Re-opening Guidelines

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church – Ojai – Guidelines for re-opening church


Some initial considerations/assumptions in advance of reopening on Tuesday, June 9, 2020:

  • Maximum occupancy of the church for the time being is 100 persons, including ministers.  We will be monitoring capacity closely and will make adjustments for accommodating the faithful as needed.
  • We should be mindful that the obligation to attend Mass every Sunday continues to be suspended and that daily and Sunday livestreamed Masses will continue to be available indefinitely. 
  • Persons above the age of 65 and/or with underlying health concerns that make them more vulnerable to infection by the Covid 19 virus should strongly and prayerfully consider continuing to stay home and join us virtually.
  • The church will be deep cleaned and sanitized in advance of our first gathering, and then after every liturgy.  Use of holy water in fonts and of missals and other books is suspended.
  • Masks must be worn inside the church (except by small children under two years old) 
  • Everyone will be directed by ushers to use hand sanitizer upon entry.
  • Priest celebrant will begin each liturgy with welcome and instruction to temporarily adapted practices.

At the celebration of Mass:

  1. Vestibule/Narthex
    1. Doors propped open to avoid touching.
    2. Six-foot markings on walkways leading to entry for those waiting to enter.
    3. Hand sanitizer available mounted on wall in vestibule.
    4. Usher will count people entering to assure capacity guidelines honored.
    5. Usher will escort individuals/groups to their seats.
    6. Masks required - spare masks will be available
    7. Signage outside church and inside to direct faithful in best practices, etc.
  2. Nave
    1. Seating in every other pew – from front to back.
    2. No seating in Blessed Sacrament chapel.
    3. Markings on seat cushions to indicate where people can sit. 
    4. Ushers will instruct folks on seating etiquette
  3. During Mass
    1. No opening procession…priest to enter from sacristy.
    2. No singing by congregation. Cantor and accompanist at some liturgies.
    3. The faithful should not touch during the sign of peace
    4. Collection will not be taken during liturgy by ushers – baskets available at exits after Mass.
    5. Presentation of the Gifts is omitted.
    6. One altar server
    7. One lector – sanitize hands on way to and from ambo
  4. Communion/Dismissal
    1. Priest is only minister of communion.
    2. Holy Communion will be distributed to the faithful after the final blessing, in the hand only.
    3. Faithful should come forward practicing social distancing, from front to back.
    4. Priest (wearing mask) will offer “the body of Christ” inaudibly, and the faithful (wearing mask) will respond “Amen” inaudibly, receive on the hand, and consume as they move away from the priest.
    5. Faithful should exit through vestibule/narthex only…where doors will still be propped open.
  5. After mass
    1. Assembly should disperse immediately.
    2. Designated team will disinfect church & rest room.

Other Considerations:

  • Beginning this coming Saturday, June 6 regularly scheduled reconciliation will resume from 3:30 – 4:30 outside the church with social distancing and masks as directed by priest.
  • Beginning this coming Tuesday, June 9 we will resume our regular schedule of daily and weekend Masses.
  • Church to be open weekdays for personal prayer from 9:30AM to 4PM.
  • Entry/exit will be by only one designated door in the vestibule that shall remain propped open during the time the church is open.
  • Interior doors between Nave and Blessed Sacrament Chapel and rest room to remain propped open.
  • Mask should be worn at all times inside church.
  • Visitors will be asked via signage to use provided disinfectant wipes to sanitize area they occupy during visit.
  • Visitors using rest room will also be asked to use provided disinfectant wipes to wipe down rest room after use.
  • Use of the sacristy should be limited to priests until further notice.
  • Any member of the community – including priests, employees, volunteers, visitors, etc. – who tests positive for the Covid-19 virus should immediately contact the Pastor, who will in turn follow archdiocesan reporting protocols while maintaining confidentiality to the greatest degree possible.
  • We will continue to monitor archdiocesan notifications and announcements from health officials for changes in protocols.