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Diocese of Gaylord's Response to COVID-19

Modifications to COVID-19 Protocols for Liturgical Celebrations (10-13-20)

DATE: October 13, 2020

TO: Priests, Pastoral Administrators, Deacons, Seminarians

FROM: Most Reverend Walter A. Hurley

RE: Modifications to COVID-19 Protocols for Liturgical Celebrations

In these challenging times, we are committed to keeping our people safe and at the same time maintaining the best (near normal) liturgical practices that are possible under these circumstances. We have had several months with certain protocols in place; I want to thank the parishes that have taken these protocols and observed them carefully and seriously. I must admit that I find it troublesome that some very small number refuse to wear masks and place everyone at risk. I know that some of the parishes have been very strict on the issue of wearing masks, and I commend you for your care and concern for all the people. 

Effective immediately, you may begin to make the following modifications to parish liturgical protocols. 

CAPACITY: With the winter months coming up, where it is possible to do so, our pastors are allowed to admit the number they can safely accommodate while maintaining the required sanitizing; social distancing (six feet minimum); and the required use of face masks. This number is determined by the seating capacity of the church and is no longer limited to the previous 25% capacity. Due to church size, this means that there will continue to be occupancy restrictions in some parishes. This modification presumes high touch surfaces are being disinfected after each liturgy and that hand sanitizers are available and used by all.

MUSIC: The absence of music has been a burden for many, and we are making these modifications to the present protocols to gradually resume our normal liturgical practices. Effective immediately — with the continued expectation that all in the congregation will wear a face covering — the proper parts of the Mass may be sung by all: Psalm response; Alleluia Verse; the Holy Holy; Eucharistic Acclamation; and Lamb of God. 

The Gloria, Creed and Our Father should not be sung. A cantor or other singer may sing a hymn or special music at other places in the liturgy. 

COMMUNION DISTRIBUTION: As much as possible, we should return to the usual practice of people coming forward to receive Communion (observing social distancing of at least six feet). Markings can be placed on the floor as needed. This practice is already used in many parishes in the diocese. Some parishes will be limited by narrow aisles and pew layout. Only where this is the case and social distancing cannot be maintained should the ministers go between the pews to distribute the Eucharist. The practice of distributing Communion after Mass and as people are leaving the church should be discontinued and returned to its proper place within the liturgy.

THE PRESENTATION OF GIFTS: The presentation of wine and hosts may resume during the Offertory. The members of the assembly who will present the gifts are to be wearing masks and must sanitize their hands before picking up the vessels and after presenting them. 

MASS SERVERS: Using appropriate safety measures, hand sanitizers and masks in procession, a limited use of Mass servers is permitted. They should not hold the Missal for the Collect or Prayer after Communion (a stand for the Missal or Excerpts from the Roman Missal can be placed in front of the presider’s chair). They may assist by carrying the cross and candles in the entrance procession and recessional. They may assist in setting the altar with proper sanitizing of hands. They may participate in a simple Gospel procession with candles.

An entrance procession and recession to greet people can be resumed with the required masks for priest, etc. in these processions. 

AFTER MASS: People should be asked to exit row by row to the degree that is possible to keep the appropriate social distancing requirements and not gather after Mass for visiting. 

A caution: As you know, things are constantly changing. In the event of changing circumstances, we remain flexible in the case that we have to return to a more restricted approach again in the future.

It is our hope that these modifications will help to bolster people’s hope and feelings of joy as a worshipping community, and at the same time keep safe. Let us pray for each other and those whose lives have been lost or affected by this virus as we journey though this time of uncertainty.



Guidelines for Non-Liturgical Parish Activities (10-1-20)

With regard to the State of Michigan Executive Order 2020-183, the following guidelines for non-liturgical parish activities will take effect on Friday, October 9, 2020: 

1.  Practice social distancing (six feet).

2.  Require facial coverings to be worn. 

3.  Maintain regular venue sanitization protocols.

4.  Maintain the following indoor capacity restrictions: 

Region 4 (Alcona, Iosco, Ogemaw, and Oscoda counties) 

  • Indoor events of 10 or fewer are permitted.
  • Indoor events of more than 10 but fewer than 500:
    • In venues with fixed seating, limit attendance to 20% seating capacity.
    • In venues without fixed seating, limit attendance to 20 people per 1,000 sq. ft. of each room within the venue space. 
  • Indoor events of 500 or more are not permitted. 

Region 6 (All remaining counties in the Diocese of Gaylord)

  • Indoor events of 10 or fewer are permitted.
  • Indoor events of more than 10 but fewer than 500:
    • In venues with fixed seating, limit attendance to 25% seating capacity.
    • In venues without fixed seating, limit attendance to 25 people per 1,000 sq. ft. of each room within the venue space. 
  • Indoor events of 500 or more are not permitted. 

