Returning to Public Mass

We all long for the day when we can gather with our entire parish community for the celebration of the Eucharist. We value the communal nature of the Mass and we know that when any part of our community is missing, the celebration is lacking.  However, we are also aware of our obligation to respect the dignity of every human life.  Because of this, and out of a sense of Christian charity, we must celebrate the Mass with restrictions for the time being.  Please be patient as your pastor and parish staffs do their best to implement this guidance. 



May 15, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

After consultation with the bishops of the state of Kentucky, medical personnel, clergy and diocesan leaders, I am happy to announce to you that I am granting permission for the public celebration of the Mass in the Diocese of Owensboro to resume on May 20, 2020. 

I must temper this announcement, however, with the caution that this is not going to be a return to normal.  Masses are beginning in a limited manner and with the exercise of great caution.  The pandemic is far from over and precautions must be taken to protect one another.  Among other things, these precautions will include physical distancing and the wearing of face masks.

In order to maintain physical distancing, it is necessary to limit the number of people who attend each Mass.  Occupancy is limited to 33% of each church’s capacity.  Pastors will determine how this will be accomplished in their parish. It is possible that, at some point, the limit may be reached and those who arrive after that time cannot be accommodated.  If this does occur, I ask for your understanding. 

It is likely that some of our parishes will not be able to begin celebrating Mass on May 20 either because of the health or age of the pastor or because the parish is not able to meet the guidelines for reopening to public worship.  It will be important for you to check your parish website or social media or call the parish office to determine if and when Mass will be offered and how to attend.

Because of the continued threat of COVID-19 and the limited access to Mass, I have chosen to extend the general dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday celebrations of the Eucharist.  The dispensation will continue until further notice.  Therefore, those who wish to participate in Mass may do so by attending any Mass that is celebrated on any day of the week. 

I know that this time of fasting from the Eucharist has been terribly difficult.  However, I am grateful to you for understanding that all precautions have been taken out of Christian charity in an effort to protect the most vulnerable.  I would ask that as you pray about whether you should return to the public celebration of Mass at this time, consider what is in your best interest and also, from an attitude of Christian charity, consider what is in the best interest of others as well.

Please do not put yourself or others at risk by attending Mass.  Those who are elderly, vulnerable or ill should continue to worship from home. 

As we approach the great solemnity of Pentecost, please join me in praying to the Holy Spirit for the gifts needed to continue to meet the challenges of these days.  May God continue to bless you with Easter joy and peace!

Sincerely in Christ,

Most Reverend William F. Medley
Bishop of the Diocese of Owensboro


Q & A on the Guidelines for Resuming Public Worship in the Diocese of Owensboro

Below is a brief Q&A on the guidance that was given to pastors and parishes. Please note: How the guidelines are implemented will vary parish to parish-based on a number of factors including the health of the pastor, parish size, available facilities, and county-specific health orders. Not every parish will immediately begin public Masses on May 20.

  • Public Masses may be celebrated in the Diocese of Owensboro beginning May 20, 2020.
  • Not all parishes will be able to celebrate Mass as early as May 20 due to the age or health of the pastor or because of the parish’s inability to meet the guidelines for public worship. This determination will be left up to the discretion of the pastor.

  • Bishop Medley has extended, until further notice, the dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. Therefore, no one is required to attend Mass on Sunday or Saturday evening.
  • Those who are considered to be at risk and those who may feel uncomfortable attending a public Mass should worship from home. Parishes that are able will continue to live stream the Mass.
  • As an act of Christian charity to safeguard the health of others, those who are ill or who may have been recently exposed to the coronavirus should refrain from attending public Mass.
  • Since the obligation is dispensed, Catholics who would like to attend Mass are encouraged to consider going to Mass on a weekday in order to lessen the crowd on Sunday.

  • Six feet of physical distancing will need to be maintained between all of the faithful except for those who live in the same home.
  • **In order to facilitate physical distancing, each church may accommodate only 50% of its capacity. Expect to see some pews roped off.  Please check with your parish to determine if there is an attendance reservation plan in place.
  • *Everyone attending Mass must wear a face mask. Those unable to wear a face mask throughout the entire liturgy, whether it be due to age (the CDC does not recommend those under the age of two to wear a mask), health condition, or preference, are asked to worship at home. 
  • The presider will wear a mask while in procession and during the distribution of Holy Communion. At all other times, he will maintain a distance of six feet from other ministers.
  • The sign of peace will either be omitted or will be given in a non-physical manner such as with a bow of the head.
  • Holding hands during the Our Father should be done only by those who live in the same home.
  • There will be no singing except by the cantor.
  • Cry rooms will be unavailable.
  • The collection basket will not be passed but will be kept in a stationary location.
  • Holy water fonts will remain empty.
  • **Bulletins may be passed out by ushers utilizing physical distancing and wearing gloves or set out after Mass to be picked up by people as they are leaving.
  • At the conclusion of the Mass, people will depart by pews to avoid a bottleneck at the doors.

  • Since Bishop Medley has extended the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday, there is no obligation to receive Holy Communion.
  • For those who choose to receive Holy Communion, six feet of distance must be maintained in the Communion procession.
  • The face mask should be worn while in procession and removed only long enough to receive Holy Communion.
  • The practice of the faithful receiving Communion on the tongue is suspended. Holy Communion will be given in the hand only.
  • The practice of the faithful receiving the Precious Blood is suspended.

  • The worship space and high traffic areas will be cleaned and sanitized after each Mass.
  • Hymnals and missalettes are removed from the pews.
  • Bathrooms are limited to one person at a time and will be cleaned after each Mass.

  • Effective May 20, 2020 weddings and funerals may be celebrated in our parishes while adhering to these guidelines.


Pulpit Announcements for Parishes in the Diocese of Owensboro


Signs in English, Spanish and Burmese to hang in parishes and parish offices

*Updated 5/19/20

**Updated 6/18/20