Members of the Fall River Diocese who are planning on attending a Christmas Mass at a parish church are strongly advised to visit the parish website or check its bulletin for the schedule of this year’s Masses and registration requirements.
In the midst this pandemic, the celebration of Christmas at churches will be impacted by necessary protocols in place to help provide a safe experience for those choosing to attend Mass in-person. Because of occupancy restrictions inside a church and the need for a record of attendees for contact tracing information should the need arise, parishes are requiring that parishioners sign up for the Mass they wish to attend. In almost all parishes, pre-registration for Christmas Mass may be done either online via its website or by calling the parish office. Procedures will be place at the time of the Mass to confirm the registration of attendees for entrance. Many parishes already follow these procedures for all Masses.
Registration for Christmas Masses is already open at parishes. A searchable listing of all parishes in the Fall River Diocese is available here along with links to their websites.
All of the established safety measures for attending Mass will be strictly enforced. Congregants are required to wear a mask for the entire Mass unless unable because of a medical condition or if under the age of two, and a distance of six-feet will separate seating except for members of the same household.
With limits on the number of persons allowed inside a church for Mass, Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., has authorized for this year an earlier start time of 2 p.m. for the celebration of the Christmas Vigil Mass. Some parishes have scheduled an additional earlier Vigil Mass prior to the usual 4 p.m. celebration.
The dispensation of the obligation to attend Sunday and Holy Day Masses including Christmas will continue to be in effect throughout the Christmas season and into the New Year. It may be helpful to keep in mind that the Church’s celebration of Christmas does not end on Christmas Day but continues for eight days, ending on January 1, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. For this year, parishioners may wish to consider attending Mass on another day within the Octave of Christmas. For example, the Feast of the Holy Family in 2020 falls only two days after Christmas with its Vigil Mass on the day after Christmas. Masses for that weekend would serve well those who want to include participating in Mass in-person within their Christmas observance but have concerns about the risks of being in a larger crowd.
For our faithful people, it goes without saying that Christmas this year in their parish church will be different, and not without challenges. Still, in all likelihood even this year Christmas Mass especially the Vigil celebrations will likely draw a greater number of the faithful. Vulnerable, at-risk and otherwise concerned persons should make a judgment about whether to attend in person with that perspective in mind. Anyone who is feeling sick or having any symptoms of illness must remain home.
Christmas is one of the most important days of the Church year, second only to Easter itself. It is the celebration of Christ coming among us. Those who are not attending Christmas Mass in person are encouraged take part in a Mass offered on television or online. Bishop da Cunha will celebrate Christmas Mass at 12 noon on Christmas Day on WLNE-TV, Channel 6. Almost all parishes in the Fall River Diocese live stream their Masses, and many post them on their website for viewing at other times. In addition, Catholic cable television networks like Catholic TV and EWTN air Masses at different times on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.