5.  Maintain the following outdoor capacity restrictions: 

  • Outdoor events of 100 people or fewer are permitted.
  • Outdoor events of more than 100 but fewer than 1,000:
    • In a venue with fixed seating, limit attendance to 30% seating capacity.
    • In venues without fixed seating, limit attendance to no more than 30 people per 1,000 sq. ft. of any distinct area within the event space.
  • Outdoor events of more than 1,000 are not permitted. 

If you have any questions, please contact Karina Bak at or 989-705-3511 / 989-619-8468.



Memo from Bishop Hurley to Priests, Pastoral Administrators, Deacons (8-21-20)

Click below to view Bishop Hurley's Aug 21 memorandum to priests, pastoral administrators, and deacons as a reminder of steps that should be taken if experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, as well as corresponding health department information and contacts for each county.



Sunday Mass Dispensation Extended (8-17-20)

For Immediate Release 

August 17, 2020

Sunday Mass Dispensation Extended

GAYLORD, MICHIGAN — Bishop Walter Hurley, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Gaylord, has announced the extension of the dispensation for all Catholics within the Diocese of Gaylord from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass through and including the feast of Christ the King, Sunday, November 22, 2020. The granting of this dispensation is not to discourage those who are able to attend Sunday Mass from doing so, but rather to enable so that anyone who needs to stay at home to protect the common good (their own or that of others) can do so confidently and in good conscience.

The protocols for Mass that have been established during this pandemic for the well-being and safety of all remain in place for parishes within the Diocese of Gaylord, namely: the required use of masks; limited singing; social distancing; cleansing of the churches according to CDC guidelines; as well as a congregation that does not exceed 25% of the capacity of the church. 

“All are asked to carefully observe these protocols because we care for each other and love each other as the Lord has called us to,” said Bishop Hurley. “The celebration of the Eucharist/Sunday Mass should be at the very core of our faith life, and we are all called to keep holy the Lord's day. We must each seek to find time for prayer and spiritual Communion with the Lord, even if we cannot be present for the celebration of Eucharist. 

“Please continue to pray with me for consolation and relief from the pandemic. May we look forward to the First Sunday of Advent, on November 29, with fervent hope that we may be able to return to Mass together at that time.”




Update Regarding Current Executive Orders (7-30-20)

DATE: July 30, 2020

TO: Priests, Pastoral Administrators, Deacons, Seminarians

FROM: Most Reverend Walter A. Hurley

RE: Update Regarding Current Executive Orders

With the newest Executive Orders issued from Governor Whitmer yesterday, July 29, revised protocols have been put in place for the maximum number in attendance for indoor gatherings in the state of Michigan. 

Bearing this in mind, I want to clarify the following for parish gatherings:

  • The following indoor parish gatherings are NOT affected by the July 29 Executive Orders and should continue to be celebrated in the same manner: 
    • Masses
    • Weddings
    • Funerals
    • Baptisms
    • Eucharistic Adoration
  • All other indoor gatherings, such as bible studies, council meetings, faith formation classes, etc. are restricted to 10 people in attendance. 

We will keep you informed of additional changes as they become available. Thank you for all that you are doing for your people. Be assured of my prayers and continued support to you in any way I can.




Protocol Reminders from the Office of Worship and Liturgy (7-29-20)

July 29, 2020

As this time of pandemic continues to unfold, we remain attentive to the safety and well-being of all who enter our churches to pray and participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We recognize that during this unprecedented season of the Church, all are called to make sacrifices that are uncomfortable and out of the ordinary. We do this in charity for one another, despite the difficulty and challenges it may bring. Bearing this in mind, these reminders are shared to help and assist you and your parish leaders to continue to maintain proper safeguards to protect the health of our assemblies and others whom they will encounter.  These reminders follow the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) through resources prepared by members of the Thomistic Institute of the Dominican House in Washington DC and the Federation of Liturgical Commissions (FDLC).



Wearing a mask is one act of charity we do to protect others. Masks continue to be required for everyone in the Church, except children under the age of five, those with medical conditions and the ministers when in the sanctuary. Members of the assembly who refuse to wear masks should be invited to sit in a designated area. 



Refraining from singing is also to protect those around us. Therefore, we need to ask our assemblies to not sing during Mass to reduce spreading airborne particles (even while wearing masks).

What does this look like during the Mass?

  • The only singing is to be by the musician or cantor, who may sing the Entrance Antiphon and the Communion Antiphon. 
  • The Gloria, Psalm responses, Holy Holy, Mystery of Faith, Great Amen and Lamb of God should all be spoken. The celebrant/presider should also recite the prayers of the Mass. 
  • Instrumental music may be used during the Preparation of the Altar, Communion and Recessional.



When using extraordinary ministers, the last action they should take before being handed the ciborium is to sanitize their hands. The sanitizing must occur after they have received communion and put their masks back in place. 


