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Fr Ross writes about the re-opening of our two Parish Churches

The Re-Opening of our two Parish Churches for Private Prayer.

This coming week our two Parish Churches will be open for Private Prayer at the following times:


Annunciation Church, Netley.

Will be open this Sunday (5th July) from 2.30-4pm; Tuesday 7thth June 7.30- 8.30pm; Wednesday 8th July 2.30-4pm; and Sunday 12th July 2.30-4pm. Regretfully, it has been deemed that only 20 persons can safely socially distance in the Annunciation Church at any one time.

St Patrick’s Church, Woolston will be opening for Private Prayer on Wednesday 8th July from 10-11am; Saturday 11th July 10-11am and Sunday 12th 3-4pm. Regretfully, it has been deemed that only 30 individuals (with wiggle room for family groups or couples from the same household) can safely socially distance at any one time.

BRING YOUR OWN FACE MASK AND GLOVES IF YOU WISH

A massive thank you to our amazing working parties in both parish churches who have arranged for both of our churches to be open for private prayer and for those volunteer stewards and cleaners who have stepped forward to help with this task. Much appreciated by all!

ALL PUBLIC MASSES ARE CANCELLED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE Fr Ross will say Mass daily in St Patrick’s Church for Intentions at 12 noon.

The Re-opening of our two Parish Churches for public Masses.

As many of you will be aware the Government recently gave us the green light for all places of worship to re-open for public worship from the 4th July. What wonderful and joyful news this was to hear and something indeed which we will happily plan for in the very near future. As with all big statements the guidance of how we open safely for public liturgies was slow in coming, partly because the Government announced it out of the blue. What this means for us is that we can gather again for Holy Mass and other liturgies but in smaller numbers and with social distancing, contact tracing and hygiene rules in place.

The Bishop is recommending a slow and cautious approach, where the faithful are supported in returning to Mass on a weekday to start with so that churches don’t exceed the safe capacity. Not all churches can return to a public celebration of mass because the priest may be shielding or unwell or there are simply not the resources available. The Bishop has made it clear that the final decision of when we resume public masses rests with the Parish Priest. So this Parish Priest is being particularly cautious. I remind you all that the Sunday Obligation to attend Mass remains suspended until we return to near normal times.

Our position currently here is that we are still awaiting part of our PPE order to be delivered, which was promised three weeks ago along with an order for St Patrick’s School. The demand for PPE is huge. We cannot open for public masses in our two parishes until we have an adequate supply of PPE. Many other parishes are in a similar boat to us.

I am also acutely aware that the Covid 19 virus is still around in the community and is dangerous for some people. So with this in mind, any decisions I make will be guided by careful observance of the guidance issued from the Government and the Bishop. We can only be open for Mass when we are ready and when we can safely do so. To open otherwise would be totally irresponsible and foolish. How awful it would be if somebody became sick from catching Covid-19 from attending Mass in a church which did not have all the safely measures in place!

So with all this in mind I sincerely hope to resume public masses from the week beginning 20th July and that first week we will have one weekday mass at Annunciation and one weekday mass at St Patrick’s. We will then review how those masses have gone with the two working parties plus the stewards and then I hope to offer four public weekday masses the week beginning 27th July, two at Annunciation and two at St Patrick’s. Again these masses will be reviewed by the working parties and then we hope to be in a position to offer weekend public masses from a date in August when we get enough volunteer stewards coming forward.

The exact details of when the first two weekday masses will take place will appear in next week’s newsletter. I am not at this stage anticipating the need for a booking system to attend weekday masses, but clearly if we reach capacity people will have to be turned away at the door, something none of us would want to do. This is why we need to review what happens during that first week.

Weekend Masses will have to be a ticketed ‘event’ because space in both our churches is limited due to social distancing rules. Ticketing will also allow for effective contact tracing should an outbreak of Covid-19 take place locally. So we need to create a fair system of ticketing Mass places. I hope to tell you about how we are going to do this in next week’s newsletter - but, for now, please be aware that it may mean you can’t come to a weekend Mass on a regular basis as you once did. In the most likely scenario weekend masses will be on a rotation basis over a three or four week cycle to accommodate the numbers.

We also know that all toilets, halls and kitchens in the churches will remain closed and that we can’t gather for coffee after Mass as we once did. Please also note there will be no newsletters, no communal prayer aids or hymn books in use. Windows and doors of the buildings will be kept open to aid fresh air flow (so you may wish to bring layers to keep warm). Nor will we be permitted to sing during mass as singing can help spread the virus through droplets.

We also still need more volunteers who are not in the vulnerable category to step forward and help with the stewarding of masses and private prayer. Thank you to those of you who have bravely stepped forward already, but WE NEED MORE people to do so. We will endeavour to provide our volunteer stewards with face masks and gloves.

So please consider which of our usual weekday/Sunday Masses you could help to Steward so that we can be open for Parish Masses. We don’t have enough volunteers currently coming forward to help. If you are able to volunteer for this vital stewarding role, and it is safe for you to do so, then please let Fr Ross know ASAP, ideally by email at: eastside@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk with an idea of when you would be available. Or, if needs be, write it down and it can be delivered by hand via the Parish Office at Woolston Presbytery.


If you are coming to Church, please bring your own clean/fresh supply of face masks/gloves. If you are able to give a donation for the ongoing purchase of PPE essentials, it would be greatly appreciated at this time in the usual way (see support of the church section in newsletter) and if via internet banking put as the reference PPE.

The reopening of both our churches is going to take time, organisation and much administration. I will do my very best during these unprecedented times within the constraints and guidelines to open for Mass when we can safely do so. Yes, it’s not an ideal situation, but a small step towards one!


Let us continue to pray for those suffering with the virus, those who are unable to return to Church due to health conditions, as well as for all those helping on the frontline in the NHS and caring & support services, and of course those of our parish who have died. May they rest in peace.


Thank you for your assistance and your patience.


God bless you all, Fr Ross

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Marion Patient

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SO19 9BD

Call: 023 8044 8671

Email: eastside@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk

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