Parishioners are asked to note that there are significant changes in place that will affect Masses and the daily working of the church.  These are detailed below. 

For Full Version of Diocesan Guidelines for Masses Click Here

Parish Office:
The Parish Office is open Monday to Friday 10am to 2pm. As a parish community we are following the most up to date public health regulations, which includes social distancing, hygiene/sanitation measures and the use of PPE. Please be advised these measures will be in use within the Parish Office. If people are unwell – especially those with any symptoms that might suggest COVID-19 infection we recommend that they should stay at home and contact Claire by phone on 028 9042 2167 or email using: [email protected] .
 
UPDATE: 15 October 2020:
The following measures come into effect from Friday 16 October and will remain in place for four weeks:

Churches will remain open and liturgy may continue subject to the guidance in place.  In addition it will now be mandatory for face covering to be worn when entering and exiting the church.  This is in addition to the Church leaders’ recommendation, endorsed by the Diocese, that face coverings be worn at all times while in the Church.

From Monday 19 October 2020 attendance at weddings is limited to 25 persons. Please note the parties to a marriage are not required to wear face coverings when entering or exiting the church.

Confessions:
Fr Stephen will hear confessions by appointment.  Confessions will be in the open in the alcove area adjacent to the icon of Our Lady.  
 

Private Prayer:
The church will be open for private, individual, prayer from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 3pm.  The church will be closed immediately following the noon Mass on Sunday until 10am on Monday. 

Funerals:
With effect from 16 October, for a period of four weeks, the number of mourners permitted within the church will be limited to 25 people.  Social distancing requirements must be observed at all times.  Pre- or post-funeral gatherings are not permitted. 

Weddings:  
With effect from 16 October, for a period of four weeks, the number of guests permitted is limited to 25 people.  Social distancing requirements must be observed at all times.  Receptions/celebrations are not permitted.       

Baptisms:
Baptisms are also permitted with effect from Friday 10 July.  Only one child may be baptised at any one time and the number attending is limited to 15 persons including any other children.  Social distancing requirements must be observed at all times.  . If people are unwell – especially those with any symptoms that might suggest COVID-19 infection we recommend that they stay at home and another date for the baby’s Baptism will be made.

Usual Mass times will be:

Monday 7pm
Tuesday 9.30am
Wednesday 9.30am
Thursday 9.30am
Friday 7pm
Saturday vigil 6.30pm
Sunday 10 am and 12 Noon

Our prayer is for the healing for our sick and we pray that the virus, that so many have fallen
victim to will come to a speedy end.

May God bless us all.
Fr Stephen

DOWN AND CONNOR DIOCESAN GUIDELINES FOR MASSES
UPDATED 3 September 2020

NON-CONTACT INFRA-RED FOREHEAD THERMOMETER  (Highly recommended)

A parish may wish to obtain a temperature thermometer and ask a volunteer to check the temperature of parishioners and those attending the Church as they arrive for Mass and / or other services. This is not mandatory. If adopted, anyone exhibiting a high temperature should be advised not to attend and to seek the advice of their GP.

StopCOVID-19 NI APP  (Highly recommended)

HSC has developed the StopCOVID NI App ( https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/stopcovid-ni-app-explainer-leaflet)  to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus.  At present, the app does not link to the contact tracing service directly. Once someone has a positive test, manual contact tracing will be initiated. It will operate in parallel, encouraging ‘high risk’ contacts that might have been missed otherwise, to get tested.

What does the App do?.

  • It tells you if you have been near someone who has tested positive, even if you don’t know them.
  • If you receive an alert, it will tell you to self-isolate for 14 days and show you where to get advice on symptoms and book a test.
  • If you test positive, it updates app-users who have been in close contact with you.
  • It only knows if you have been near another app-user, not your identity or location.

The app is one way of helping to control the spread of COVID-19. There are other steps we should all be taking too. Everyone should continue to:

  • wash hands regularly
  • cover coughs and sneezes
  • practice social distancing
  • follow the latest public health advice

The aim of the app is to support the health service, help prevent possible localised lockdown and save lives.  Most people spreading the virus don’t know they have it.  So, the more people using the app, the more lives can be saved[1].

