Liturgical Guidelines

March 23, 2021 Update

Due to the ongoing shifts in local determinations regarding mask wearing and social/physical distancing by counties, cities, and health departments as well as the CDC, effective immediately, Bishop Johnston rescinds the diocesan-wide requirement and liturgical protocols of the mask mandate for Masses and parish gatherings under the conditions listed:

  • Local county or city health department regulations regarding both mask and/or physical distancing are to be followed where they remain in place (e.g., Thirteenth Amended Order, 20-01, KCMO).
  • School ministries shall remain under the mask mandate through at least Easter. Other factors will be determinative; any change will be shared when available.
  • The general dispensation from the obligation to participate in Masses on Sundays and holy days of obligation continues.
  • It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and encouraged by Bishop Johnston that particular sections of the parish church be designated for those persons who continue to prefer wearing a mask at this time as well as those who are not vaccinated. Another area is to be designated for the vaccinated and non-mask wearing section. What size each section is determined to be is a decision by the pastor and his leadership team.
  • There is no diocesan requirement for parishioner sign up for a set Mass time and date, but a pastor may determine that this process is his community’s best approach to meeting the parameters of the city/county requirements within which the parish church resides.
  • Wedding parties continue to be a challenge as they are persons not residing within the same household and likely a vast majority of the bridal/wedding party are not yet vaccinated. However, these individuals may also follow the above guidance. If a member of the wedding party is more comfortable wearing her/his mask, they ought to be encouraged and supported in such a choice at this time.

Many who are vulnerable will continue to remain masked when around others. Respect and consideration should be at the forefront of our interactions when we are gathered at our parishes and schools.

FYI: The city of Kansas City order requiring masks indoors currently remains in place until May 1, 2021, from the Thirteenth Amended Order, 20-01, KCMO, issued February 19, 2021.


These days of pandemic have been a time of disruption and sacrifice in our ecclesial life.  I am grateful to our clergy and faithful for persevering in faith and charity during these times of challenge, including with online or mail-in financial contributions.  This instruction pertains to the pastoral and liturgical life of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and supplements, and in some instances, supersedes , previous liturgical directives issued. 

On June 11, 2020, Governor Mike Parson lifted statewide restrictions on activity while encouraging Missourians to follow general guidelines for health and safety ( 

However, it is important to note that in local jurisdictions, other laws may apply which are more restrictive and this should be followed.  All pastors, parochial and pastoral administrators, and other personnel are to follow the requirements of legitimate state and local civil authorities regarding public health in this pandemic. 

In issuing these liturgical directives, there may still exist the possibility that every parish (and pastor) may not be able to offer Mass open to the public due to, but not limited to, factors including the vulnerability of the priest himself, an inability to safely provide the additional personnel/staff/ushers needed, an inability to sufficiently sanitize and clean the church between services, and/or other circumstances.  Likewise, some priests may want at their discretion to supplement the previous schedule by adding additional Mass times to both the daily and/or weekend schedule.  Each priest may add a second daily Mass and up to 3 Sunday Masses, per his pagella and canon 905.  If he believes pastoral necessity requires his offering more than two daily Masses Monday through Saturday (Saturday Vigil Masses for Sunday count as one or both of the Saturday Masses) and/or three offered on Sunday, he needs the permission of the Office of the Bishop prior to any announcement of offering or celebration. 

Let us commend ourselves to Mary, Mother of the Church, and her aid and protection.

Guidelines for Observing Social Distancing and other Health Requirements for the Celebration of ALL Masses 

November 20: Updated requirements for Kansas City, Missouri and Jackson, Clay and Platte Counties

