Diocese of Buffalo to stay united in prayer for those who have succumbed or are afflicted due to the virus, as well as their loved ones. We especially ask your prayers for our devoted medical professionals who continue to demonstrate heroic and selfless service to so many, even while risking their own well-being, during this unprecedented time.
"As the faith community of Western New York, we have an important part to play in protecting those most vulnerable and those with underlying medical issues during this period of extreme concern over the spread of the coronavirus," said Bishop Scharfenberger. "I realize how deeply disappointing it is during our season of Lent to refrain from gathering at public Masses and participating together in our liturgical life, but we must avoid the risk of wider infection. I encourage the faithful, nonetheless, to pray fervently during this time when we must be apart and to continue their Lenten journey within families and in the quiet of their own prayerful reflection, knowing that Christ abides with us always and in every place."