 

CONTRACT TRACING SERVICE  (Highly recommended)

In addition to the StopCOVID-19 NI Track and Trace App, contact tracing is an established method to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Many businesses in the hospitality sector are now using this approach to target potential clusters which could spark new outbreaks.

Contact tracing works by identifying a confirmed case and asking them who they have been in contact with.  Individual contacts are identified as being high risk, low risk or no risk.

To be considered “high risk” a person will have to have been in close contact with a confirmed case and have spent more than 15 minutes with them without any personal protection.

This means that those who have casually passed someone on the street will not be considered high risk. Contacts may also be people who have had the infection but were unaware of this because their symptoms were mild or asymptomatic and they may have unwittingly spread infection.

The person with a confirmed infection, and their ‘high risk’ contacts will be given advice by the Contact Tracing Service on what to do about managing symptoms and of the need to self-isolate to prevent any wider spread of the virus.

As an alternative to those parishes that operate an online or telephone advance booking system the Contact Tracing Service can be assisted if parishes retain a temporary written record[2] for a maximum of 21 days (in accordance with GDPR legislation)[3] of those who attend church and /or a church-run event (e.g. where people gather under the aegis of the parish in the parish hall).  External bodies using parish premises are responsible for their own contact tracing protocols.

Gathering of the relevant contact information in this manner can only be on a voluntary basis either as “sign in” by individuals or families (in the latter case only one lead name contact would be required) OR facilitated by an appropriately trained volunteer who would record the relevant information.

Providing contact tracing information cannot be made obligatory.  Should a person not wish to give or record their details they should still be admitted to the celebration of Mass or other religious services in church.  It should be explained that they would not, however, be contacted by the Contact Tracing Service in the event of someone who had been at Mass testing positive.

In the unlikely event that there is a cluster of coronavirus cases linked to a church, tracers may ask a parish for the contact details of those individuals who were present.

If a person was at the church at the same time as someone who tested positive for coronavirus and are in the “high risk” bracket the Contact Tracing Service will get in touch with the person.

If contacted, the individual should follow the advice of the Contact Tracing Service.

Q&As about contact tracing can be reached by clicking on the following link:

https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/covid-19-coronavirus/testing-and-tracing-covid-19/contact-tracing-qas

 

WHAT IF SOMONE TESTS POSITIVE WHO HAS ATTENDED MASS, RELIGIOUS SERVICE OR CHURCH PREMISES FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE?  (Obligatory)

Positive Covid-19 Test reported to the Parish – Risk Management Steps

In the event of a parish being advised of a positive Covid-19 Test result for a parishioner or person who attended Mass, a religious service, for private prayer in a church or church property and / or for any other reason, the following Risk Management steps should be taken:

  1. Close the church and arrange a deep clean of the Church/Parish property. Record the date and extent of the cleaning. Follow Government advice on when it is appropriate to reopen.
  1. Take the earliest date of attendance of the person concerned (within the last 14 days) and the last date of attendance and place the dates in the following notice:
  1. PUBLIC NOTICE : 

“A person has tested positive for Covid-19. The person attended the church / church property on _______ and on ________.  The Public Health Agency Track and Trace will be in touch with anyone the infected person has identified to them.  If you have symptoms of Covid-19 you should follow the Government advice and get tested immediately for Covid-19.  If you have symptoms you should not attend the church or any parish property for any reason. The church is currently closed for cleaning.  A notice will be placed on the Parish website/Facebook when the church is ready to reopen.”

  1. Please note that the PHA Contact Tracing service have advised “To be considered at high risk you will have to have been in close contact with a confirmed case and have spent more than 15 minutes (the ‘15 minute rule’) with them without any personal protection. This means that those who have casually passed by someone on the street will not be at risk”.  This advice applies to anyone who was in the same church or church property as the person who has tested positive but observed social distancing regulations or wore a face covering.

As noted above the Public Notice should be placed at the entrance to the affected areas (churches and/or other parish property). The notice should also be placed on the Parish website and Parish Facebook/ other social media used by the Parish.

  1. Review Parish Risk Assessment for return to the public celebration of Mass and the Sacraments.
  2. Inform the Diocese of the events whenever the parish first becomes aware of the positive test.
  3. All press enquiries should be forwarded to the diocesan Press Office.

