Guidelines for Reopening St. Ignatius Parish
June 10, 2020
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has lifted the emergency declaration, and daily life is gradually returning to normalcy. How are you keeping? The Archbishop of Tokyo has issued guidelines for the first step of reopening churches. In response to this, I would like to resume the activities of the St. Ignatius Church in Kojimachi, based on the following guidelines.
First of all, an important point the Archbishop emphasizes is that the elderly and those with serious health conditions are required to continue refraining from church activities. This is because of the fact that if the elderly and those with serious health conditions are infected, the risk of escalation and of death is extremely high. We ask each person to make decisions keeping in mind one’s own risk factors and take actions accordingly.
Secondly, it is required to sit within the church leaving a distance of 1.5 to 2 meters between seats. Though the seating capacity of the church is 700, in order to comply with the said requirement, it is necessary to limit it to 100 people approximately. That leaves us with no option other than cutting short the number of attendees considerably. In addition, this church has the characteristic of many unspecified (not registered in this parish) people attending the mass. Therefore, if someone gets infected, it is very difficult to conduct a follow-up investigation.
Therefore, our parish will not resume the public mass (in such a way that anyone can participate freely). Instead, we have decided; as it was done during the Papal Mass last year, to hold Masses in which only pre-booked groups could attend. We would like these groups to keep the contact information of each participant so that we can trace them in case infections occur later. Group application for Mass is possible with groups of at least 7 people (and maximum of 100 people).
Having kept the aforementioned points in mind, and following the directions below, we will resume activities in a limited manner from June 21, Sunday (starting from the 6 pm Sunday vigil Mass on June 20, Saturday) onwards.
Mass for pre-registered groups
- First of all, please create a group to participate in the mass. If you belong to any kind of activity group or course already, you may gather your group members to make a group among yourselves. Or, please make a group by inviting friends and family members you know or with whom you are in touch with. It is fine to involve non-baptized friends who are interested in Christianity. However, please do not invite members of other parishes (They are requested to join the mass in their home parishes).
- A representative (leader) of the group may prepare a list of participates in that group and apply at the office for any of the several Masses offered on Sundays. There is a limit of minimum of 7 people and a maximum of 100 people per group.
- Personal application is not possible. Always apply in groups. Personal participation without a reservation in a group is not allowed. We are planning to use internet registration method, as this facility is ready to function.
- At the time of booking, it is necessary to submit a list of all participants (each person's name, address, telephone number and email address). This is to follow-up people in case infections occur among the Mass attendees.
- A maximum of 100 people can attend each Mass in the main church. When the number of people reaches 100 (after adding up many small groups), the application for that Mass will be closed. When a Mass is full, please apply for another mass at another time schedule.
- For all the foreign language Masses, please apply through the respective language centers (or through the priest- in-charge).
- On weekdays at 7 am, instead of Mass, there will be an exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with free participation. We will continue with this arrangement if it works smoothly. The Masses at 12 pm and 6 pm on weekdays will accept group based pre-registration in the same way as that of Sunday Masses. The place of Mass (chapels) will be decided depending the number of applicants. If no reservations are made, we plan to do the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the main church.
- The seating capacity of main church is 30 to 100 people, St. Mary’s chapel is 10 to 30 people and Xavier chapel is 10 people. Capacity of the crypt chapel (reserved for memorial Masses for the dead and for the ceremony of placing of cinerary-urn) is up to 10 people.
- When entering the church, please enter as a group. Unspecified people (not registered in specified groups) may avoid entering into church. Please note that allowing unspecified people will make it impossible for us to trace them in case infections occur later.
- Please take every possible measure to prevent the spread of infection; such as wearing a mask and keeping social distance when taking a seat. (Seats are marked).
- Mass will be limited to 30 minutes. There will be no singing and no offertory (donations are possible) as well. For more details, please refer the ‘Manuals for Group Participation in Mass’ in a separate sheet.
- Please receive Holy Communion by hand only.
- It is expected that it will take a long period of time for all the people to participate in the Mass. Every group, after attending a Mass, is requested to keep a time gap of at least a month before attending the next Mass.