Before Mass 

  1. All four Diocesan Bishops of Missouri have dispensed the faithful from the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday; however, the faithful are encouraged to perform some other act of devotion if they are not participating in Sunday Mass, such as prayerfully reading and meditating on the Sunday readings. Therefore,
    1. Those who are symptomatic or who have been exposed to another with the virus within 14 days are not permitted to enter the church, in accordance with national, state and local health directives. All attendees are asked to check their temperature at home before coming to church. 
    2. Those who are at risk because of an underlying health issue or who are 60 or older are strongly encouraged, for their own health, to avoid the risk of attending public celebrations of the Mass. 
    3. We highly encourage parishes to live stream Mass, even on a daily basis, so that those unable to attend in person may maintain a spiritual connection with their local church. 
  2. Appropriate cleaning of high use areas within the church and ad experimentum:  a basement, gym, adjacent space, is to be done before and after each service. 
    1. The pews utilized by the assembly shall be wiped down with disinfectant. 
    2. Permission ad experimentum is given through Christmas Day Masses for the use of a church basement, gym, adjacent indoor space to be utilized as additional seating capacity during Masses and liturgical events. These chairs are to likewise be separated for six-feet distancing and disinfected before and after services.  Outdoor venues and vehicles are not approved.
    3. All hymnals and missalettes are to be removed from the pews and stored for the duration of the pandemic. No other materials may be left in the pews. The faithful are encouraged to bring their own missals or hymnals or smartphones for use during the celebration of Mass. 
    4. Restroom facilities and door handles, push plates, and knobs are to be sanitized after each service. 
  3. Holy water fonts are to remain empty until further notice. 
  4. Hand sanitizer is to be made available throughout the church, whenever possible. 
  5. The faithful are obliged to wear a mask upon entering the church and during the celebration of Mass, except when remaining in the pewunless the local city/county health directives so require and for the brief moment of receiving Holy Communion. Ushers and other volunteers are to wear masks and gloves (when gloves are not available, frequent handwashing will be necessary) throughout the celebration of Mass. Pastors are to see to it that these obligations are enforced without exception. Those at the altar are to wear a mask if distributing Holy Communion. 
  6. Clergy and other ministers are to maintain six-foot distancing, including in the sanctuary, and should not greet parishioners as they enter the church. 