 

ADVICE TO THOSE ATTENDING CHURCH SERVICES WHERE SOMEONE HAS TESTED POSITIVE (Advisory) 

  1. If at any stage a person receives a positive test notification they should not return to the church (or any Church property) for at least 10 days, under current PHA guidelines, from the date of the positive test notification.
  1. A parishioner receiving a negative test result should consult the Government websites for advice before returning to the church or any other parish property.
  1. No alternative or supplementary advice should be provided by parish to parishioners about any action they should take other than to advise that they follow Government advice. Parishioners should be signposted to the relevant Government websites for advice.
  1. It is vitally important that an appeal is made to all individuals and families attending Mass etc to follow diocesan guidance assiduously to help ensure churches remain safe places for worship.
  1. Regularly encourage the download and use of the Government StopCOVID-19 NI Track and Trace App.

 

USE OF FACE COVERINGS IN CHURCH (Obligatory)

As per previous guidance[4] the wearing of face coverings is recommended and encouraged at all Masses and all other liturgical celebrations in church, along with the ongoing maintenance of 2 metre physical distancing.

Some people are exempted from the wearing of face coverings, as outlined at  https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-face-coverings

Whilst it may not be appropriate for the celebrant and some others (e.g. ministers of the Word) to wear face coverings, they should always continue to maintain at least 2 metre physical distancing from one another.  Please note, as per previous guidance issued on 26th June, a face covering must be worn for the distribution of communion by clergy and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.

 

CHOIRS, INSTRUMENTS AND CONGREGATIONAL SINGING (Obligatory)

The current recommendation of “one cantor and one instrumentalist” included in the IEC Framework Document issued on 9th June 2020 remains unchanged for now.  Parts of the Mass which may ordinarily be sung by members of a congregation should be recited. Until advised otherwise congregations are not permitted to sing.

Non-professional (meaning those participating in performing arts other than for work purposes), or groups which include non- professionals, may refer to guidance In the “Bubble of our Making – Reopening of the Arts in N. Ireland ” provided by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (30 July 2020), but must, at all times, do so in line with government legislation and guidance on meeting people outside one’s household[5].

Non-professionals should currently not engage in singing or playing wind and brass instruments with other people, given these activities pose a potentially higher risk of transmission and whilst research is ongoing[6].

 

USE OF PARISH PREMISES BY AN EXTERNAL PARTY (Obligatory)

Please refer to guidance provided by the Diocesan Office on 20th July 2020.

 

FUNERALS (Obligatory)

Please consult the following link, especially points 52-70, for the latest important updated advice dated 26th August 2020 on conducting funerals:

https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/interim-guidance-for-funeral-directors.pdf

 

NOTA BENE:  PARISH RISK ASSESSMENTS (Obligatory)

For those parishes that have not already done so, it is essential that the (a) completed parish risk assessment checklist and (b) completed risk assessment management document, required prior to the reopening of churches for public worship,[7] are returned without delay.

[1] Recording customer details – cf. Privacy Notice for StopCOVID NI at https://covid-19.hscni.net/stopcovid-ni-privacy-information/

[2] cf attached sample template

[3] The parish has a lawful basis under GDPR legislation to process this information. Contacting people who might have been exposed to coronavirus is an important step in controlling the spread. Information will be held securely, controlled by the organisation whose premises a person visits and will be destroyed after 21 days. Contact information will only be used if requested by the HSC for contact tracing purposes. A person retains the right to have his/ her data erased or corrected.

[4] Cf Diocesan Guidance emailed on 19th August 2020

[5] The 15 person limit for gathering does not apply to gatherings of a particular nature, including those organised for cultural, entertainment, recreational, outdoor sports, social, community, educational, work, legal, religious or political purposes. The organiser must have carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirement of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 and take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus. https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-regulations-guidance-family-and-community

[6]  http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/In-the-Bubble-of-Our-Making-Reopening-the-Arts-in-Northern-Ireland-July-2020.pdf

[7] Cf Diocesan Guidance and attachments emailed on 26th June 2020

ENDS.