I recognize how difficult these protocols are, but cannot stress enough the critical task set before us to make sacrifices out of charity for one another. Thank you for your continued efforts and for your leadership to your people. 




New Executive Order Requires Masks in Any Indoor Public Spaces (7-10-20)

DATE: July 10, 2020

TO: Priests, Pastoral Administrators, Deacons, Seminarians

FROM: Most Reverend Walter A. Hurley

RE: Requirement to Wear Masks (Face Coverings)




We have received notice that Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order this morning that will go into effect on Monday, July 13, 2020.  This executive order requires that individuals wear a face covering when in any indoor public space, and in outdoor public spaces that are not able to accommodate social distancing. I expect that all of our parishes will comply with this requirement and properly instruct your parishioners of this protocol, even though we find it to be difficult. 

To prepare for this, please review today’s Executive Order, which can be found at:

It is important to note that:

  • As has been the practice to date, priests and altar servers may remove their face coverings while in the sanctuary, with the exception of during the distribution of the Eucharist. 
  • Parishioners are required to wear a mask to celebrate Mass, but can remove them temporarily to receive the Eucharist. 
  • The requirement to wear a face covering does not apply to certain individuals, including those younger than five years old. The additional specifications for which individuals are not required to wear a face covering can be found in the Executive Order.

Thank you for your continued concern for the care and safety of your people; I know these are difficult times and I am here to support you in every way I can.




Letter from Bishop Raica Regarding the Coronavirus (5-12-20)

May 12, 2020

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

Greetings in the Risen Lord!  The First Letter of St Peter exhorts us: “There is cause for rejoicing here. You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials: but this is so that your faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears.” These past few months, I pray, have helped us to realize and cherish our faith, family and friends with even greater intensity. 

It has been two months since we last celebrated public Masses together in our parishes, shrines and chapels across the Diocese of Gaylord. With this public statement I share with you the good news that we are at a stage of beginning to re-open our churches for public celebrations of the Eucharist beginning on Wednesday, May 20. Churches should not open, if they are not ready to do so. Parish opening information should occur through the parish website and on other social media. Each pastor or pastoral administrator, working with their pastoral council, should be sure they have the diocesan directives in place prior to opening for the public to attend Mass. 

As we open up our churches for public Mass, expect that these celebrations will not be exactly what we may be used to or expect. Even though the coronavirus curve is flattening, the pandemic is not over. We must take precautions that will keep our risk as reduced as possible. 

Protocols have been developed through a committee working with the Director of Worship, that have considered expert advice from the medical field and liturgical experts. The protocols are meant to complement the wise guidance of the federal, state and local health agencies for the sake of the common good. Below is a list of some things you can expect when you return to public worship.

  • Expect that you will not see everyone at Mass. In the Diocese of Gaylord, dispensation from your Sunday obligation is extended through Sunday, September 6, 2020. Not all will feel comfortable returning to public worship right away and some people should not return right away, including those over 65 years of age and those in a higher-risk category because of health issues and those who are currently ill. However, if you wish to return to Mass your Sunday obligation may be fulfilled at any Mass during the week.
  • Expect that not all parishioners will be able to attend Mass on a Sunday because of reduced capacity. Churches are not to exceed 25% capacity in order to maintain proper social distancing. It is possible that Masses may be held outside. 
  • Expect to see all people over the age of two wearing masks.
  • Expect that Communion distribution will be different to afford safe distancing between individuals.
  • Expect the music to be led only by the musician and cantor. Or, you may not have any music at all for a while.
  • There will be no hymn books or missals or worship aids in the pews.
  • Expect other directives that may affect your local community and expect differences between parishes. We are striving for unity in our celebrations from parish to parish, not uniformity. What works one way in one parish, might work differently in another. 
  • Expect that each parish may open on a different schedule. We need patience to guide us these next few months.

I ask for and beg your patience as we learn all over again what it means to gather together. This will take some getting used to. I believe it can be done – so that we will be respectful of each other and our desire to resume our public Masses with decorum and dignity.

During this time, let us pray for each other and support each other as we resume our public celebrations. May what we do in these next few weeks as we re-open, as St Peter urges, lead to “praise, glory and honor” when Jesus Christ appears in our midst. “We adore you O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.”

Invoking the prayerful embrace of our Lady of Mt Carmel, the patroness of our diocese, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,


+Most Reverend Steven J Raica

Bishop of Gaylord







Decree for Dispensation during Coronavirus (4-3-20)






Bishop Raica's Video Message for our Diocese (03-24-20)

Bishop's video message of March 24, 2020




Letter from Bishop Raica Regarding the Coronavirus (03-19-20)




Letter from Bishop Raica Regarding the Coronavirus (03-13-20)

Decree for Dispensation during Coronavirus




Letter from Bishop Raica Regarding the Coronavirus (03-05-20)