During Mass 

  1. Entry and exit doors are to be adequately designated and monitored. Entry doors are to be propped or held open before Mass (this may become more necessary during the fall/winter months), and exit doors are to be propped or held open at the end of Mass to prevent people from touching the door handles, knobs or push plates. 
  2. Staff, ushers or other volunteers should assist with directing people to pews specifically marked. Attendance may be limited to assure compliance with social distancing requirements. 
  3. Households are to maintain six-foot distancing between their family and other families or individuals with whom they do not reside throughout the celebration of Mass. 
    1. Seating is to be arranged such that six feet of distance can be maintained between members of one household and members of another. 
    2. One or two pews are to be left vacant in between congregants such that six feet of distance can be maintained in all directions. 
    3. Music ministers are to maintain six-foot social distancing; ; if cantor/choir member singing, ten-feet distance is necessary. 
    4. Due to concerns that congregational singing requires increased volumes of projected air and particulates, priests and congregational singing could remain suspended at Masses for the time being.  However, congregational singing can now be offered by those who sing softly in a low voice with the requirement that one’s mask is on, even when one is in one’s pew. Other options should be considered such as using a single cantor who sings antiphons or hymns at least at the entrance and communion of the Mass, appropriate instrumental music, and smaller choirs and scholas which are able to maintain a social distance of ten feet. 
  4. Procession of the Gifts is suspended. Collection baskets (or any other materials) are not to be passed from one family to another. Stationary baskets may be used for donations from the assembly and are to be monitored by the ushers until the donations are collected and handled according to the proper protocols in place for handling the collection. Ushers wearing masks and gloves or sanitizing one’s hands before and after may take up the collection with long handled baskets from the aisles.
  5. The sign of peace is optional. If it is offered, there is to be no physical contact. A simple gesture, such as a nod of the head, is recommended. 
  6. All concelebrating priests are to receive Holy Communion by intinction, utilizing a separate chalice from the main celebrant and with the last priest communicant consuming all that remains in the Chalice. 
  7. Priests or deacons who are in at-risk groups are permitted to refrain from distributing Holy Communion and are able to delegate distribution to other Communion ministers. 
  8. For the distribution of communion, ushers or other volunteers who are masked and gloved will ensure six-foot distancing in the communion line. Floor markings shall be placed six feet apart in the aisles in which the congregation approaches the sanctuary for communion to facilitate proper social distancing. 
  9. If any server is next to the Communion Minister holding a paten during the distribution of Holy Communion, the server must also wear a mask at that time. 
  10. Communion ministers must be masked, sanitize their hands immediately before and after distributing Communion, and when at all possible, to utilize a disinfectant wipe or purificator dipped in a sanitizing solution (at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropyl alcohol) to sanitize their fingers when incidental contact is made with the communicant. 
  11. Distribution of Holy Communion from the chalice is prohibited to the assembly and vested deacons. For those who are gluten intolerant, special arrangements are to be considered with the pastor.
  12. Maintaining a single-file is necessary for the distribution of Holy Communion for each Communion minister and communicant to maintain social distancing. Multiple Communion ministers may be used as long as one-way traffic patterns are observed. In some few parishes, the Communion minister may move through the unoccupied pews in front of potential communicants instead of a procession line.  Admittedly, this could burden the conscience of a person before whom the Communion minister stands, but it is an acceptable alternative. 
  13. During this time, Holy Communion should be distributed in the hand in keeping with the advice of state health officials and thereby to avoid the Communion minister’s fingers coming into contact with saliva or airborne contagion. This might be a good occasion to review proper reception with parishioners: “When receiving in the hand, the communicant should be guided by the words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem: ‘When you approach, take care not to do so with your hand stretched out and your fingers open or apart, but rather place your left hand as a throne beneath your right, as befits one who is about to receive the King. Then receive him, take care that nothing is lost.’” (Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America, no. 41)Reception of Holy Communion in the hand is an ancient and reverent option the faithful are asked to adopt during this time. Our bishop is not forbidding anything permitted in Church law which does grant the faithful the right to receive Communion on the tongue. 
  14. Should person(s) insist on receiving Holy Communion on the tongue, this should take place after all in the congregation who are receiving in the hand have received per the directives.  In other words, no one insisting on receiving on the tongue should precede those receiving in the hand.    Additionally, Communion ministers must sanitize their hand if there is contact with the communicant’s tongue, face, hand, or breath before distributing Holy Communion to the next communicant.  This can be arranged by having purification materials, e.g., disinfectant wipe/sanitizer, nearby in the event it is necessary as the possibility of transferring any contagion is to be mitigated for the benefit of everyone’s health. 
  15. Those who refrain from receiving communion still unite themselves with the sacrifice of Christ. Non-communicants are kindly asked to remain in their places rather than process to request a blessing—a blessing all receive at the end of Mass. 
  16. When approaching the Communion minister, the communicant receives the Host in one’s hand, takes a single step to the side away from the Communion minister, and pulls down their mask below their chin in order to receive Communion and not breathe on the Communion minister. The communicant immediately replaces their mask after consuming the Host. 

After Mass 

  1. Family units/individuals should depart the church in an organized manner wearing masks and observing six feet of distance between other households. Ushers or clergy may need to direct this process. 
  2. Ushers wearing masks and gloves, may extend one’s arm for as much distance as possible to hand out bulletins or other materials. 
  3. Clergy and other ministers are not to greet parishioners as they exit the church. 
  4. There are to be no receptions or social gatherings (e.g., coffee and doughnuts) following Mass. 
  5. Pews and other high traffic areas of the church are to be wiped down before the next service, with the removal of trash and other items from the pews.