- We plan to continue the live broadcast of Mass as majority of people cannot attend the church. Live-streaming of Japanese Mass will be changed to 10 am and Vietnamese Mass will be changed to 3 pm
- Those who cannot attend Mass, are recommended to send origami cranes as a way of representing yourselves at the church. (Origami cranes will be replaced once every month).
Sacrament of Confession
- We will resume the regular administration of the Sacrament of Confession. We will follow the existing time-schedule, which on weekdays is from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm and on Sundays is during the main Mass hours.
- A temporary confession space is set up inside the front glass porch of the main church. (near Our Lady’ statue at the garden)
- Those who want to receive the sacrament of Confession may stand in line in front of the outer door at the left side of the glass porch. Social distance should be maintained.
- When your turn comes, enter from the garden side directly to the glass porch where the temporary confession space is located. Leave the door of the glass porch open. Keep good ventilation.
- Please make your confession as short as possible. Please bring your own copy of the Prayer of Contrition.
- Be sure to take all possible measures to prevent the spread of infection, such as wearing a mask and disinfecting your hands. Most priests who hear the Confession are elderly people. In an event of an infection, the risk of escalation of health condition or death among elderly people is very high. Therefore please take utmost care while coming for confession.
- Many people are expected to gather for receiving the sacrament of confession. Please cooperate so that as many people can receive the blessings of this sacrament. (As a general norm, please make it a point to keep a time gap of at least a month between two confessions.)
- We are also considering to set up a second temporary confession room at the right side entrance of St. Mary’s chapel. Those who come for confession here may line up on the second floor in front of the chapel, towards the direction of Kibe Hall.
- Baptism ceremonies are requested to be conducted in your own group Mass. Please limit the number of participants so that people can maintain sufficient social distance. (St. Mary’s chapel can accommodate up to 30 people) Please make the ceremony as short as possible.
- When conducting a wedding ceremony, please limit the number of participants to minimum so that social distance can be maintained. (St. Mary’s chapel can accommodate up to 30 people)
- Funeral services are to be shortened and the number of participants should be adjusted to the allowed number of participants for each chapel.
- The commemorative Masses for the dead and the placing of cinerary-urn ceremony(both in the crypt chapel) should be held with less than 10 people attending
- In all the above mentioned instances, the contact information of the participants should be kept so that in a likely instance of infection, we can get in touch with them as early as possible.
- Similar to the arrangements for Mass, please submit the participant list to the office.
- Small-scale gatherings are allowed for short periods of time. A general standard for the number of participants is 20 people or less and time period is 1 hour or less.
- Please consider social distance while gathering in rooms and leave enough space between your seats. When booking a room/gathering place, please think about accommodating only 1/3 of the normal capacity.
- Please be responsible to take adequate infection preventive measures, such as hand washing and wearing masks.
- Please disinfect your seat after use.
- Large events (gatherings and activities with more than 20 people involved for a longer period of time) are not allowed.
- As of now, no plans have made to re-start faith formation courses (for 20 people or more). An online Bible introductory course will begin on Saturday, June 27. Anyone who is interested can watch it online.
- Marriage preparation classes will also be resumed online. This will be available only to those who apply for it.
- What many people are concerned about are places people use frequently, such as toilets. When using these places, please make sure to take extreme precautions, such as disinfecting your hands and fingers in order to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
- In case you are infected, please inform the parish office as early as possible.
At the moment, what pains our hearts most is the fact that we cannot freely gather for the Mass. Even though large groups of unspecified people cannot gather, small groups in which people know each other can resume their activities. Now may be the time to deepen the bonds between small communities. While carefully practicing social distance, let us also try cherishing our relationships that would further deepen our mutual bonds.
Most importantly, let us give a try with the new method of doing things and then strive to improve little by little. Though being bound by a constrained environment, let us explore new forms of being part of the Church where everyone can participate. Let's walk together with hearts of prayer and mutual help so that we may be able to actualize the spirit of ‘New Collaboration’, which is the theme of Mission 2030.
Fr. Ryuichiro Hanafusa, SJ, Pastor.