Guidelines for Sacraments and Sacramentals 

  1. Sacrament of Reconciliation/Penance:
    INDIVIDUAL Confessions heard in confessional boxes/confined rooms remain suspended due to the requirements of combating the coronavirus following the direction of both the Apostolic Penitentiary (See: Note from the Apostolic Penitentiary on the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the current pandemic) and USCCB (See: The Care of Souls and the Forgiveness of Sins During This Pandemic). Individual confessions may be celebrated in a well-ventilated area which can provide for social distancing and the confidentiality of the confession. The sacrament of Reconciliation should be celebrated inside the church or spaces of church or parish school buildings which have been prepared for the worthy celebration of the sacrament. As you are able, provide for the anonymity of the penitent if that is possible and desired as an option. Spaces for confession should minimize the likelihood of multiple people touching surfaces which the next penitent might contact.
    Those who do not have an opportunity for reception of the Sacrament at this time should take comfort in the knowledge that perfect contrition, coming from the love of God above all things and sorrow at offending Him, expressed by a sincere request for forgiveness and accompanied by the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible, can obtain forgiveness of sins, even mortal ones (cf. CCC, no. 1452).
  2. Emergency/Danger of Death Anointings of the Sick and Viaticum (as possible) 
    1. For the celebration of the “Last Rites”, Viaticum may be given along with the Anointing of the Sick with the observance of the special protocols (e.g., use of fresh oil, cotton balls/Q-tips, and medical gloves and masks). 
    2. To prevent the contamination of the Blessed Sacrament, the priest should only bring the amount of Holy Communion necessary for Viaticum. 
    3. Hospital chaplains are to be especially attentive to the directions of their medical institution and use prudence in moving from room to room in pastoral visits. 
    4. All priests are reminded to offer the Apostolic Pardon (found, for example, #265, small green book Pastoral Care of the Sick) with or without a celebration of Anointing of the Sick. 
    5. Helpful for our own edification and catechesis of the faithful is number 12 of the Manual of Indulgences: At The Point Of Death:
      §1 a priest who administers the sacraments to someone in danger of death should not fail to impart the apostolic blessing (pardon) to which a plenary indulgence is attached.
      §2 If a priest is unavailable, Holy Mother Church benevolently grants to the Christian faithful, who are duly disposed, a plenary indulgence to be acquired at the point of death, provided they have been in the habit of reciting some prayers during their lifetime; in such a case, the Church supplies for the three conditions ordinarily required for a plenary indulgence.
      §3 In this latter case, the use of a crucifix or a cross in obtaining the plenary indulgence is commendable.
      §4 The faithful can obtain this plenary indulgence at the hour of death, even if they have already acquired a plenary indulgence on that same day.
      §5 The catechetical instruction of the faithful should ensure that they are duly made aware and frequently reminded of this salutary benefaction of the Church. 

Holy Communion to the Homebound    

  1. Clergy and EMHCs (with the approval of the pastor) may begin distribution of Holy Communion in a private home where all persons residing there have been absent any fever, chills, cold or coronavirus symptoms for the previous 14 days.  The Communion Minister is to wear a mask the entire time in the home (no exceptions), sanitize his/her hands upon entry prior to set up that maintains six feet of distance from all persons present (except at the brief moment of distribution of Holy Communion) and sanitize one’s hands after distribution of Holy Communion and again outside the residence’s door and prior to entry into one’s vehicle.  The determination of which Communion Ministers are allowed to assist with this ministry at this time and which homebound communicants are able to receive is the Pastor’s. 

Aid to Wedding and Funeral Planning and Mass protocols as above: 

  1. While Governor Parson and the State of Missouri has ended promulgation of additional health directives, those of the local county and/or city remain in force and to be followed.  The governmental, CDC, and KCSJ of our Bishop, still require six feet social distancing.  Weekend Masses, weddings, funerals, and other large worship gathering still REQUIRE six feet social distancing between individuals and/or household groups.  Persons moving in our churches MUST wear a mask.  This will include, for example, funeral pall bearers and the wedding party/couples as they almost never all reside in the same household.  Bishop Johnston has made an exception for the bride and groom on their wedding day for the procession and their seating together within the sanctuary. 
  2. For weddings, it is best to provide the engaged couple with a template of the pews layout and have them ‘assign’ seats to individuals and household groups with the approved six feet separation as a master template for the presider, the (parish) wedding coordinator, and the ushers.  The number of wedding guests and funeral participants, for example, is limited in ALL our parishes by this six-foot social distancing requirement that remains diocesan particular law. 

Updated October 20, 2020 

©2021 Diocese of Kansas City–St. Joseph